This last weekend was not one for the un-inspired! Friday night at Startup Weekend Telluride kicked off with a packed room in the Ah Haa School for the Arts. Sixty Participants came together from Denver, Grand Junction, Delta, Gunnison, Durango and Telluride to take their idea's from thought to reality.
You might wonder what bike pedals, baby toys, and organic toothpaste have in common? These products, as well as three others, will be the focus of this years' 2018 cohort at the Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA).
Having trouble finding that perfect gift for mom, grandma, dad, your girlfriend, second cousin? The alumni from Telluride Venture Accelerator has you covered! From stocking stuffers to gifts that keep giving all year round - we are confident we have just the perfect gift for that hard to shop for loved one.
Since graduating from TVA this last July, Frank.ai is ready take the US Market by storm. After spending three and a half months in Telluride and traveling around the US they were able to put their original "assumptions" to the test.
Structure: each town was asked to mention a few companies, initiatives, and funders from their community that are a good example of how to get things done from a mountain town.
The towns: Telluride, Mammoth, Teton Range, Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, Ketchum, Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge, Gunnison Crested Butte, Durango, Big Sky/Bozeman, Bend, and Whistler.
Recreational Technology (RecTech)
Teton Range, WY
Central Wyoming College > Startup intensive
Angel mentor group
USDA > rural business development grants
Fifty fifty brewing
Arts and culture
Alpenglow Mountain Festival
Bid 2% tax
Tahoe Silicon Mountain
Town of Truckee
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Outdoor Gear Lab
Code 4 America
Big Life Magazine
Ketchum Innovation Center
SVB of Angels
City of Ketchum
Crazy Mountain Brew
High Country Kombucha
VCBA Innovation Series
Ideas 2 Action/CU
Aspen Brewing Co.
BLK MKT (Roam)
Create mentorship program
Aspen Next Gen
City of Wellbeing
Elevate + Evo3
Rockies Venture Club
Gunnison Crested Butte, CO
Fed $ (EDA)
Rocky Mountain Chocolate
La Plata Economic Development Association
Entrepreneurs of the Southwest
SW Women's Leadership Conference
Wild Women's Project
Regional Economic Development
Animas Venture Group
Big Sky/Bozeman, MT
MSU Innovation Center
Prospera Business Center
Launchpad (MSU Incubator)
Bend Outdoor Worx
Oregon Outdoor Alliance
KIA Cluster Groups
Venture Out Festival
Private Business Oregon
Whistler, B.C., Canada
Origin DesignCost Mountain Brewery
Community Foundation of Whistler
Whistler Housing Authority
Residence Housing Task Force
Every town has their success stories, but from one town to the next we don't always know who they are. Let's change that. This page has an initial set of success stories from mountain towns across the US, each offered by town residents in attendance at the Mountain Ventures Summit: The Future of Work on Feb 2–4, 2017.
We're excited to announce the eight companies that have been accepted into Telluride Venture Accelerators's 2017 program! This is the 5th year of the program, and building on the success of the past four years, we're especially excited to introduce our largest, most international, and latest stage group of companies yet.
The teams will be on-site in Telluride starting the first week of March and culminating on June 30th with a Demo Day and community showcase. Throughout the program, the teams will have access to our network of almost one hundred mentors and they will get to work directly with some well known experts in their fields to dive deep into many aspects of their business. See a high level overview of the curriculum that the teams will be experiencing here.
Without further ado, please join us in welcoming the entrepreneurs joining TVA's 2017 cohort!
Thimble.io - Thimble teaches beginners a basic understanding of building electronics through a monthly kit with carefully curated and easy to follow instructions. These kits that allow you to create, learn and explore by combining hands on hardware and sometimes a little software accompanied by video tutorials. Examples of some of our first projects include a wifi-robot, LED cube, robotic arm, alarm clock, weather station, quadcopter, etc. Every month it's a new project! Oscar and David will be joining us from New York!
SnowCookie - Smart doesn’t begin to cover it. Snowcookie is a mind-altering ski system. Snap it to your gear to get realtime feedback on your technique and eye-opening measurements of your runs. If that’s not enough - Snowcookie will tell you when your muscles need a break (before your bones will), and connect you to the skiing community. Whether you’re after a performance booster, skill sharpener or fun amplifier — Snow cookie has your covered. Martin and Marcin join us from Poland.
Frank. - Frank is a web-based programmatic media buying platform to help small and medium size enterprises launch cross-channel online advertising campaigns with lower cost and faster delivery. We combine artificial intelligence technology with simple user interface to bring complex technology to mass markets. Thanks to our platform, companies can now save money and time on doing online advertising campaigns. It only takes 5 minutes to launch the campaign and the rest (media planning & buying, campaign real-time optimization, reporting) is done by technology. Karla, Henry, Jan, and Ivar join us from Estonia.
