Friday, January 28, 2011

Entrepreneurial By Nature

My longtime bleeps may think this post will once again refer to the debate on whether entrepreneurs are born or made. But- surprise- that topic has almost nothing to do with this post.

No, this post has to do with Colorado. What some refer to dismissively as one of "the flyover" states. But they are wrong. That is old school thinking.

In December, a small group met to talk about how to promote Colorado's entrepreneurial and innovative culture. As is often the case with a small group, someone said something, and someone else built on it, and all of a sudden, we had a pretty cool mantra. "Colorado... Entrepreneurial by Nature."

For those entrepreneurs who are digging out of the most recent blizzard on the Right Coast, or stuck in traffic on the Left Coast, maybe it is time to come to Colorado. Not to ski, but to create. I live not too far away from a city named after the man who exclaimed over a century ago: "Go West young man, and grow up with the country." Well, old Horace had a point, I think.

A personal story. During law school, I interviewed with a prestigous old Boston law firm. At one point, they asked me where my parents went to college and what they did. I doubt they know how that ticked me off. At that point, mentally, I turned on my heel and walked out the door on the East. In the West, we don't care where your parents (or you) went to school. We don't care much about what you wear or drive (though you get points for riding your bike or horse). Mostly, we care that whatever you do, you do well. It isn't about your daddy, it is about you. If you can hang with us, in business or out on the trails, you are welcome to come along.

Now, if this were an official campaign, this is where I'd break out lots of numbers to convince you that moving here is a no-brainer. But it isn't an official campaign, so let me just tell you about my day. While all days are unique, this day is fairly typical for me, and offers some flavor of why I am always happy to come home to Colorado.

I flew in from SF late last night. When I woke up, I thought I might head up to the mountains to ski later today- it has been a great snow year (in the mountains) and there is nothing like a bluebird day on the slopes. But I've been away a lot, and the forecast was for a nice few days on the Front Range. Very nice. Sunny and 60's. In January. So I decided to stay in town. Since it was early, I connected with a few people in India (12.5 hours), catching them before their weekends started. Then exchanged emails with a few folks in the east, and a phone call with a microfinance friend in Boston who called me "old school" for picking up the phone to chat. Then a bit of time reading and preparing for next week's class.

OK, no biggie so far. I could have done this most anywhere with an internet connection. But it was a bit past noon, and had warmed up nicely outside. So I jumped on my mountain bike* and took a ride up through the foothills and along the reservoir. The sky was blue, and the trails were tacky. It was so warm I was tempted to swim in the lake until I remembered that it was January and the water was probably freezing.

After the ride, I "had" to swing by New Belgium** to drop some papers off... and fill up a growler. They suggested Trip #7, a recently released Black IPA. I caught up with a few folks, met intern Drew of the new Lips of Faith Drew's Beer, then heard briefly about brewmaster Peter's recent trip to another brewery where he had seen some exciting stuff. Then, I was off to chat with a friend about some challenges and upcoming changes as his company begins to market in Africa. And we did put a dent in that tasty Trip #7.

The point is not that I get to do interesting stuff. It is possible to do interesting stuff with interesting people almost anywhere. This makes the "where" of innovation both less important (got internet?) and much more important (do I live in a place that makes me feel alive/joyous/energized?). While you can tap into big parts of the global innovation community from a lot of places, there are far fewer that offer the range of opportunities that Colorado has. It is a place to be entrepreneurial...artistic...musical...athletic... by nature***. Maybe it is just me, but I think the combination of good work, good biking, good weather (and good beer) is pretty special. At least for me, I can't imagine better growing conditions for new ideas and ventures.****

If you want to come check it out, might I suggest TEDxMileHigh on April 7. They plan to highlight some of the entrepreneurial gems of the state. Then you can spend a few days to investigate Denver, Golden, Boulder and Fort Collins. And then go take a few days to ski, or go mt biking in the desert.

Entrepreneurial by nature... sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Maybe we will see you around.
Just a few examples:
* A Yeti. From Golden, Colorado.
** One of our wonderful Fort Collins breweries.
*** For music: Aspen Music Festival, Telluride Bluegrass, Red Rocks, New West Festival
**** Supporting Data Point: Recently opened Innosphere for start ups is already full.


Danny Boy said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Colorado is not only entrepreneurial by nature, it's pretty damn beautiful as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your insights about what makes Colorado special. I might be most envious of the access to New Belgium via growler! I've visited family there a few times and it is quite beautiful.

Our population is shifting south and west (I am not sure how Colorado's faring) as shown by the latest census. I wonder how that will shift the priorities of our country. Considering the issues around water in the southwest, perhaps that will increase in importance. It'll be interesting to see...

Ultimately, what I took from your post was your point about finding a place where you feel alive/engaged/excited, wherever that may be. That's good advice.