For over a decade, I’ve worked closely on a number of entrepreneurial initiatives with my friend Brad Bernthal, an Associate Professor at Colorado Law and the Silicon Flatirons Center. The past few weeks unexpectedly resulted in a new project with Brad B. and CU’s entrepreneurial community.
On March 19, Bart Temme, and entrepreneur in Holland, reached out to me and Brad B. The next day we jumped on a call. Bart shared notes about how the startup community in his area of Holland mobilized in response to COVID-19. Bart provided grim notes about the reality of the contagion and the needs of their area. Yet Bart also spoke about the possibilities for entrepreneurial networks, accustomed to taking action and helping each other, to make an impact.
On that call, we hatched an idea to harness the power of university students. The vision: match an army of student age volunteers to COVID-19 response needs. Brad B. agreed to see if our university entrepreneurial network would build out this effort.
In just two weeks, they created something powerful. I encourage you to read the update from Brad B. about HumanKind below and, if interested, get involved.
FROM BRAD BERNTHAL
I’ve been humbled to join a team that, over the past two weeks, built and launched HumanKind, a program to mobilize university students to help during the COVID-19 crisis. The platform bridges the gap between community needs and university-age volunteers.
To make this happen, volunteers jumped in from all corners of the campus – and beyond – over the past two weeks. A core team of about 20 volunteers – students, staff, and faculty – divvied up roles, joined Zoom meetings, and even pulled me into the Slack universe (I think I was the last holdout).
HumanKind just went live last night. A two-minute explainer video (created by my 8th grade daughter, Quinn, who got involved in the effort) summarizes what we’re up to.
HumanKind is a matchmaking platform between (1) university students, and (2) individuals and organizations in the community who need help. Areas in which HumanKind hopes to drive volunteer efforts include (i) remote social interaction with isolated elderly populations, (ii) support to front line medical providers (potentially things like dog walking and remote tutoring for their kids), and (iii) connection to existing networks that would welcome university student help.
We intentionally created HumanKind to be inclusive. We welcome university-age students who go to school out of state, but are now back at home in Colorado during the crisis, to join the effort. We also welcome the use of HumanKind at other universities throughout Colorado. We’ve branded this in a way that, hopefully, feels like student and entrepreneurial leaders at other schools can make use of the platform.
We’d now love to have the startup community push to (1) inspire university-age students in Colorado to join the COVID-19 response, and (2) identify organizations and networks that need university-age volunteers. Here are actions that you can take:
I’ve always wanted to build new things as part of a startup. I did not expect the chance to create something new to come under these circumstances. I have been inspired, and humbled, to see volunteers on our team use their entrepreneurial tools in the service of COVID-19 response impact. Across campus, we teach the value of entrepreneurial skills and mindsets. It is now amazing to put these skills to work at the most important of times. I am optimistic that this platform could make a real impact over the coming months.
Colorado Public Television takes an in-depth look at Colorado’s thriving startup scene in its new 5-part season called Street Level Startups.
The first episode, which is above, includes me and Jared Polis reflecting on some fun Techstars founding history, Dan Caruso talking about Zayo and the bridge between Boulder / Denver, and a great segment at the end with Brad Bernthal talking about fundraising and #GiveFirst. And, plenty of other stuff.
It was fun to watch a bunch of the old video from the last dozen years in one place. I love living and working here.
I received a Silicon Flatirons email from Phil Weiser this morning in his role as Silicon Flatirons Founder and Executive Director. My partners and I, especially Jason Mendelson, have been very involved with Silicon Flatirons over the past decade. I have a chapter in Startup Communities that uses CU Boulder – and specifically Silicon Flatirons – as an example of a much better way than the traditional approach (circa 2012) for a university to engage with the startup community.
One of the key leaders in this activity is Brad Bernthal. While BradB has become a close friend over the years, I think that he doesn’t get anywhere near the recognition he deserves for his endless and tireless engagement in and across the activities of CU Boulder + the Boulder startup community. It made me extremely happy to see Phil’s email and I decided to reblog it because I think it does a great job of highlighting some of the specific things that a professor like BradB can do to impact the startup community from a role in a university.
BradB – thank you for everything you do. You are awesome. Phil’s note to the Silicon Flatirons community follows.
Silicon Flatirons continues to support a range of entrepreneurship activity. Just consider what we have done over the past month or so: Crash Courses on GDPR compliance and how startups can sell products to large enterprises; student attorneys helping area startups through the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic; a candid interview by Krista Marks with David Brown and David Cohen of Techstars (recording here); an intellectual feast in the entrepreneurship conference and academic workshop examining the concept of “#GiveFirst” (recording here); and tonight‘s kickoff for our New Venture Challenge Information Technology (IT) track.
Supporting entrepreneurs in our community is a central part of our mission. The person who leads this initiative is Brad Bernthal, our Entrepreneurship Initiative Director. After building up our leadership in this area, we formally established this initiative with Brad at the helm in 2008. It is hard to overstate Brad’s impact on campus and in the community over the last decade. In addition to events that convene entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, students, and academics to learn from one another, as well as Brad’s extraordinary commitment to mentoring, his scholarship merits notice and praise.
