“We’re looking under every rock and we’re finding the coolest companies inside the most surprising places.”
Uncover the Pros and Cons of Investments at West Slope Startup Week
Up until recently, young Colorado mountain startups struggled to get their hands on “risk capital,” or deep-pocketed angel investors and venture capital funding.
That’s changed in just the past three years. More venture funding is coming to places like Telluride, Durango and Eagle and more angel investors are pulling together in places like Steamboat Springs.
“Before, if you didn’t have enough rich uncles and rich cousins, you would have to leave town to get money,” says Jamie Finney, a Telluride partner at the Greater Colorado Venture Fund, which launched last year and is launching a $15 million fund, earmarked for a wide range of companies on the Western Slope.
Finney will be among a number of VC experts who will sit on a panel at the West Slope Startup Week in Grand Junction on Friday June 7, discussing the pro’s and con’s of equity and revenue based investment (based on the promise of future revenue). The session will be among 40 others with 80 speakers hailing from across the state, but a majority from Steamboat to Durango, spread over four days.
Finney and others say there are far more financing options in the mountains, driven mostly by angel investors. For instance, Four Points Funding, will expand its angel investor network beyond Steamboat to include investors in Aspen, Carbondale and Telluride and Durango. The expanded group, called West Slope Angels, vets deal flows and does the research and high-net worth individuals participate as they see fit.
The Greater Colorado Venture Fund is one of the few VCs scouting deals in the western geographies. The fund started in 2016 as part of a state program to finance companies outside the front range, and Finney and partners on the prowl for investment deals.
“We’re looking under every rock,” he says, “and we’re finding the coolest companies inside the most surprising places.”
The Greater Colorado Venture Fund has invested more than $1 million into software firms in Delores, social app firms inking deals with Honda in Eagle, and startups making slick greeting cards and wool pants in Telluride.
“It’s the right place and the right time for Western Colorado,” says Eric Payne, a fellow West Slope Startup Week panelist and sponsor and cofounder of M&A firm Venture Advocates in Grand Junction.
Payne says they are seeing growth activity from all sides now, from startups to seasoned companies. More people are heading west to avoid the rat race of the Front Range, and to do so, they are buying businesses. More baby boomers are retiring and selling their mountain businesses. Many high net-worth individuals are choosing to invest in local companies, and venture accelerators are popping up in mountain towns like Carbondale and Gunnison.
This makes it an excellent time for the first annual West Slope Startup Week, says Payne.
“Even a year ago conversations weren’t being had by all the players,” Payne says. “Now there’re synergies between private and public deal makers. We’ll finally get people in a room where they can put a face to a name and talk. It’s perfect. We’ve got momentum already, but this time next year will be a different conversation. We’ll have more wins to talk about.”
Blog post written by the Content & Storytelling Sponsor for West Slope Startup Week, Campfire Content