I’ve been to the city of Denver before, but I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen Denver before today. That is, anybody can come to a city and do a surface level exploration of what it has to offer.
However, I’m sitting in my hotel room after the first day of Denver Startup Week and I can’t stop thinking how damn lucky I am. I got to spend an entire day – and I’ll spend a few more – connecting with Denver’s best and brightest while seeing the astounding depth this city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has to offer.
Everything started at 8 AM sharp with the Denver Startup Week Kickoff Breakfast in the Seawell Ballroom (they had the coolest bacon-pastry fusion ever). Tami Door, Erik Mitisek, and Ben Deda all took the stage together to welcome the room to North America’s largest free, entrepreneurial event that sports over 215 programmed events.
That’s why I feel so lucky: what better way to really dig into a city for the first time than through a Startup Week event? Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper followed up the three event organizers to introduce us to some of Denver’s most successful, homegrown entrepreneurs.
You could practically feel the pride beaming out of Door, Mitisek, Deda, and Hickenlooper as four teams dove into what makes Denver special and their own, unique journeys towards startup glory. We heard from:
- Jacqueline Ros, founder and CEO, Revolar
- Jenna Walker and Katie Thurmes, cofounders, Artifact Uprising
- Jim Deters, founder and CEO, Galvanize
- Eric Roza, SVP, Oracle Cloud Data
Fun fact: almost all of these entrepreneurs had, at one point, sat in the crowd at the kickoff breakfast thinking that they might one day start their own company. Inspiring didn’t quite cut it – I was in awe.
As the breakfast wound down, I got a tip from the fine folks at Chase for Business, the title sponsor of Denver Startup Week alongside, to check out a specific panel. So, I made my way down to Chase Basecamp to check out “Exiting Early: Building And Selling Your Company In Three Years”.
The panel sounded interesting in its own right, but before anybody sat down JPMorgan Chase made a huge announcement: they gave a $50,000 grant to Ionnosphere CEO and panel leader, Mike Freeman to help give the incubator a push on their digital health program.
Alongside Fairfield and Woods Attorney John Leonard and Kent Dickson, cofounder of Yonomi on the panel, Freeman walked us through how a company can go from launch to successful exit in two to three years. It totally blew my mind: if you're aiming for it from day one with an early exit mindset, you rarely need more than $20 million in funding to accomplish your goal.
The three stressed that this isn’t like flipping a house though. Rather, it complements the “built to last” mindset that a lot of entrepreneurs want to incorporate from day one. After all, what's a more lasting legacy than having a company buy your technology and use it everyday?
When it all wrapped up, I decided to head on over to Galvanize on Platte Street to hear three incredibly strong female entrepreneurs detail their experiences starting up on the “Women Who Launch” panel:
- Stephanie Maxwell – CEO & Founder of Sirvo
- Amy Baglan – CEO and cofounder of MeetMindful
- Jenna Walker – CEO and cofounder of Artifact Uprising
If I’m being honest, this way by and large my favorite part of the day. All three entrepreneurs provided detailed insight on what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur in today’s tech world. What I liked best was that they didn’t beat around the bush on issues of diversity. No doubt, it's not always easy to talk about this kind of stuff, but if you stray away from the root of the problem you'll never fix anything.
Now, as I gear up for another huge day tomorrow, I can’t help but remember what Marc Nager told me in an interview I had with him:
“Check out something super geeky, like stuff that might not be up your alley,” says Nager. “Go to something that really challenges you and see who’s in the room. That’s the magical aspect of Startup Week – meeting people you might never otherwise come across and learning new things.”
With that in mind, here’s a cursory outlook of what I’ll be tackling tomorrow. Note – it could all change at the drop of a hat so don't hold me to it! I can’t wait:
- How to Write Killer Copy and Connect With Customers
- Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys: Successes & Strategies For Anxiety Tolerance In Entrepreneurship
- How to Make Fun
- Brad and Sean's Excellent Canadian Adventure
- Women Who Startup Summit
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a Startup Week content series brought to you by Chase for Business. Startup Week is celebration of entrepreneurs in cities around the globe. Chase for Business is everything a business needs in one place, from expert advice to valuable products and services. Follow the Startup Week action here as we head to 7 cities in the coming months.
Image Credit: I took all photos in this article