ShedWool - ShedWool empowers companies of all sizes to schedule their staffs online, in the cloud, for free. Managers can control labor, monitor compliance, communicate with their staff through our messaging platform, and review and approve (or deny) shift swaps, time off requests, and much more from their smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops without any of the cost previously associated with this service. Cory joins us from Chicago, IL.
RxCBD - RxCBD creates, manufactures, and markets industrial hemp CBD-infused products for pets and their people. We sell online to all 50 states and also through retail locations and veterinarian practices. Debbie joins us from Ridgeway, CO.
Bramble Outdoors - Bramble creates essential outdoor gear that helps protect our wild places. Each of our products is rooted in an iconic American landscape, and a portion of every sale goes to protect that region. Trevor joins us from San Francisco, CA.
RightClick.io - Our vision at RightClick.io is to transform the way you look at the web designing industry. We are trying to help users utilize their time better. By saving them from the tedium of manually handling and building a website, we free up their time to spend more on what they do best. We have developed an AI-powered chatbot that is truly different than other website builders (AI or human) you’ve worked with before. RC bot efficiently combines the conversational intelligence and social etiquette of a website designer with high levels of accuracy expected from a machine. Haseeb will be joining us from Los Angeles, CA with the rest of his team from Pakistan.
VanJet - Most everyone has heard of the #vanlife movement now, and well, VanJet takes it to the next level! We take Mercedes Metris vans and convert them into hotel rooms on wheels. These vans serve as a customers rental car and accommodations while they travel. All Vanjets are also equipped with GPS trackers and remote unlocking functionality. The mobile apps allow for adding credit cards as well as driver information like insurance and drivers license information. Anyone can buy a Vanjet and rent it out via the platform to earn extra income. Clint will be joining us from San Francisco, CA.
We'll be welcoming the teams in March with an open community event on March 8th in town. We will also be hosting a series of workshops and speakers throughout the program that will be open to the community! Follow our Facebook page to keep track of TVA events and opportunities to get involved!
This weekend, we’re hosting Startup Weekend Telluride, and we couldn't be more excited.
Startup Weekend is a 3-day meals-included exercise of forming a business + growth plan.
It doesn't matter your background, if you're a student, if you're a FT500 exec, or if you have an idea or not. The Startup Weekend model has proven itself literally thousands of times around the world as one of the most powerful tools for building entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Each person contributes their unique background to each team, working together to finalize their idea and plan.
We've got 5 folks from the Techstars team driving out from Boulder, two co-founders of Startup Weekend (Clint and Marc), 10 students from Ft. Lewis, 5 students from Durango plus a bunch of local folks like Basit, Tristan, Jim, Alley, Norbert, Tom, Thea, Aaron Silverman, Len, Jack, Mark Rikkers, Ryan, Jack, Dennis, etc.
Entrepreneurship, like any sport, requires practice and training...
Grab someone you'd enjoy working on a weekend project with and come roll up your sleeves and let's build something together!
Len Metheny is a key part of Telluride's mentor network. Get to know the man behind the name in this mentor interview.
How did you come to Telluride?
What started out as a one month stay in the summer 6 years ago turned into an entire summer, which turned into a year.
Six years later our kids are in school and and we are quite settled and happy with mountain-town life.
Describe your work background.
I left my corporate job when I was 24 to start my entrepreneurial journey.
My first company was creating multi-media marketing presentations for college admissions offices that they would put on CD-ROM and mail to thousands of prospective students.
That business turned into an Internet-based admissions and enrollment service in the mid 90’s called ApplyYourself.
We raised venture capital, grew the business to serve over 700 college admission offices and I sold that business to a subsidiary of the Daily Mail in London in 2007.
I have been involved with Internet technology start-up businesses ever since either as a founder, investor, advisor or for-hire exec.
Which industries are your strengths?
I can add most value to Internet tech businesses because of my 15+ years developing and running my own SaaS business.
At the same time, one thing I’ve learned mentoring the many companies that have come through TVA is that there are many common threads to starting, developing and growing a business no matter the industry.
What attracted you to participate with TVA?
I love the energy and stimulation that comes from working with young, energetic entrepreneurs.
I have had several wonderful mentors throughout my career and now that I’m in a position to provide that kind of help, it’s important to share my lessons and experience to pay it forward.
How long have you participated with TVA?
I have been involved with TVA since its inception, seeing it get better and better each and every year.
Tell me about a highlight of your experience with TVA.
I have many highlights but to sum it up, they are almost all centered around seeing entrepreneurs get their first checks from investors.
There is just something about those first checks that becomes so validating, and creates such hope and opportunity for the future.
What are you excited about for the coming year?
