Big thanks to Michael Kwolek and i4c for inviting me to The Summit last week and asking me to share my thoughts about it.
First, I must say that I’ve never seen so many fancy dressed entrepreneurs in my life! Most entrepreneurs I know don’t even own a suit, let alone wear one. And yet, this place was packed, head to toe, with dapperness. Given the entrepreneurial subject matter of the event, I intentionally wore shorts and sandals, but in honor of the location, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, I decided to put on a polo 🙂
Although the house was surprisingly empty for the cocktail hour, it filled up quite nicely for the main event described as “part Shark Tank, part unforgettable party.” It started with a video around the premise, “I foresee a Denver.” The video was well done and inspiring and the theme was used throughout the rest of the night. It made me think about what I foresee in Denver/Boulder, which is a place where tech startups rival the success and magnitude of Boston and Silicon Valley.
After the video, ten “impact” entrepreneurs competed for 3 prizes of $50,000 each. The pitches started out a little spotty, no offense to any of those teams, but the first had PowerPoint trouble, the second seemed too nervous to get his point across, and the third read her whole pitch from a small notebook she held in her hand. Yeah, the audience may have been a little bored, but a good investor knows that the ability to pitch, or lack thereof, doesn’t mean the business is a flop.
As the 2 hours passed, the pitches increased in quality and energy. Pangea Organics enlightened us about the bodies largest organ, the skin, and how we shouldn’t put things on it that we wouldn’t put in our stomach. SimpleEnergy made us laugh when flushing out the counterintuitive nature of using games to get people to save energy. He joked that the way to get people to save energy is not to show them how much money their saving, but to show them how much better, or worse, they are playing the game verses their neighbors. In the end we were both taught and entertained.
Although the “Sharks” were not investing their own money, like on the popular ABC show Shark Tank, they did ask great questions and share great thoughts based on their wealth of experience. One of my favorite quotes was from Daniel Epstein, founder of the Unreasonable Institute and recently recognized as Forbes’ ‘Top 30 Most Impactful Entrepreneurs.’ After the founder of InsideGood had talked about the massive market for non-profits that they were addressing, David commented that good entrepreneurs make to do lists, while others make lists of things not to do. Then he asked how much of the addressable market InsideGood was actually going to focus on.
The after party in front of the opera house complete with Red Bull as the DJ, Chipotlee serving up grub, and plenty of familiar faces in the local entrepreneurial scene. I was glad to see FirstFunder there celebrating their launch. For those of you who don’t know, I am working on a partnership with them to increase the amount of funding available for CU students. Make sure to subscribe to the blog for more information on that when I get it all squared away.
Looking back on the event, I’m glad I was there because the event was a symbol for true entrepreneurship. Yeah, there was mic and PowerPoint trouble. Yeah, some of the pitches weren’t as polished as they could have been, BUT isn’t that entrepreneurship? It’s, “flying the plane while you are building it,” according to the event’s MC, Jim Deters. And so it is.
To all you who are doing something entrepreneurial, with its bugs and snags, I solute you. You will change the world, and Denver, if you never give up. And to the i4c, thank you for for brining us entrepreneurs together. Who knows how many connections happened that night, and who knows but that the next great entrepreneur was inspired to further the cause of improving communities through social and environmental change, or even less noble but no less important, of improving the entreprenerial ecosystem, and therefore economy, of Denver and the surrounding cities.