Making Every City a Startup City (An Interview with the Founders of TVA)

Terah Lyons, a Confidential Assistant at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy recently sat down with the two co-founders of the Telluride Venture Accelerator to learn more about their model and how other communities across the country might be able to replicate the work that they’ve done in southwestern Colorado. You can read the full interview in the article, Making Every City a Startup City on the White House Blog.

On August 4, 2015, President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Demo Day, which brought over 90 entrepreneurs and hundreds of other stakeholders from across the innovation ecosystem to the White House for a day of conversation about how to increase participation in the American startup economy and technology workforce. Demo Day highlighted America’s need to foster entrepreneurial talent from all walks of life, and in all corners of the country. Sustained startup growth is an economic imperative for our country, as new businesses account for nearly all net new job creation and almost 20 percent of gross job creation in America.

Starting a new company requires support. And for a long time, entrepreneurial financing for high-growth companies has been predicated on the idea that the best funding opportunities come through referrals at big venture-capital firms in innovation hubs like California’s Bay Area, or the Boston metro area in Massachusetts. In recent years, for example, venture-capital funding to California firms often has equaled or exceeded that for firms in the other 49 states combined. The innovation economy of tomorrow, however, will necessitate diverse and dispersed opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect to capital and mentorship resources.

In Telluride, Colorado, people are turning the stereotypic view of a successful startup ecosystem on its head. Telluride has a long history of being a small ski town (with a population of just over 2,000) in a rural area of southwestern Colorado, but back in 2012, the city’s community foundation—the Telluride Foundation—started a program called the Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA). Now in its fourth year, TVA’s mission is “to make Telluride a great place to start and grow a business”. TVA’s five-month-long residential accelerator program for early-stage entrepreneurs has raised almost $9 million in start-up funds since its inception.

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