There have been some major changes going into this year with Thea Chase taking over regional activity and Marc Nager heading up the Accelerator.
Anytime people take on new roles, there is so much opportunity. Fresh look, outside ideas and new networks.
I think the region as a whole is going to benefit greatly from these new opportunities.
What do you see for TVA in the next five years?
There is no shortage of accelerator programs these days, but what I really like about TVA is the unique positioning that it has.
As millennials continue to learn that places like Telluride are viable alternatives to the traditional urban startup hubs, I think the brand will just get stronger and continue to attract even more top-notch companies.
What are your personal goals in your involvement with TVA?
Simply to help facilitate the continued success of the program.
What should new TVA teams ask you for help with?
It’s one thing to conceive a product idea; it is an entirely different thing to grow a company.
That’s where I try to add value for startups.
Whether it’s determining the market fit, how to capitalize a company, or how to find and hire the best talent, I (and all the mentors) am here to help entrepreneurs get started down a successful path to grow their companies.
People might be wary to bring their business to a small town like Telluride. What would you say to them?
If you are the kind of person that gets energy from the outdoors, then there is no better place to fuel your entrepreneurial spirit.
There is a strong entrepreneurial element to this community with access to incredibly experienced and connected people.
How does Telluride compare with other startup scenes you have experienced or been a part of?
Obviously we are smaller than those that I have been part of in the past (London, Washington DC, Bay Area) but not that is not necessarily a bad thing.
In those larger urban environments, startups relied on other startups for help. Here, you have an entire community behind you as an entrepreneur.
The level and breadth of experience that the people have of Telluride is amazing. This is not your normal mountain town, for sure.
The Southwest Innovation Corridor (SWIC), A Telluride Foundation initiative, is ramping up to catalyze momentum in rural southwest Colorado to build the innovation-based economy. Funded through an i6 challenge grant from the Economic Development Commission, an Advanced Industries infrastructure grant from the State of Colorado and a family foundation, SWIC primarily works in the 8 county area from Delta to Cortez, the Utah border to Ouray. Leveraging the success of the Telluride Venture Accelerator, SWIC is building on the vast mentor network and active investor community in order to jump start the eco-systems in the larger region to support the launch and growth of innovation-based companies. SWIC seeks to inspire ideas, encourage networking and collaboration and support creation and growth of companies.
Early projects include teasing out ideas by delivering entrepreneurship curriculum to senior engineering students at Ft. Lewis College, encouraging networking through the start of the Entrepreneurs of the Southwest meetup group and Startup Weekend Telluride in December, support for regional co-working facilities and development of the SWIC Innovation Internship program launching in spring 2018. For more info on SWIC -- program description or contact Thea Chase, Director firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently got to sit down with Ashley Nager, acting Program Manager of the Telluride Venture Accelerator. Ashley has seen the program grow over the past few years, and is more excited than ever about what 2017 has in store.
One of the major sources of excitement for Ashley is a change in how teams are sourced. In the past, TVA focused specifically on verticals: the outdoor industry, travel, health and wellness, energy, and natural resources.
That industry focus is changing.
Now, TVA is looking for companies that are solving a real problem, whether in their local community, a worldwide problem, or something that affects a specific user in a specific industry.
The new criteria: As long as you are solving a real problem and want to grow your company in the mountains alongside TVA’s rich mentor network, you are a potential fit for TVA.
As part of this shift away from targeting explicit verticals, TVA recognizes certain strengths in its mentor network. These strengths are the previously mentioned verticals: outdoors, travel, health and wellness, energy, and natural resources.
But the great thing about mentor networks (and a key element of this new approach) is that they expand by nature--if a team comes to Telluride with a specific niche need, our mentor network is robust enough to get the right people involved to fill that gap and make profound connections for that specific company.
All this means, to use Ashley’s words, “we can broaden the diversity of teams.”
"In years past, we've focused on specific verticals: outdoors, health and wellness, etc. This approach has worked--we’ve found excellent companies. But it also means we’ve potentially overlooked incredible companies, ones who don’t fit into specific categories like these, or who belong to other verticals that we aren’t looking at--but we nonetheless have the mentor network to support."
Another major update coming to the Telluride Venture Accelerator is the structure of our mentor network.
“We've split up the network based on those who can be most useful to our teams because of either their expertise or proximity to the program. Now there are several categories: 'lead mentor,' 'mentor,' and 'member.' And now we’re being clear about asking mentors to self-select into these categories. All of them can provide a lot of value, but at different times and at different reasons some can commit more than others. It’s about making the program more flexible in terms of how they interact, but at the same time being clear to the companies about who they can count on for what."
