Colorado Looks to Reward Entrepreneurs who Risk “Glorious Failures”

5/24/13Follow @MichaelXBD

Entrepreneurs know embracing risk brings with it the possibility of failure. It’s a fact of life, but it’s usually the last thing government officials acknowledge when touting job creation programs backed with state support.

But the state of Colorado is taking a different approach with its new “Glorious Failure” innovation challenge. The program will give up to $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations to the winning companies.

To compete, a company must make less than $1 million in annual revenue. Their prospects for success must be good—creativity and potential impact are part of what they will be judged on. But executing a successful pivot or relaunch also is a component.

The Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) will manage the competition. COIN is a public/private partnership that is part of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

According to COIN executive director Cathy Grassman, funding for the challenge—formally titled “Glorious Failure: In Search of Success Innovation Challenge”—will come from private companies.

Acknowledging the “Glorious Failure” is a different angle for a state-sponsored business initiative to take. Entrepreneurs and investors can be pretty candid about failing, with failed local startups occasionally holding “wakes” to commiserate with each other. But the only politicians who celebrate the failure of companies that have received government support are politicians in the minority party.

Colorado is trying to break the mold to reiterate that when you try to hit lofty goals, you run the risk of falling short.

“Failure is part of the innovation process, we believe that by celebrating and supporting our innovators who have embraced the reality of failure and have used it to reposition themselves, we are helping to foster a more tolerant culture, which can lead to greater successes,” Grassman said. “When you’re not inhibited by the fear of failure, you truly open yourself up to greater creativity.”

Entries will be accepted through July 3, with the winner picked at the August 29 summit hosted by COIN. The winner will get $50,000 in cash and $25,000 in in-kind services, while the runner-up and third-place teams will get $13,500 and $11,750 worth of in-kind services.

It is open to Colorado companies in the IT, aerospace, energy and natural resources, infrastructure engineering, advanced manufacturing, bioscience, and electronics industries.

Professional services company PwC is the lead sponsor. Galvanize, the co-working space/accelerator based in Denver, also is a sponsor.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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