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:
- Foundational Support: Access to mentorship, mental health resources, and research about reopening a business in the time of Covid.
- Financial Access: EC’s Gap Fund (launching at the end of July) is a $25m+ fund that mixes grants and low-interest loans to assist rural, women, and BIPOC-owned businesses.
- Fortitude: Providing the thought leadership Colorado needs to increase inclusivity, help small businesses remain competitive, and lead the nation in innovation.
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.
The Covid crisis has generated, or amplified, a number of separate crises. One of them is a mental health (or mental wellness) crisis. As humans, our entire way of living has been dramatically impacted by Covid. We are isolated from each other, many of us are afraid of being in public, and we are feeling enormous weight from economic, social, familial, and organization pressure.
One of our goals with Energize Colorado is to create a non-profit for the extended business community of “Coloradans helping Coloradans”. We decided to make providing Mental Health Resources one of the primary initiatives.
The Energize Colorado website has a comprehensive list of mental health resources that are available, but here are two new ones.
Free or low-cost therapy or mental health support with a licensed therapist: As of the other day, we currently have therapists in Colorado who have donated a total of up to 1,000 free hours. If you are a therapist and you are open to donating up to five hours of free therapy, please sign up on the Therapist Volunteer page.
3 Free months of Simple Habit: Sign up to access meditations, sleep content, and movement exercises, designed to help you care for your mind — all free for 3 months.
Also, Energize Colorado now has a mailing list so you can stay informed on upcoming webinars as well as information from Energize Colorado.
Energize Colorado, working with Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), has just released business templates that offer best practices, direction, and information on how businesses can restart operations safely and effectively.
These templates are based on OEDIT’s recommendations along with input from Kroger who has been a leader in evolving better practices as an essential business.
- Part One: Let’s Keep COVID-19 Out of Your Workplace: Best practices in screening your workers and customers and how they need to be balanced with privacy and HIPAA concerns.
- Part Two: Let’s Not Pass it Along: Learn the underlying principles of social distancing to support creation of specific guidelines for your business and industry.
- Part Three: Let’s Plan for When it Does Happen: COVID-19 will come to virtually every business. Learn how to limit the impact and spread through your workforce.
- Part Four: Let’s Care for Our People: Special programs to check in frequently with workers and tools to respond to what you learn.
As businesses start opening up in Colorado, we are entering a very tricky phase of the Covid crisis. I appreciate the work that the 200+ volunteers at Energize Colorado are doing to help the companies with less than 500 employees navigate things.
If you have a job, have been working from home, and haven’t been spending extra money on Starbucks (or local) coffee, lunch or dinner out, or other random things you spend money on during the day while at work, please consider making a donation to the Colorado COVID Relief Fund today. All contributions made today up to $250,000 will be matched by an anonymous donor.
GivingTuesday usually happens the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Amy and I have been involved in Boulder for many years, going back to the first year when the yellow Culture of Giving squeezy balls were part of the campaign.
This year it’s happening today. Globally.
The Covid crisis has created unprecedented stress and devastation on many people. The Governor’s Colorado COVID Relief Fund is raising and allocating funds based on prevention, impact, and recovery needs of community-based organizations in Colorado.
- Children from families living on low income who are impacted by school or childcare closures
- Communities of color
- Healthcare, hospitality, service industry and gig economy workers
- Immigrant and refugee communities
- Minimum or low-wage employees displaced by business closures
- Older adults living on low income
- People who are immuno-compromised or medically fragile
- People with limited English proficiency
- People with disabilities
- People without health insurance
- Victims of domestic violence or child abuse
- People living on low income
- People experiencing homelessness
- Tribal governments
- Workers without access to paid sick leave
To date, the fund has allocated $8.4 million to 371 organizations serving all 64 counties in Colorado.
We’ve all been working from home for the past 30 days (so, about 20 work days). Contemplate what your random out of pocket spending on food (coffee, snacks) is during the work day. $3? $5? $10? $20?
Consider contributing a day, a week (* 5), or a month (* 20) of whatever that number is to the Colorado COVID Relief Fund. Whatever number you contribute will be multiplied by 2 in the match.
Coloradans helping Coloradans. Because that’s what we do.
Governor Jared Polis had an excellent and extremely data-driven press conference yesterday to provide quantitive support for his stay at home order (among other things.) The presentation is embedded and worth paging through.
