Creating a startup can be a lonely process, with long hours dedicated to an idea, feelings of isolation and a general lack of support for the process. New Tech Colorado is working to improve that experience with monthly community events aimed at bringing together like-minded innovators and entrepreneurs, a sort of support group for creative types to encourage ingenuity and the sharing of ideas.
Robert Reich founded New Tech in the Boulder area and helped other individuals create additional New Tech communities in Denver and Fort Collins. He said there’s a tremendous amount of momentum around the world behind creating these “startup communities.” More and more people are choosing the entrepreneurial lifestyle, where they can create and control their own revenue.
“Building your own startup is very hard, but it’s a very rewarding lifestyle,” Reich said. “I know it’s hard sometimes, it’s the middle of the night and I’m sewing something or I have to write this code, and when you have a community supporting you, you’re not in this alone.”
Garrett Fisher runs the Institute for Economic Innovation, a privately funded think tank staffed with leaders in a variety of fields. He saw the success of New Tech on the Front Range and invited Reich to help him start a new dialogue in Breckenridge.
“I think it’s an easy way for people to get together without much commitment or effort,” Fisher said. “It’s a no-cost, nimble way to do things, not asking for people to commit to something significant, such as a workshop. This is pretty simple; it opens the spectrum wider to more people. … There’s really no forum for that at present up here.”
Fisher will facilitate the first New Tech community event at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge on Saturday, March 1. The format for the inaugural meeting will mirror that of events held on the Front Range.
“We start the event by asking if anyone is looking to hire,” Reich said. “The audience is usually made up of engineers, designers, business people, service providers in accounting, legal, etc. The second thing is to let other people know if there are other events going on.”
Companies and community organizations are encouraged to speak briefly about upcoming events in the area that would appeal to a similar audience. After all of the announcements have been made, five or six companies each take their turn at the podium to present to the crowd.
“Each company gets five minutes to present, and then the audience gets five minutes to ask questions,” Reich said. “It’s a way for the community to become supportive, to offer comments during or after, help young startups become bigger, more successful companies. It could be suggestions like, ‘Oh I made this mistake before, you should avoid doing this.’”
All five presentation slots for the Saturday, March 1, event already have been filled. Presenters sign up for slots on the New Tech website, www.bdnewtech.com, prior to the event, and organizers such as Fisher coordinate dates. Fisher said he’s seen various presentations at the Front Range events he has attended, from an iPhone platform for ordering takeout food to a company that had created a tire made of composite carbon fiber that produced significant miles per gallon savings on the road.
“Another was a philanthropic venture capital forum,” he said, adding that presenters are looking for feedback of all kinds. “Time, money, thought — not all of them are for-profit, so it’s looking for people to jump onto an idea if they like it.”
Sink or swim
Reich said the success of bringing New Tech to Breckenridge will depend on whether it’s something the community needs and wants.
“What’s important to me is that they become community-run events,” he said. “It’s not that any place in the state is trying to dictate how to do it; each should have its own personality, leaders, members. They’re not meant to be money-makers, no one makes any money. … It’s purely done to help the community become more aware of itself, and it needs to be run by the community.”
New Tech helps a community support its innovators and make it a little less lonely for those who are trying to strike out on their own.
“It’s incredibly rewarding,” Reich said. “Every month I learn something new and I feel like I’m part of something, which really helps propel me to continue moving forward both in helping the community and working on the startups that I think will help change the world.”