This past September, 2019 I was privileged to be an Ambassador for Denver Startup Week (DSW). I joined a terrific group of builders, doers and visionaries as a member of this year’s 2019 group.
My firm, Leadout Capital Partners, is a seed institutional investment firm with a thesis grounded in founder market fit. We look for gritty, resilient entrepreneurs whose core insights are derived from a deep and informed view of a market. And we love technology driven innovation to help to solve pain points for the customers that comprise these markets. The founders we love are often overlooked by traditional venture investors.
This often means the founders we look to back are not found in the Bay Area. And, increasingly, we are finding these emerging talents outside of the traditional technology startup ecosystems. And, I am confident we will find some of these founders in Denver, which was a major reason why I wanted to attend Denver Startup Week. And, thanks in large part to my experience as a DSW Ambassador, I am more confident than ever.
My rationale can be bucketed into three themes. The first is that, Denver didn’t just appear on the map for innovation. There exists in Denver a network of resources and support for the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem. A powerful academic infrastructure, established corporations, city and state entities, pro sports teams, etc. create the groundwork for the Denver startup ecosystem.
Tech giants have also migrated to or call Denver their “HQ2.” Companies like Slack, Gusto, Guild and most recently Nextdoor are creating real time an ecosystem of talent, contemporaneous expertise and grit that is creating a wake of opportunity for the city and its startup community. They along with Denver native tech businesses are attracting talent, driving revenue and commanding impressive valuations.
Second, Denver’s culture is contagious. The city is full of energy and possibility for entrepreneurs and builders. There is a culture of kindness, inclusion, and creating a sense of belonging for its natives and its newcomers.
This was made clear immediately upon our arrival for DSW when we got to hear Mike Biselli, founder of the Catalyst Accelerator, talk about his city. This Colorado native and Stanford grad, described the importance of building the infrastructure both physical and social to enable what he calls “serendipity by proximity.”
During our group’s company visits with Evolve, Guild, Ibotta and Pie Insurance we heard leadership talk about the importance of culture, first principles and values front and center. We heard companies like Guild espouse the value of “doing well by doing good”.
The third reason is right in your face: Denver is beautiful. Under Mayor Michael Hancock*, the community and its leadership clearly value public spaces and creating access to Denver’s physical beauty for all. The city has a “neighbor-hoody feel” despite being one of the biggest cities in the United States. People are relocating here for the culture, the talent pool, the beauty and being a part of what’s next.
Though Denver is earlier in its growth cycle than other tech hubs, its progress and trajectory are notable. I’m excited to see the companies we visited create that “umbrella effect” for the ecosystem.
Once again, I want to thank and acknowledge all of the sponsorship and efforts that went into our trip; we are grateful! And, on behalf of my firm and the thesis we pursue which is grounded in founder market fit.
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