Colorado Springs, Colorado hasn’t always been known as a start-up mecca. It’s reputation as the “Evangelical Vatican” or of a military town – the city is surrounded by military bases including the United States Air Force Academy and NORAD – usually precedes it. But this past weekend and into this coming week organizations are pulling together to champion the entrepreneurial spirit that is growing and may redefine the city.
Colorado Springs Startup Week is immediately preceded by Colorado Springs Startup Weekend. The weekend brings together aspiring entrepreneurs and forces them through an intense 54-hour incubator where teams develop the top ideas from a Friday night pitch session and then re-pitch those ideas in more complete form on Sunday. This year, Friday night was jammin’ with 22 original pitches. Six were chosen to go through the weekend incubator where teams did market research, on-the-ground interviews, established social media accounts, made videos, developed their marketing approach and then presented in front of three local business professionals.
Before the pitches started, Julian Flores, a local entrepreneur and founder of Get Outfitted, provided the opposite of an inspirational speech. His presentation went through what it was really like to be an entrepreneur – brutal honesty he called it. Those who got through the scare-sesh, the ones that didn’t care that “The lifestyle sucks” and that, “You are always faking it,” were encouraged to “Take the damn journey” and plunge into their ideas “obsessively” until they outworked their competition and were successful.
Immediately after, the six pitch teams came to the front of the room, one by one. They were judged on three criteria: Validation, Execution & Design and Business Model. Their judges were not easy-to-please, but thought-leaders and venture capitalists who knew what questions to ask. The primarily college-aged teams met questions with skill and accuracy, or with humble acknowledgments that the question was beyond their weekend research, and tried to fit as much into their limited pitch time as they could.
This week over 70 events take place around Colorado Springs in conjunction with Startup Week. Everything from Yoga and tours of local small businesses to investor sessions and private mentoring, Colorado Springs Startup Week has every element of a big city, well-oiled, entrepreneurial catalyst. The umbrella organizing organization, Peak Startup, has been operating in the city to encourage further business development and their work may be paying off. Conversation around what will spur the local economy has shifted recently from military contracting to small business support. While some young professionals and students still don’t see Colorado Springs as fertile ground for their ideas, those who are willing to fight are finding support and success in the community.
Find out more about Colorado Springs Startup Week and, if you are attending, be sure to add us in your tweets. We’d love to hear about your experience and share it with our StarterNoise readers. #SWCOS #CSSW2015