The basic message is that unless it is absolutely necessary for you, please stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. While it is frustrating and constraining in the short term, if you stay at home, your actions will contribute to saving many lives. If not, your actions will contribute to killing people. I know that’s a harsh statement, but the data shows that we are clearly in the middle of a relatively short period where our collective action of staying at home can have a huge positive impact.
There is a new, private-sector volunteer organization (and a non-profit) called Citizen Software Engineers (CSE) run by Tim Miller (you may know Tim as the Rally Software CEO from near inception through their acquisition by CA) that is part of my Innovation Response Team. CSE has a data team that is generating significant data around Covid-19 and wiring up publicly available data in a system for rapid feedback, analysis and response.
The actual data is extremely fast-moving and anyone familiar with complex systems or system dynamics knows that today’s inputs generate tomorrow’s outputs which are the new inputs. So, the action we take immediately can have profound positive or negative effects on what happens next.
Jared completely understands this and is using all the data he has to make decisions that have both short-term and medium-term impact. Right now we are in the middle of what I am calling “the surge” to help people I’m working with understand that the next 30 days (through the end of April) is a critical/urgent time to act since we didn’t act as a country 60 days ago.
While many things are setting the groundwork for dealing with Covid19 over a longer period of time, I’m not counting us a magical solution to this. Consequently, our actions every minute, every hour, and every day will make an impact on the magnitude of the surge, and whether we can flatten the curve enough so that we can handle it in Colorado.
Please do your part and stay at home. I know it’s tempting to go outside today, especially given the beautiful weather. I know it’s natural to say “fuck it” after a cooped up week and go for a hike. Understand the constraints of the stay at home order and follow them. Please. You will be saving lives.
I’ve been involved with a number of leaders in the Colorado tech community since Wednesday morning as we’ve aggressively mobilized to address the Covid-19 crisis.
Following is a joint statement that a bunch of us have signed on to. A group of us are working quickly to create more mechanisms for a coordinated response, collective action, funding for critical resources, and ideas for things to do that will have a positive impact.
Huge kudos to Bryan Leach at iBotta and Rachel Carlson at Guild Education for providing urgent and effective leadership here.
We are leaders of 35 different technology companies with headquarters or offices in the Denver and Boulder metro areas. This week, our companies stepped up efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 here in Colorado and beyond. Reflecting the spirit of collaboration that characterizes our startup community, we all came together as a group, shared best practices, and agreed to take the following decisive actions in the interest of protecting the most vulnerable members of our community:
- First, we are strongly encouraging the majority of our workers to work from home as soon as possible, leaving behind the minimum possible in-office presence.
- Second, we are restricting work travel by our employees, both domestically and internationally. We are also strongly advising our employees to be thoughtful about all personal travel, particularly where they would be congregating in larger groups.
- Third, we are moving all clients, visitors, and interviews to remote only meetings and not currently welcoming onsite visitors.
- Fourth, wherever possible we are strongly encouraging our vendors, service providers and partner businesses to take similar precautions.
- Fifth, we are each consulting with our teams to find ways of supporting our local healthcare workers by helping to purchase critical medical resources, such as additional tests and protective equipment, and supporting the work of local nonprofit organizations that are helping at-risk communities who will be severely impacted by this pandemic.
- Finally, we are calling on government officials and other business leaders to restrict large group gatherings, including in the largest entertainment venues along the Front Range.
Why are we taking these unprecedented steps? The spread of COVID-19 is past the point of containment. Without swift action, we may soon witness the failure of our healthcare system’s capacity to deal with the virus’s complications. Our healthcare system is not built to handle enormous loads of critically ill people all at once. Therefore, we urgently need to flatten the curve of disease transmission to prevent unnecessary deaths. Wuhan City had 4.3 hospital beds per thousand people. In the United States, we have 2.8. There are not enough health care providers to care for all the sick. There are fewer than 100,000 full ventilators in the US. We are already seeing this play out with tragic consequences in Italy, where the mortality rate is shockingly high, as their healthcare system has struggled to keep pace with the sudden crushing load of hospitalized patients, leading to otherwise preventable deaths.
Our actions alone will not be enough, and we cannot wait for our government agencies and elected officials to mandate these restrictions. Every hour counts. We therefore call on others in Colorado — and in other startup communities across the country — to follow our lead and implement these procedures, effective immediately.
