Colorado Springs-based entrepreneur and investor Jan Horsfall is one of the leaders of a new, statewide movement to connect entrepreneurial resources and help startup companies get the tools they need to succeed.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” Horsfall said. “I’ve been here 10 years and it’s the first time I’ve seen a statewide, entrepreneurial-driven vision that is trying to connect all of the technology companies up and down the Front Range.”
Horsfall is co-chairing the state group, Startup Colorado (startupcolorado.org), with Boulder venture capitalist Brad Feld and University of Colorado law school dean Phil Weiser. Startup Colorado was being publicly launched at an event in Boulder on Wednesday to be attended by White House chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra and Startup America CEO Scott Case. (Startup Colorado is an offshoot of the national group, but independent.) Horsfall was a vice president at the Internet search firm Lycos and has founded or been a leader at a number of other technology firms; he is now the founder and CEO of Gelazzi, a gelato restaurant chain.
While Colorado has a diverse array of entrepreneurial talent, it tends to get segregated into silos, Horsfall said. Groups in Boulder and Fort Collins and Colorado Springs often don’t talk to one another, limiting the resources and reach of efforts to boost startup businesses.
“We have a range of assets up and down the Front Range,” he said. “We’re trying to hook those individuals up as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possible to the individuals who can help them.”
Boulder is the model for the state, Horsfall said, with a robust network of investors and entrepreneurs that attract the bulk of the state’s venture capital investment.
“We have to look to Boulder,” he said. “I believe they’ve done the best job of creating what I would call that entrepreneurial fabric. The network up there is impressive and open, no politics, no stereotypes.”
Still, he said, Colorado Springs can bring expertise in defense and security, while Fort Collins has clean technology resources. Creating a successful statewide network will take a few years, Horsfall said, but opening up the lines of communication and disseminating each community’s resources has already started.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time inventorying the resources,” he said. “If you happen to be doing something with water, for example, the good water stuff is up in Fort Collins so go get connected up there. I reached out down here in the Springs to everyone that I can think of.”
Programs being planned include an entrepreneurial summer camp at the University of Colorado-Boulder and entrepreneurial education, along with coffee clubs and tech meetups.
The idea, Horsfall said, is to create vibrant, successful companies.
“This is not for an individual who wants to go open up a dry cleaner, this is for the guy who has a new idea for a dry cleaner and wants to go open 20 of them, then 40 of them,” Horsfall said.
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