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…)
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…