Bryan Leach, Founder and CEO, Ibotta
Brad Feld, Partner, Foundry Group
David Brown, CEO, Techstars
Sameer Dholakia, CEO, Twilio SendGrid
Ben Wright, CEO, Velocity Global
Jake Bolling, CEO, Skupos
Bart Lorang, CEO, FullContact
Conor Swanson, Co-Founder, Code-Talent
John Levisay, Founder & CEO, Bluprint
Matt Talbot, CEO, GoSpotCheck
Joni Klippert, CEO, StackHawk
Rajat Bhargava, CEO, JumpCloud
Fred Kneip, CEO, CyberGRX
Brent Handler, CEO, Inspirato
Lee Mayer, CEO, Havenly
Brett Jurgens, CEO, Notion
Walter Knapp, CEO, Sovrn
Brian Egan, CEO, Evolve Vacation Rental
Chris Cabrera, Founder & CEO, Xactly Corporation
David Levin, Co-Founder & CEO, Four Winds Interactive
Matthew Glotzbach, CEO, Quizlet
Nick Martin, CEO, The Pro’s Closet
Seth Levine, Partner, Foundry Group
Stewart McGrath, CEO, Section
Matthew Klein, CEO, Backbone
Carm Huntress, CEO, RxRevu
Mike Gionfriddo, CTO, Pie Insurance
Paul Berberian, CEO, Sphero
Joshua Reeves, CEO, Gusto
Chris Klein, CEO, Rachio
Mark Frank, CEO, SonderMind
Pete Holst, CEO, Oblong
Rachel Carlson, CEO, Guild Education
Josh Dorsey, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank
Amit Shah, VP Operations, Virta Health
One of the many great things about the Governor of Colorado is that he’s an entrepreneur, having started multiple successful technology companies, including BlueMountainArts.com (acquired by Excite for $800m) and Provide Commerce (IPO, then acquired by Liberty Media for $500m). He’s also a co-founder of Techstars with me, David Cohen, and David Brown.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of Jared Polis’ relatively early new initiatives as Governor is the Colorado Digitial Service.
The founding team includes several entrepreneurial friends along with extremely capable technologists around Colorado. The idea is to do “civic service tours of duty” to rapidly improve a number of citizen-facing applications that millions of Coloradian’s use on a regular basis.
I much prefer this approach, with a highly functional agile team of experts, rather than yet another $100 million contract with a large consulting firm, government contractor, or legacy technology company that will result in a three-year build and deployment of a system that never actually sees the light of day.
If you have deep technical, designer, or application development skills and are interested in a civic tour of duty helping improve the software that Coloradian’s use to interact with our state government, go apply to help out.
I’m lazy blogging this week as I get ready to go on vacation for the July 4th holiday. So, here’s another set of videos to watch, which is the entire Street Level Startups series from Colorado Public Television. I’ve watched them all now and they are a great history of how the entrepreneurship scene in Colorado has evolved recently, along with a bunch of fun highlights of people and companies.
Street Level Startups: The New Gold Rush
Street Level Startups: When an Idea Strikes – Stories of Inspiration
Street Level Startups: Three Phases of a Startup
Street Level Startups: Mentorship & Integration
Street Level Startups: Startups to Watch
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.
From June 5 to June 8, Techstars Startup Week West Slope will be happening on the western slope in Colorado, with the main event in Grand Junction.
I’m doing a Keynote at on Thursday, June 6 from 11:30am – 1:00pm at Colorado Mesa University. I’ll be talking about building startup communities outside Colorado’s front range in a fireside chat / AMA format.
Startup communities in Colorado that are outside the front range (Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins) have become something that my partner Seth Levine and I have been very involved in the past few years. Seth’s providing a lot of on the ground leadership, through his work with Startup Colorado and the Greater Colorado Venture Fund. I try to show up or help remotely whenever I can and Amy and I have been writing plenty of checks from our Anchor Point Foundation to support various initiatives.
We have family in Hotchkiss, a house in Aspen, and have spent a lot of time in Summit County over the past decade when we had a house in Keystone. There are magical things going on all over Colorado, especially on the western slope. I have a strong belief that startup communities should exist everywhere and can have a meaningful impact on cities outside the large urban concentrations that we have in many parts of the U.S.
What’s happening in Colorado’s Western Slope is powerful and an example that can be used through the U.S. and the world. If you are interested, come join us at Techstars Startup Week West Slope to learn more.