Summits, Grassroots, Failures: 5 Takes on Colorado Innovation Week

8/30/13Follow @MichaelXBD

With Colorado Innovation Week drawing to a close and the Colorado Innovation Network Summit wrapping up Thursday, it’s a good time to look back at the week’s highlights (beyond Sal Khan’s presentation) and collect some thoughts about the event.

It was a stimulating and encouraging week that shows Colorado is thinking seriously about innovation and recognizes some shortcomings it needs to address. I hope it becomes an annual fixture, but the big thing is to keep the momentum through the next 51 weeks.

The summit offered a lot of food for thought, and here are five observations and opinions to digest.

1. There’s a lot of distance between the summit and the grassroots… Some of Colorado’s largest tech companies sponsored the summit and innovation week. The summit’s headline speakers featured several politicians including Gov. John Hickenlooper, along with CEOs and high-level executives from global companies.

It was great to see some of the biggest names in Colorado politics and business willing to be part of the event. But it also was a big contrast with events like local New Tech Meetups or startup weeks in Boulder and Denver—well, really almost anything tech related in Boulder. At those events you see entrepreneurs in hoodies with a lot of ambition but not much experience or funding. At COIN, there were a lot of accomplished execs in suits.

I don’t know whether that shows a disconnect that is a problem, but it certainly is a difference. Maybe events like COIN are the first step toward a greater cross-pollination of the two crowds.

2. …but the people at the summit recognize that. Hickenlooper is a former restaurateur who helped launch Colorado’s craft brewing industry in the 1990s, and he frequently reminds people of his background as a successful entrepreneur (especially with his reelection campaign starting.)

Hickenlooper has more credibility on the topic than most politicians, and it was good to see he began the conference acknowledging the best role the government can play is to be a convener.

He also joked that his glowing comments about Colorado and the flashy videos sounded a lot like Chamber of Commerce boilerplate. He was right, but should get points for self-awareness.

3. So who was Colorado Innovation Week for? Most local startup-focused events emphasize helping novice entrepreneurs. They tend to be about understanding issues like finding investors, improving pitches, connecting with potential employees, or … Next Page »

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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