Ashley went on to describe a powerful feature of this new structure:
"We have a lot of mentors who have expertise in a specific skill set. For example, we have two mentors with specific expertise in the energy space. Last year, we didn’t have any energy companies so they didn’t have much to do. But now they can move within the member network and be clear that they’re backing off or committing more time depending on our 2017 companies."
And TVA is also adding a uniquely Telluride level of mentor-team interaction: Gondola pitches.
“We’re going to do hut trips and Gondola pitches with the teams this year. In the Gondola pitches, we'll start a company and a mentor at the bottom of the gondola and they'll pitch their business on the way up, receiving feedback on the way down."
"By design, the TVA program is intense, and we're going to make sure we don't forget to take advantage of the amazing surroundings. We truly believe it helps founders disconnect, take care of themselves, and gain better perspective on what they're working on.”
Among all the changes coming to TVA this year, many things remain the same: our commitment to innovation, our love for the mountains that house us, and our community's open arms and deep expertise.
As we continue our national tours helping build TVA and recruit amazing teams, we hope to share our learnings with the TVA community. Below are some highlights from the most recent event with GAN in Denver and Rise of the Rest!
First, the #RiseofTheRest tour with Steve Case:
Denver was the 2nd stop and 21st city. He gives away $100k in each city via a startup pitch competition. Our very own mentor Jacqueline Claudia with Love the Wild pitched! Steve continues to be an amazing steward of the startup movement and it's importance for every city in America. I was fortunate to have breakfast with Steve, Denver Mayor, Michael Hancock, Governor John Hickenlooper, Jim Deters from Galvanize, Erik Mitisik and few other influential folks across the state. It's clear Colorado and its leaders have prioritized entrepreneurship and that the results are real. Denver is the 2nd fastest growing metro for millennial in the country, one of the top 5 hubs for high growth companies, and they all credit it to the leadership who made it a priority here.
Global Accelerator Network: a network of 80 accelerators from around the world. Managing Directors gather once a year to discuss best practices, what's not working, and ultimately, how to provide the best possible support for startup founders.
- Attending an Accelerator Twice: A big question is if it ok. The real answer is "Yes, IF..." If the company really is progressing and hitting their goals. By definition, each program should help the company hit the next big milestone. If the company is still struggling with the same issues as the first program, it is most likely not a fit. Great examples of successful teams that have done it twice: Sphero and Revolar (both went through Techstars twice).
- Rolling Applications: Most MDs seem to feel extremely constrained by the one-a-year program schedule. Good validation for the Partner Program we're developing at TVA. Our goal is to provide similar terms
- Scale-up Accelerator: There is a huge need in the market for later stage support for founders. Doing some market research with several teams who went through GAN accelerators, it seems the real need is for companies already producing $1-2M ARR and the need is for the entire executive team to be able to unplug and truly define a strategy to make the next big leap. We'll be exploring launching a program around this for the Fall of 2017 in Telluride... Imagine ~2 weeks offsite with your executive team, 3 other teams at roughly the same stage, and a small group of truly world class mentors? Let us know if you're interested or have ideas!
- Alternative Financing Instruments: TVA is set to be one of the first accelerators in the world to offer a revenue loan type instrument for companies. The fact that we can target support for more modest growth companies seems to be something everyone gets excited about. I believe there is a true adjustment and alignment of resources in communities around the world which I'm calling the 80/20 flip - our current models are based on 80% ROI for investors and 20% impact in our communities. I believe that most communities, especially outside of the major markets, is almost exactly the opposite. Let's all recognize the reality that startups are a new form of education and economic development for communities, and that we don't need to rely on unicorns to drive success stories and impact.
- Managing Mentors: Most programs actually don't track mentor and team performance. The ones that do seem to have a real edge. Expect TVA to be implementing a standardized NPS score for both mentors and teams this year to help mentors get better and help teams be more coachable. I also led a session with the group called "Mentors are like Mushrooms." A bit shout out to my former co-founder Franck Nouyrigat who created the original version of this that we've been using for years!
- Diversity: Gender wise, TVA is way ahead of the pack. Huge props to Thea, Ashley and Jesse for the previous 3 years. However, we're still lacking on other aspects of diversity. Diversity of thought, perspective, skills, culture, and life experience is so important to driving true innovation and progress. Expect us to continue to prioritize this internally at TVA.
- International Founders: With programs like this to help with visas, opportunities to support teams from around the world is a huge opportunity for both the program and the community. Telluride is already full of global thinkers and problem solvers, and we'd love to help continue investing this by bringing in some teams from around the world.
The Entrepreneurs Journey: The Entrepreneurs Journey model lives on nearly 7yrs and counting. This model was literally what unlocked funding and drove our strategy to build and scale Startup Weekend, leading to UP Global, and the merger with Techstars. It also basically sums up my mental models for our strategy in Telluride as well. It was great to post on Facebook and see how many people are still using it around the world.