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Aug 08

Boulder, Colorado

Posted by: Mark Solon        

Yesterday, I got back from spending a week in Boulder. While I was there, I visited with many of my colleagues in the venture business, met with quite a few exciting start-ups, and spent a good deal of time with the folks at TechStars, including attending Demo Days, their much ballyhooed culminating event at the Boulder Theater. (As an aside, I also climbed some serious mountains on a road bike with a few of the taut young local entrepreneurs – some of whom I was old enough to be their dad – without embarrassing myself I’m proud to say…)

Boulder as seen from my road bike ride

A panoramic picture of Boulder I took on my ride

Over the last couple of days, many (including TechCrunch, Fred Wilson, Bootup Labs and others) who attended Demo Days have written blogs about the terrific presentations by the ten graduating companies so I don’t think there’s much to add other than it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see all ten of these terrific teams build lasting and important companies. However, before I get away to the mountains and unplug for a week, I wanted to share with you how completely impressed I continue to be with the people who support the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Boulder.

Before I get started, I want to say that for me, Boise, Idaho is the most perfect town to live in the world. I’d be happy to list all the reasons why I think it’s so compelling, but then a bunch of you out-of-towners would come visit, quit your jobs and pick up and move here. Of course, that would ruin one of the reasons why I love it so much, so I’ll keep those thoughts to myself. However, as you know, my life’s work is to find the most compelling startups in the Intermountain West and I’m going on record to say that there’s no better place in the region to start one than Boulder, Colorado.

I can already feel my friends and colleagues in places like Salt Lake City, Bozeman, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Denver, and of course Boise sticking pins in voodoo dolls with my likeness. Now I didn’t say that any of these towns aren’t vibrant and growing entrepreneurial communities. As most of you know, I think the Intermountain West is the best region in the country to start a company and I’ve blogged about this before.

However, of all the startup communities I’ve spent time in (including those cities above as well as places like Boston, Seattle, Portland and yes, Silicon Valley), I’ve never seen a community rally around their startups like Boulder. There’s a very unique culture there and I think successful regional entrepreneurs from all over the country should go visit Boulder to see the impact of the culture of caring which exists there.  Successful entrepreneurs, lawyers, VCs and countless others devote a very significant part of their lives to mentoring local startups not because there’s something in it for them, but because they simply care deeply about entrepreneurs and they’ll do anything they can to help them.

The coolest part about this unique culture is that a continuum is developing and the younger entrepreneurs feel the weight of the torch that has been passed down to them. They pass down code phrases like “Go faster”, “Stay focused” and “Priorities matter, but productivity rules – do what is do-able right now.” that have been drilled into them by their mentors. When they’ve join the fraternity of being a Boulder startup, they take the responsibility seriously and try and help their peers any way they can. Coders, marketers, it doesn’t make a difference. They’re all pulling hard for each other to win. You’ve all heard the economic development crap about “patents per capita” and “engineers per capita”, right? Well I’ve come up with a new one: Boulder has more “collaboration per capita” than any other city in the country.

Look, every entrepreneurial community can point to anything I said above and say “that happens here too” and they’d be correct. My point is that I’ve spent alot of time in many startup communities and Boulder takes it to another level. If you’re a successful regional entrepreneur and want to learn how you can create a more collaborative culture in your community, go spend some time in Boulder. I thought about mentioning some of the leaders but that would be a disservice to everyone else who gives just as much. Just check into the Boulderado, walk down to Pearl Street and ask someone to point you to a startup. Within a couple of days, you’ll get what I’m talking about…

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7 Responses to “Boulder, Colorado”

  1. avatar Brad Feld says:

    I love "collaboration per capita." I've been spouting off recently about two metrics that caught me by surprise recently – that Boulder has the highest percentage of software engineers per capita in the US as well as the highest percentage of Ph.D.'s per capita in the US. But – collaboration per capita is an actual "result" of the dynamics in Boulder (rather than an input) so it's much easier to see the cause/effect play out.

    You are – of course – welcome in Boulder any time!

  2. avatar Mark Solon says:

    If you've got a pulse and are involved in startups or venture capital, then you know who Brad is. There's no one I know who gives his time more freely to entrepreneurs than Feld. I know he inspires everyone that gets to know him, myself included. Brad is definitely one of the reasons that the Boulder culture is what it is today…

  3. avatar micah says:

    The thing I love most about people visiting Boulder and spending any time with us is the realization that its possible to be supportive and collaborative AND STILL BE SUCCESSFUL.

    I often say that Boulder doesnt suffer fools, and we exist in a state of "collaborative competition," but its hard to really understand that without spending some time here. Im glad you came out, and it was great to meet your wife.

    BTW – while the software startups get much of the news in Boulder, we have had a longstanding entrepreneurial tradition here, and the art of collaboration extends to green startups, product startups, hardware startups, etc.

    Anyone who wants to come and check Boulder out, please feel free to drop me a line: or @micah, and I would be happy to show you around a bit.

    I look forward to seeing you again soon.

    Looking forward to connecting soon!

  4. […] This post was Twitted by giantnerd […]

  5. Lived in Santa Fe for three years and loved it, but the tech scene is pretty dismal across New Mexico. Now I'm at a great startup in Palo Alto, but my heart yearns for the Rockies. The only thing Silicon Valley has over CO is year-round mountain biking. Being near San Francisco is sort of nice, but Boulder is sounding better every day. I need to get out there and rebuild my lungs (I used to be able to do 7000' to 12000' on dirt in Santa Fe and still make it out alive).

  6. […] Eric wrote a post today titled Come Early, Stay Late.  In it he discusses the reason he has Defrag in Boulder (rather than in the bay area).  If you want some more recent chatter on Boulder (on the heals of TechStars Investor Day) take a look at Fred Wilson’s post TechStars and Mark Solon’s post Boulder, Colorado. […]

  7. avatar Mark Solon says:

    Agree Gabe that all year cycling would be terrific but how quickly can you get on the slopes in Silicon Valley :-)

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