Opinion

Colorado is for Founders

Virginia may be for lovers, but Colorado is for doers, creators, and founders. I was reminded of that again today on Twitter by this photograph of Jared Polis and Phil Weiser—respectively, the Governor-Elect and Attorney General-Elect of the state.

If you don’t know them already, Jared and Phil are giants in the Colorado startup community.

Jared produced not one but two nine-figure exits as a startup founder in the late-1990s and early-2000s, before going on to co-found Techstars and engage in public life—as a philanthropist, state official, and most recently, as a Congressman in the United States House of Representatives.

Phil was most recently the dean and a professor at the University of Colorado Law School, where for years he lead efforts that made CU an entrepreneurship center of excellence for higher education nationwide. Phil was also instrumental in launching Startup America, Startup Colorado, bringing the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network to Colorado, and many other things (including service in the Obama Administration).

If I’ve learned anything in the last two years, it’s that public leadership really matters. Leaders don’t just advance policies or promote a specific agenda, they represent the ideals and values of a society. They are an embodiment of how a country, a state, or a community wants to present itself internally and to the rest of the world. Moreover, leaders have the unique ability to embolden our highest—or lowest—impulses.

Think about the message it sends about a place that chooses people like this to lead and represent them publicly.

By many measures, Colorado is the most entrepreneurial state in the country, a fact that I discovered in 2013 when studying high-technology business formation around the United States. I was struck by just how many places across the state had a high proportion of startup activity occurring—a finding that has been extended to looking across other types of high-growth entrepreneurship as well. Something special is happening there, and it has been for many years.

John Hickenlooper, the outgoing Governor of Colorado (himself an entrepreneur!), attributes the state’s ability to consistently produce a high rate of fast-growing, high-value companies to a love of place—a pervasive sense of community that makes helping others a central part of the social fabric there. I was lucky enough to spend most of last year in Colorado observing this firsthand. And while I have no hard data to prove it, I know he’s right.

So, if you’re a startup founder, a tech sector worker tired of fighting crowds, expense, and inconvenience on the coasts, or a policy or research professional interested in tech and startups, look to Colorado—a place that with each passing day looks more and more like the place to be for all things entrepreneurship.

What is honored in a country is cultivated there
— Plato

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Last week I was at a conference—the type of environment my introverted self really likes to come out. It was an excellent conference and the people I met are amazing. But, big conferences can wear me down, and the productivity guilt and self-doubt associated with not wanting to be a power networker starts to creep in.

I'm not a power networker and I'm ready to own that. I am committed to doing more of it, but I can only push that so far. I also know there is another path.

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RD Huffstetler for the Virginia 5th

RD Huffstetler for the Virginia 5th

Yesterday, my friend and colleague Roger Dean ("RD") Huffstetler announced his candidacy for the United States Congress, representing the 5th District of Virginia. He will run as a Democrat, which, given the district, would give a typical candidate an uphill battle—and against an incumbent no less. But, this is no ordinary candidate. It won't be easy, but he can win. And he should win. That would be a great thing for Virginians and for Americans. Here's why.