Yesterday I led my first Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association board meeting as the new chairman of the organization. I left the meeting excited about the momentum of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region and completely jazzed about the positive energy exhibited by a board that has undergone more than 50% turnover in the last two years and the prospect of what I hope we’ll accomplish during my next two years as chairman.
First, it’s important to recognize the terrific job that Chris Onan did as chairman for the last two years. When Chris took over, the Colorado Venture Capital Association had just decided to expand to become a regional organization. During his tenure, he worked hard (against a bit of prevailing sentiment) to expand the board quickly to represent the entire region and he also spearheaded the movement to create a second Venture Capital in the Rockies event each fall to augment the highly successful annual VCIR Winter event (also met with a dose of skepticism).
Chris’s idea behind those two initiatives was to quickly assimilate the venture firms in the region and get them engaged in the organization in a real and committed fashion. For those who have been involved in volunteer-driven organizations, you understand that any change (never mind drastic ones such as these) are difficult at best and almost always met with a few harrumph’s and crossed arms from incumbent members who tend to lean towards the status-quo.
I hope it was very gratifying for Chris to pass the torch to me yesterday and see that both of his major initiatives as chair were extremely successful. As I looked around the table, I realized that eight of the fourteen board members were now from outside Colorado (Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico). When I joined the board a couple of years ago along with Dinesh Patel of v-Spring Capital in Utah, we were the only two non-Colorado board members.
Additionally, there have now been two fantastic VCIR Fall events (in Sun Valley, ID & Park City, UT) that have showcased the most promising startups in other parts of the region. The 3rd annual VCIR Fall event is scheduled for September 15-17 in Santa Fe, NM and I hope you’ll consider attending. Importantly, the fall event has only added to VCIR Winter, which is held annually in Beaver Creek, CO. VCIR Winter has consistently been one of the most anticipated and best-attended venture conferences in the country for the last 27 years.
From my perspective, Chris exhibited the type of leadership that characterizes great startup CEOs who have to make significant changes in their companies. He knew that these major shifts might not sound appealing at first to those involved, but he had the courage of his conviction that these changes would ultimately accrue to the benefit of everyone involved. He never wavered from that belief and always exhibited a tremendously positive attitude about the direction the organization was headed.
As I sit here on the plane heading home to Boise, I’m reflecting on yesterday’s meeting. Thanks to Chris’s hard work and leadership, I’ve inherited the chair of an organization with a highly motivated board of terrific and high-character people. We clearly have a platform to make a significant contribution to the entrepreneurs of this region, which we all love so much. Since my colleagues nominated me to chair the organization a few months ago, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what we can accomplish in the next two years. In my next post, I’ll share some of those thoughts.
Lastly and very importantly, I’d like to recognize Nannette Schunk, our amazing Executive Director who does most of the heavy lifting while we get to take the credit. Besides working on the two VCIR events year-round, she’s constantly working with entrepreneurs throughout the region and helping to coordinate and support other important events. Her sunny disposition and positive attitude makes it a real pleasure to work with her.