If AI’s current excitement and hype interests you, I encourage you to join the Rocky Mountain Artificial Intelligence Interest Group (RMAIIG).
The monthly Meetup will follow the fascinating and rapidly evolving world of generative AI tools. The RMAIIG community is focused on exploring and discussing the latest developments in AI, particularly tools like ChatGPT, DALL-E, Midjourney, Microsoft’s Bing with Chat, and Google’s Bard and workspace tools. The group will also look at the impact of these tools on business, education, the workplace, law, entrepreneurship, and society.
RMAIIG was founded by Dan Murray. I met Dan in 1995, shortly after moving to Colorado, and we have been friends ever since. Dan started the Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group (RMIUG) in 1994, almost 30 years ago, eventually growing to over 15,000 subscribers on their email lists. Dan was also friends with a dear friend of mine, the late Larry Nelson, who was a fixture (with his wife Pat, of course) at the Internet user group meetings.
Their first meeting is Tuesday, April 11th, and covers a deeper dive into ChatGPT. The group is taking speaker suggestions and ideas for a venue for quarterly in-person meetings when they aren’t on Zoom. I encourage Rocky Mountain readers to get involved if they’re interested in exploring the rapidly-changing world of AI.
I recently nominated James Oliver’s ParentPreneur Foundation for the new Techstars Accelerate Equity Program. Amy and I provided the lead gift of $100,000 through our Anchor Point Foundation. For a detailed look at what the ParentPreneur Foundation does, take a look at Techstars Foundation Empowers Black ParentPreneurs, So They Can Leave A Legacy For Their Children.
Through Accelerate Equity, the Techstars Foundation identifies early-stage nonprofits and ideas to empower and support underestimated entrepreneurs. We then call on the Techstars network to pitch in. The Techstars Foundation will add a 5% match to the total raised at the end of the calendar quarter.
Among other things, James has created a vibrant community for Black ParentPreneurs.
I’ve known James for a while, as we became friends when he started his previous company WeMontage. While I didn’t invest, we talked periodically and emailed regularly. I loved his book The More You Hustle, The Luckier You Get (it’s “pure James”). We connected after George Floyd was murdered, and he mentioned his initial dream of the ParentPreneur Foundation. I immediately jumped in to help.
It has been about a year since that conversation. Since then, a number of friends, including Mark Suster, Fred and Joanne Wilson, Seth Godin, and David Cohen have also supported the ParentPreneur Foundation. It has been awesome to see the progress that James has made. I’m delighted that the Techstars Foundation is including him in the Accelerate Equity program.
If you want to support James or support something I support around racial equity and entrepreneurship, please donate to the ParentPreneur Foundation through the Techstars Foundation.
In 2017 I helped get the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator off the ground in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Amy and I have been supporters of TNC for over 30 years and Amy serves on their global board of directors. The program has been running in Colorado supporting pre-seed to post-seed stage startups at the intersection of conservation and technology since 2018.
This is a unique accelerator, partnering with the world’s largest environmental nonprofit, on a mission to supercharge early-stage startups who are protecting the planet, conserving our natural resources, and creating a world where humans and nature can both thrive.
This program invests in the following areas:
You can see the full investment thesis at A Tech Revolution For Nature.
Participating companies receive up to $120K in funding, personalized mentorship from Techstars and The Nature Conservancy, and much more. The program starts in September 2021. Learn more on the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator site.
Following are a few highlights that made recent press from some of the last class of alumni companies:
The Nature Conservancy is deeply involved in giving the startups access to the expertise of the world’s largest environmental non-profit. And Techstars brings a massive network of mentors, investors, and entrepreneurs on a similar journey.
Applications close on May 12th, so if you’re interested, apply today!
David Cohen and I recently interviewed Maëlle Gavet, Techstars new CEO. It’s a great way to get to know a little more about her in under 30 minutes.
I met Maëlle about a week before I talked to her for the first time by reading her book Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It. I knew I’d like her before we talked, and after almost two months of working with her, I’m psyched she’s at the helm of Techstars.
When David Cohen, David Brown, Jared Polis, and I started Techstars in 2006, we could have never envisioned what it has become. Today, Techstars is a global organization with around 300 employees, invests in over 400 new companies each year, and has invested in more than 2,300 companies worldwide. In 2006, an accelerator was a new idea; today, it is an integral part of the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurship, which in 2006 was just starting to become talked about again after the collapse of the Internet bubble, is a global phenomenon.
Maëlle is joining Techstars at an exciting time. David Cohen led the growth of Techstars from inception in 2006 to about 30 people. David Brown joined full-time in 2013 and did a spectacular job of growing Techstars to around 300 people and expanding it globally. Maëlle joins us to lead us on our next 10x growth.
David Cohen is taking a new role as Chairman of the Board. David Brown and I are each board members, joined by Stephanie Copeland, John China, Shanel Fields, and Maëlle. Having talked to many great potential CEOs, we are incredibly excited about working with Maëlle.
In 2010, when the world began to emerge from the global financial crisis, Techstars started its first wave of real growth. At the time, the regular rap on entrepreneurship was, “If you are serious about starting a high growth company, you should move to the bay area.” As expressed in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, I took the opposite view, where I asserted that every city with at least 100,000 people could build a thriving startup community and needed to do this as an important component of the socio-economic health of their city. As Techstars expanded throughout the world, we helped prove this.
