Startup Colorado Forms $200K Fund to Back Events for Entrepreneurs

7/24/13Follow @MichaelXBD

Rounding up money to support your latest great idea is tough, whether it’s for funding your company or putting together an event that benefits local entrepreneurs.

Well, the latter just got easier, following Startup Colorado’s announcement today that it has created a $200,000 fund to provide financial support for groups that are hosting speakers or organizing events, seminars, and competitions.

The Startup Community Fund is taking proposals and will meet in August to decide who gets the first round of grants. Those grants are expected to be disbursed by the end of the quarter. Information about how to apply for a grant is on the website.

“This community fund is focused on making grants, a.k.a. gifts, to entrepreneurs leading our startup communities in Colorado to [conceptualize], program, and build activities within our ecosystem,” Colorado Technology Association CEO Erik Mitisek wrote in an email.

Finding money for events is challenging and time consuming. That’s something Mitisek learned last year as an organizer of Denver Startup Week. The Startup Community Fund’s goal is to make fundraising much less of a burden.

The grants will be substantial, according to Brad Feld, Foundry Group managing director and a Startup Colorado board member.

“Our goal with the Colorado Startup Community Fund is to eliminate the need for the entrepreneurs putting on these events to have to scramble to raise a small amount of money [o]r charge the other entrepreneurs who are participating. Instead, we’ll be giving grants each quarter, ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, to underwrite the costs of these activities and events. We’ll be funding activities and events across Colorado, with a focus on Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins,” Feld wrote on his blog.

Feld said he has donated $25,000 to the fund.

Contributions to the fund are tax deductible, Mitisek said. Startup Colorado worked with the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado to create the account.

The fund isn’t just for tech startups. Money is only available for Colorado organizations and events, but otherwise the criteria are broad enough to encompass anything that “focuses on driving entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Mitisek said the organizers aren’t really sure what to expect when the first applications come in.

“The fund is a startup too—we have no idea the span of ideas the community has in Colorado—but our hope is that we can work with leading entrepreneurs to define how the fund and grant dollars are best invested in our startup communities,” he wrote.

“To some, it may mean mentor hours, pitchfests, coffee clubs, speaker series, or growing our existing programs in our cities and university communities. To others, this could be a supply of pizza and beer to bring people together to discuss how we can work together to be more innovative, build more startups, and put the Colorado startup community on the map,” Mitisek said.

Events for entrepreneurs both large and small have proliferated around Colorado in the past few years, so organizers know there is demand and have seen events like Denver Startup Week, Boulder Startup Week, and the new tech meetups in Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins succeed.

The fund has support from some of the biggest names in Colorado’s tech industry, and they come from all parts of the ecosystem. Some are leaders of startups, like SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin and FullContact CEO Bart Lorang. Entrepreneurs whose companies have made the leap from startups are represented by the likes of Rally Software founder and chief technology officer Ryan Martens, Viawest CEO Nancy Phillips, and Zayo Group CEO Dan Caruso. Phil Weiser, the dean of the University of Colorado Law School and founder and director of its Silicon Flatirons Center, comes from the academic community.

The fund also has the support of entrepreneurs outside the tech industry, like Libby Cook, co-founder of Sunflower Markets and Wild Oats Markets. Cook’s companies were acquired by Sprouts and Whole Foods Markets, respectively.

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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  • Andy Wilson

    I really love this idea/approach. It is very similar to the “Program Innovators” concept that I was recently promoting in my comments to Brad’s interview a couple of weeks ago on the MIT Tech review. For those who missed it here was my post I have copied it below:

    Brad — thanks again for visiting us in Pasadena earlier this year. I think we are taking a hybrid approach with Innovate Pasadena (just formally launched http://www.innovatepasadena.org & had a public launch event 2 weeks ago with an astounding 500 people!). So far we are 100% volunteer driven. We have already identified quite a few “program innovators” who want to launch new activities or collaborations but didn’t know how to get started. Innovate Pasadena does three things: 1. removes the friction by giving a little seed money and provide back-end support (basic bookkeeping, bank account, legal entity to collect funds/sponsorship) 2. helps connect to other like minded people who can help organize 3. promotes events to our full mailing list and public calendars and blogs (no one likes to throw a party that that doesn’t have enough guests). So far we have supported 4 program innovators and have several more in the queue — our hope is to support a new program every 30 – 60 days until we reach critical mass. We are somewhat like the Y-combinator for program innovators (entrepreneurs in their own right) who are passionate about kicking something off but want a little help. So far so good. . . . .

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