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.
The phrase “contemporary mentors” popped into my head on loop number six of eight on my morning run. I’m training for a Covid marathon, which is 27 loops around my property.
My pace is tentative as I’m still gearing up after a long break due to a back injury, but I’m letting the miles and the time on my feet build on the weekends.
Running in circles for hours is different than running in the mountains in Aspen during the summer. But, I’m afraid of going to Aspen right now because of Covid, and I’m afraid of leaving my property and running on the roads or the trails near Boulder.
So, I’m embracing the circles. Amy likes it because she can keep an eye on me and let Cooper come out for the last couple of loops. While I think he could run with me forever, she worries about him when he goes for more than three loops, which is about six miles for him given all the back and forth he does.
I’ve decided that I’m going to approach the second half of 2020 differently than I approached the first half. This weekend, I turned off a bunch of inputs. I had several long conversations with Amy, right after I meditated, but before I did anything else, including one today where I acknowledged that the organizing principle I’ve been operating with for the last year isn’t working for me. I spent a lot of time outside, but without feeling tethered to anything. I allowed myself to feel what I was feeling, instead of trying to catch up or get on top of the stuff. I laughed at the few absurd things that crossed my path, rather than letting them aggravate me. I thought some more about what I wanted to spend my time on and what I was going to delete.
None of this is new for me – it’s a regular repeating cycle. Sometimes it’s part of my burnout loop or a boom-bust work cycle. Other times it’s a function of not knowing my limits and getting depressed. Once it was a function of a self-induced depressive episode because I stupidly took Ambien for two weeks on an international trip. And sometimes it’s just random.
A little more than a year ago, I came up with a new organizing principle for how I was going to address my work. I thought it was clever, was proud of myself for coming up with it, and tried it for a while. About a month ago I realized that it was a failure and that I wasn’t happy with it. While several aspect were working, several weren’t, but most importantly I realized that my frustration with it and my determination to try to make it work, even when it wasn’t, was making me unhappy.
So, about a month ago, I threw it away. I didn’t stop any of the activities I was doing, but I threw away the organizing principle.
This morning, I told Amy that I had thrown it away. It was the first time I was able to articulate this clearly. I don’t have a new organizing principle yet, but I knew the one I was using wasn’t working.
When my running loops increased, I realized I needed to listen to something while I’m running. Usually, I run “naked” (without headphones), especially when I’m in the mountains or on trails. But, after a few 0.95-mile loops, I want some stimuli other than “another loop.”
I decided to go through some Tim Ferriss podcasts and listen to some of my friends that he interviewed. I think the world of Tim and have learned a lot from him, even though we haven’t spent a lot of time together. And, whenever I listen to any of his podcasts, I learn at least one thing, and they often cause me to think about a few things.
In order, over the past few longer runs, I’ve listened to:
It was in the middle of Seth’s interview that the phrase “contemporary mentors” popped into my head.
I was searching in the background for a phrase different than “entrepreneurial heroes.” I started my first business in the 1980s and my entrepreneurs heroes include Bill Gates, Mitch Kapor, Steve Case, and Dan Bricklin.
But Seth, Jerry, Ryan, Tim, Madeleine, and Jim are in a different category. They are mentors of mine, in a long list of mentors. Some – like Jerry – are soulmates. Others, like Madeline and Jim, are people I know a little bit but respect enormously. And Ryan and Tim are contemporaries on a different vector entirely.
Aha – “contemporary mentors.” The ideal mentor-mentee relationship is when the mentor and mentee become peers and learn from each other. But peer mentorship has never become an easy category for me to explain as it implies an evolution from a mentor-mentee relationship. What if that’s not what happened.
Tim and Seth – thank you. As I listened to you today on my run, I learned from each of you, while having a close emotional connection from my own relationship with each of you. And from it came a new phrase for me: “contemporary mentors.”
One of my core values is diversity of everything.
I’ve been involved deeply in several organizations, such as National Center for Women and Information Technology, that have been focused on increasing gender diversity in computer science and entrepreneurship. More recently, I’ve expanded my lens a lot to include many other dimensions of diversity. The mission of the Techstars Foundation, which is improving diversity in tech entrepreneurship, is an example of that.
One thing that I learned from my work with NCWIT is the power of examples. So, Amy and I have been supporting independent filmmakers for a few years. The first film we helped fund was CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. Then, following the leadership of Joanne Wilson, we helped fund Dream, Girl which you can watch for free on their website until November 14th.
Recently, a group of us have been helping a young filmmaker, Ashley Maria, who is on her own personal journey to find out why careers are much more complicated and difficult when a woman tries to have one.
Pioneers in Skirts focuses on cultural and personal setbacks women still face in our society when they pursue a career. The film focuses on hot social topics that women encounter – like the mommy penalty and unconscious biases we find in our culture, the need for mentorship, sponsors, and men to advocate for their female co-workers, and how to nip the problem in the bud during adolescence.
Pioneers in Skirts is currently in post-production aiming for an early 2017 premiere in festivals and then VOD, Streaming and Television. Ashley and team need a little more funding to get things done so if you are inclined to support an ambitious young female filmmaker working on what Amy and I think is an important film, go to her support page and make a donation to the effort.