Today, there are fantastic startup communities everywhere, and great companies created in many different places. Given the Covid pandemic’s impact on society, we are experiencing a new geographic distribution of people and entrepreneurs. Remote and distributed work is now a given as part of our entrepreneurial ecosystems. The need for entrepreneurship, innovative thinking, and transformation of traditional systems is more apparent than ever before.
Our society doesn’t merely need “more tech,” as evidenced by the growing backlash against Big Tech. A few days before meeting Maëlle for the first time, I read her book Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It. I did my first call with her with an enormous smile on my face, as I felt immediate alignment with her value system before we even started talking. She reinforced our values’ alignment through our conversations and her actions while recruiting her to be CEO.
Maëlle – welcome to Techstars. I’m ready to help you in any way I can on the next phase of our journey.
Manufacturing, agriculture, retail, and tech. These are just a few of the many industries in Colorado led and supported by local businesses. But what are we doing to support them through the current health and economic crisis?
West Slope Startup Week (WSSW) launched last week (this year in a virtual format) — a full month of online programming open to businesses across the state. Programming includes sessions from people such as Energize Colorado (EC) CEO Wendy Lea and myself.
Equally innovative is the new element of digital mentorship. Led by Energize Colorado’s Mentorship team, we have brought together more than 45 mentors with expertise in finance, tech, sales, and more. This mentorship program is an opportunity for organizations, including EC and Techstars, to nurture Colorado’s rapidly growing talent on the Western Slope and throughout all of Colorado.
Helping Colorado’s economy recover is about more than just a return to normal – it’s preparing for a fundamental transformation. Our future economy is one driven by a belief that equity and empathy are key strategies for inclusivity and long-term success.
Energize Colorado, a non-profit founded by many of Colorado’s business leaders, including myself, is here to lead this transformation. There are three key steps in Energize Colorado’s plan for economic recovery and growth:
During times like this, I am reminded why I, and many others, became entrepreneurs – to satisfy a never-ending curiosity and drive to learn. This is, in part, why mentorship is so valuable to me and integral to EC and Techstars’ startup week programming.
Regardless of your age or expertise, there is always something to be learned and gained. Now more than ever, we have to come together across the state to support each other and lead this transformation. I am calling on all of you to recognize the value mentorship has had on your journey and participate.
A wave of entrepreneurship around the world was unleashed coming out of the Global Financial crisis in 2010. Today, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are more important than ever.
Techstars has been extremely active around content, community, and engagement around how entrepreneurs can help with Covid-19 as well as how they can navigate the challenges to their business. Some things that are coming up include:
Techstars has also created and is regularly updating a COVID-19 Resource Guide with the following categories:
It’s awesome to see the engagement around the world from entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly to help us navigate the Covid crisis and the new realities we are all facing.
Techstars was born 13 years ago. There’s a delicious article in the Denver Post that was the launch article of the first accelerator in Boulder titled How TechStars was born from 5/18/07. The photo is fun.
Some of my favorite lines from the article include:
Jared Polis, Brad Feld, David Cohen and David Brown are the “professors” – the founders of an organization called TechStars, created to mentor 10 startup companies for the summer. The inaugural session kicks off Monday.
“I had never met David (Cohen),” Feld said. “We had a random meeting and in 15 minutes, I was totally in love with the idea.”
“I was thinking about the gaps in my own experience. I made a lot of mistakes,” said Cohen. “I wish I had had more mentorship, and more access, not only for capital, but the critical thinking. How to think about (starting a company) and approach it from a strategic standpoint.”
“Certainly people who are investing look into us and what we’ve done. There’s really a strong bench of support and proven success there,” Polis said. “I wish when I was first starting out I had access to this kind of brain trust.”
“I love helping start companies,” Feld said. “The four of us funded TechStars this year. If it’s successful, we’ll do it again.”
TechStars hopes the summer will shine light on Colorado as a top destination for technology startups.
Happy birthday Techstars. It’s pretty awesome to see what you’ve become after 13 years. And, thanks to everyone who has been involved throughout the entire experience, as Techstars simply wouldn’t be relevant without all of you.
Last week David and I spent some time at the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Their demo day is happening on October 30th in Denver and you can register here if you’re interested in attending.
If you want to see what actual world-changing startups look like, you’ll love this particular demo day. The ten companies that you’ll hear from are working on problems like how we remove carbon from the atmosphere, better manage our water, make valuable products from waste, and keep companies accountable for critical supply chains like coffee, seafood, timber, minerals, cotton, and palm oil. Each company is a venture-backable for-profit that has the possibility of creating both big financial and impact outcomes.
You’ll also hear from my wife, Amy Batchelor, about the important work The Nature Conservancy is doing and how we’ve been supporting them since 1990. My partner Seth Levine and his wife Greeley Sachs, who is currently a trustee on the TNC Colorado board, have also been long-time supporters of TNC as a key shared value of ours is protecting our planet following TNC’s science-based approach.
If the event is anything like last year, you’ll leave inspired about what a new generation of entrepreneurs is doing to help and protect our planet. The partnership between Techstars and The Nature Conservancy is combining disruptive technologies from startups with proven science from conservation in powerful ways.
As a bonus, there is also an investor-only event that morning for accredited investors. If you want more details, email email@example.com.