June 23, 2015
There are plenty of places in this world that are unmatched and unparalleled in their beauty. Give me five minutes of your time and I’ll tell you some of the coolest recommendations. However, of all the places to talk about, there’s only one that I’ve ever come across that fuses entrepreneurship with insanely beautiful scenery.
Have you ever heard of Telluride, Colorado? If you were asked to move there for five months, while you build your next company, wouldn’t you go? If you answered ‘yes’, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid, there’s a group of people at the Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA) that are ready to welcome you with open arms.
The flagship program at TVA is a five month long, residential accelerator program built specifically for early stage entrepreneurs. That’s right, residential, as in you move to Telluride for the duration and live in the Peaks Resort and Spa – not too shabby.
“We attract the entrepreneurial person – you can come here and be who you are,” says Thea Chase, the Director of TVA.
Chase herself spent 22 years traveling all over the world, visiting breathtaking scenery in places like Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, and Australia. During her travels she would build ecosystems and programs that supported entrepreneurs within the local communities, but for all the success she had she could never abandon the thought of home back in Telluride.
It was always an objective for Chase to return, and she considers Telluride the perfect place to run the accelerator. To really understand why though, you have to look past the aesthetic beauty surrounding the town.
TVA itself is a subsidiary of the Telluride Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the entrepreneurial community in Telluride via human and financial capital. Specifically their goal is to create a self-sustaining ecosystem that brings innovation, jobs, entrepreneurs, ideas, and a renewed dynamism to the town.
It’s an incredibly important mission when you consider that Telluride has a rather ‘hollow’ economy. After all, it’s a resort economy based on tourism and real estate – the housing collapse hit them pretty hard.
“As a community foundation, the Telluride Foundation is incredibly innovative,” says Chase. “To use a metaphor: they’re teaching people how to fish, not giving them fish. That is, they’re not just throwing money at the endemic problems that come with economies like this. It’s all about how we can support permanent change.”
Permanent change: it’s easy to focus on the negatives surrounding Telluride, but Chase and the team don’t think that way. They opt rather to focus on the opportunity to make Telluride’s economy ‘whole’ and strengthen West Colorado.
Chase knows that, even in the US where everybody tries to emulate Silicon Valley, each ecosystem is entirely different and requires a unique touch. For example, TVA engages with the people directly involved with the investor community while they’re in a beautiful environment, totally relaxed.
It’s not about getting more money from them, not at all. These individuals do, however, spend more time getting to know the companies because they don’t have to worry about the hectic world leaking in: most of them are second homeowners or year round residents.
You can also imagine the benefit this offers to both entrepreneurs and mentors affiliated with the TVA program too. As Chase explains, being relaxed allows creativity to come out in a much more focused way.
“We all work hard. We don’t give ourselves much downtime and we’re so connected. To maintain work-life balance is important. It’s difficult, but living and working in a place that has skiing, resorts, and relaxation all around creates a nice environment to live in,” says Chase. “If you get tired you just go for a walk and look at the mountains. It inspires you.”
You can’t argue with the numbers either. To date TVA has been able to help 13 companies raise around $8 million in seed capital. What that spells is: results. Simply put, you just can’t duplicate what TVA has created – it’s a total win.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
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