After seeing it firsthand, Brad was intrigued by the well-regarded entrepreneurial ecosystem in Boulder. How does it work? Why do people get involved? Why do people contribute without knowing what they might get in return? Brad’s scholarship has focused on this important aspect of our economy. Brad is currently studying finance instruments used in startup investment and has two forthcoming articles on this topic. Just prior to this, his published research focused on generalized exchange within investment accelerators, the first legal scholarship about how accelerators work.
In addition to leading the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic that aids the startup community, Brad co-teaches a venture capital course at Colorado Law, along with Jason Mendelson of Foundry Group. Brad and Jason are now in their tenth year of teaching the VC course, which attracts a cross-campus mix of JD, MBA, and engineering graduate students. The course is so valued that students established an endowed scholarship fund in Brad’s name and created a separate campus entrepreneurship gift in Jason’s honor.
Brad is one of the leaders of the CU Boulder campus-wide entrepreneurship and innovation effort. He continually strives to connect the university and surrounding startup community. He collaborated with others on campus to launch and drive the New Venture Challenge for nine years. They successfully handed over the reins to campus leadership last year, and Brad continues to support the effort through the IT track, which Silicon Flatirons hosts.
And when he’s not doing all of the above, he is, well, giving first. He averages close to 400 1-on-1 coffee meetings each year with those in their entrepreneurial journeys. He also serves as a Techstars mentor and is on the Colorado Venture Capital Authority Board, which oversees the State of Colorado’s venture capital fund.
Brad embodies the spirit of collaboration: giving to and supporting others. It’s a privilege to have him as a core member of the Silicon Flatirons team.
One of my favorite public events is the CU Boulder Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurs Unplugged series. I was the co-host for the first couple of years, sharing the interview job with another Brad (Bernthal) who now is generally on his own.
On Thursday, 9/13/18 at 5:30pm, Bernthal will be interview David Cohen and David Brown, the co-CEOs of Techstars (who we often fondly refer at Foundry Group as the “the David(s).” The event will be held at the CU Boulder Law School.
If you know the David(s), I expect this will be a treat as I know Bernthal will start with their early entrepreneurial career (Pinpoint) and stick with it for a while. While many people know the Techstars story, the PinPoint story is much less well known but equally fascinating. And, if you need any hints on Q&A (which Bernthal always leaves time for), just drop me a note.
Tonight, the New Venture Challenge at CU Boulder is having its 10th anniversary. It’s happening at the Boulder Theater from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm and is open to the public. Register here to attend if you are interested.
My partner Jason is leading the judging panel, which includes:
Dan and Cindy Caruso and Amy and I contributed the prizes, which total $100,000.
A decade ago the creation of the NVC was inspired by the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. I was involved in the early years (1992 – 1996) as a judge and funded a number of companies that went through the MIT $100K (which was called the MIT $10K at the time.) The entire experience was foundational for me, both as an entrepreneur and an early angel investor (I started investing in 1994 after I sold my first company at the end of 1993.)
Over a decade ago, Brad Bernthal and Phil Weiser were putting real energy into Boulder Startup Community. I discuss their efforts, and impact, in my book Startup Communities (which was published in 2012). One of the things I suggested was doing something like the MIT $100K. I remember a longish discussion with Brad Bernthal and my partner Jason about the history of it and how it unfolded over the first decade.
Bernthal and Jason grabbed this and ran with it. A decade later, that discussion now seems like ancient history. But, for anyone who knows my rant about having a long-term view around startup communities (at least 20 years), we are now 10 years into the NVC journey. And, it has really hit its stride.
I’m excited about tonight’s event and am really looking forward to seeing the companies compete! I hope to see you there if you are in Boulder.
My partner Jason and our dear friend Professor Brad Bernthal are attempting to teach everything there is to know about the venture ecosystem in 90 minutes on January 28th. The link to the event is here.
Now realistically, you won’t learn everything, but they have been teaching a class on the subject for the past five years and it is not only excellent, but was one of the reason Jason and I wrote our book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.
This should be a great event.
Along with my partner Jason Mendelson and our friends Brad Bernthal (University of Colorado Law School) and Mike Platt (partner at Cooley LLP) we have launched a series of courses in conjunction with our portfolio company Sympoz on starting a company. This is a bidirectional experiment for us – we are helping Sympoz launch their new set of programs for startups and entrepreneurs while continuing to experiment with new forms of media around education on a topic we know well.
My class, How To Light a Spark & Set Your Startup on Fire, is FREE for a limited time. It’s aimed at someone either thinking about starting a business, or just getting going. It’s a casual format – these should be easy, inspiring lessons – each of the three segments is about 30 minutes long Following is the outline of the content.
Jason, BradB, and Mike’s class is a subset of the class that Jason and BradB teach at the CU Boulder Law School which has consistently been one of the most popular law and business school classes around startups, raising money, and venture capital. In the Sympoz course, The Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Company, they build on our book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist to help you turn your idea into a company, who and how to partner with, how to raise money, and what to do with it when you get it. There’s plenty of practical advice for interacting with VCs during the financing process along with lots of tips about what can kill your startup before you get it off the ground. The four hour course costs $29.99.
Sympoz classes are perfect for busy people; you can watch the professionally produced, HD videos anytime, anywhere on the planet, from any Internet-connected device, as often as you want. The Sympoz learning platform seamlessly blends discussions into the class experience, enabling you to ask questions of, and participate in conversations with your class community, including your instructors.
Join us in class – and give us feedback on what you think about it.