Colorado Ski Country Tries to Tap Into Entrepreneurial Talent Base

1/22/14Follow @MichaelXBD

Aspen. Telluride. Breckenridge. They’re some of Colorado’s most illustrious ski resorts and are well known to winter sports enthusiasts and vacationers around the world.

But recently, something new has begun to happen in those mountain resort towns. A small movement that seeks to tap into the communities’ surprising amount of technology expertise is gaining momentum.

Telluride, a town in southwest Colorado, is about to host the second class of its venture accelerator program. Breckenridge, a resort area about 90 minutes west of Denver, will host a Startup Weekend event on Jan. 31, followed by a New Tech Meetup in March. Aspen, which is at least a 3-hour drive from Denver, already had a successful startup weekend last fall, and organizers are planning for an encore in April.

What’s going on in these towns better known for ski bums and million-dollar vacation homes?

According to the organizers of the events, it’s all part of an effort to tap into a deep talent pool that comes to those resorts to play, retire, or even work. It’s also part of a long-term push to diversify the local economies that are largely dependent on the ski and tourism industries.

Untapped talent

While Telluride, Aspen, and Breckenridge have their share of ski bums who’ve given it all up just to hit the slopes, they’re also popular spots for the well-to-do. Many successful executives and entrepreneurs flock to the communities during the winters, and some stay or come back after they’ve built their careers, said Jon Fox-Rubin, an organizer of Aspen Startup Weekend.

“Many successful tech people come here to play, some come here to retire, some come here to work, but there hasn’t been a historical tech community that started companies in these communities,” Fox-Rubin said.

“We’re trying to change that,” he said. “It’s time to give it a go and see if the geographical divide can be conquered by bringing people together here and recruiting resources from our communities to help build companies here.”

When active tech entrepreneurs do relocate to Colorado’s resorts, they tend to run their companies from afar or become consultants, said Garrett Fisher, the organizer of Breckenridge Startup Weekend.

They might love the laid-back mountain lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean they’ve left behind their entrepreneurial drive and vision, Fisher said.

“They’re those people who come to Colorado that tend to be more open-minded … 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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