I’ve been a mentor in the Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA) program since the program started. I just live over the hill in Durango, Colo., and I volunteer with TVA for a couple of reasons. First, I love to mentor and coach entrepreneurs. I launched my third start up, LivingUber, just for that purpose. Second, I have two decades of experience as an entrepreneur in the outdoor, bike, snow, fitness, travel and endurance markets as the CEO and founder of Verde Brand Communications. Well, okay, there’s a third reason too.
Why TVA? Why Telluride?
I realize that there are literally hundreds of accelerator programs all over the world. But if you have a company you’re intent on launching in the active outdoor lifestyle markets, TVA is the program for you.
In the active outdoor lifestyle markets, we approach business a little differently. Relationships and innovation win the day (product is most definitely king), but there’s also a way forward if you will, that is very tough to explain if you haven’t been immersed in it for decades. The way I would describe it is passion-driven. This is how we connect with our target consumers and also, our peers in outdoors. It infects everything we do because it’s who we are. It’s why we choose to be in these markets instead of the vacuum-cleaner industry, etc. TVA can help you build the foundation of your business through that screen, which is invaluable.
Telluride also provides the balance that passion-driven founders have to have.
"My philosophy is that you cannot build and launch a start up in a passion industry without ensuring you are feeding what it is that inspires you (in our case, some form of outdoor recreation), regularly."
I’m pretty sure TVA is the only accelerator that serves that on a regular basis – it’s part of the curriculum.
Sure, you will work crazy long hours and be surrounded by some of the best minds in business who chose to retire in Telluride, own a home there, or just have to visit with regularity for various seasonal outdoor sport fixes (I fit here). But you’ll also be able to step out of your zone (I’ll get to the TVA work zone here in a minute), and ride some chairs for an hour or rip off some K’s (kilometers: Nordic, fat bike, etc). This jars your ideas free from where they happen to be stuck. Try it sometime. See how quickly you can gain clarity when you pit a problem up against multiple powder face shots. Trust me, they cure just about anything.
And regarding the Zone – TVA’s work Zone. I call it part zone of genius, part dormitory, part crazy family vacation, but you’ll be in lock down in a war room on the second floor of Telluride’s gorgeous Peaks property. Yes, it’s slope side, has coffee and is centrally located to all Telluride offers because it’s accessible via the town Gondola. Most important, there’s an energy to the space. People are head-down working, but also completely committed and accessible. Your peers will walk in (clunk, clunk, clunk) in their ski boots, and plop back down next to you to get back to work.
TVA is epic and for the right entrepreneur, it’s nothing short of gasoline on the fire. I highly recommend it!