Wednesday May 7, 2014 0 comments
By Steve Porter
BOULDER - A new tech accelerator is tapping into the deep layers of marketing, investor networks and entrepreneurial expertise saturating Colorado's most innovative community to help high-potential startups find their stride and move their products into the marketplace.
Boomtown Accelerator was launched in downtown Boulder last January by four veterans of the Colorado startup scene.
They include Alex Bogusky, former Crispin Porter + Bogusky principal; Toby Krout, co-founder of Atomic 20; Stephen Groth, Radiate Group founder; and Jose Vieitez, another Colorado serial entrepreneur.
Krout and Vieitez are serving as co-directors of the 5,000-square-foot accelerator located at 2060 Broadway.
The accelerator also relies on the expertise of nearly 100 mentors with a wide swath of startup and successful exit experience.
"We're getting about 1-3 new mentor requests per week," said Krout. "There's a ton of entrepreneurial experience in town and we've been totally blown away by the expertise and generosity of the people who are getting involved."
Mentors include several successful company CEOS, including Aaron Kennedy, Noodles and Company; Ed Messman, SpotRight; David Mandell, PivotDesk; Mike Sheehan, SpotXchange; and David DuPont, TeamSnap.
Krout, who had his first startup in 1995 and has spent about two decades in the Boulder startup space, said the city has everything needed to nurture high-potential startups.
"All of the entrepreneurs, the investors - the whole ecosystem is here," he said. "This town has really matured over the last decade."
Last August, Boulder was rated No. 1 (with Fort Collins-Loveland rated No. 2) on the list of Top 10 Metro Areas for High-Tech Startup Density by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation and Engine.
Krout said there were 170 applications for the six slots in Boomtown's first 12-week session. Boomtown is increasing that to 10 slots for the fall session that begins at the end of August.
Deadline to apply for the next session is June 18.
Krout said Boomtown expects to make 40 investments over the next two years, with an average of 10 new companies selected for each of the two sessions it will hold each year.
Selected companies get $20,000 to spend on whatever they need during their 12-week session in Boulder. They are also eligible for $40,000 in professional services and access to $700,000 worth of other perks, including free Microsoft products and discounts on a multitude of services through Boomtown partners.
Altanta-based investment firm Farmore Capital Group is Boomtown's lead investor.
One of the first six companies to be selected by Boomtown was Chui, an Internet of Things startup based in Dallas. The company offers a facial-recognition software system that's dubbed "The World's Most Intelligent Doorbell."
The company was founded by Shaun Moore and Nezare Chafni, who say they are glad to be taking part in Boomtown's program.
"Moving from Dallas to Boulder was something we had to think about," said Moore. "But it's really been crucial to advancing our business."
"We've been forced to be thinking about everything that goes into starting a business, and it's definitely been very beneficial," added Chafni.
"The cool thing is you get to be around these other companies that are going through and have gone through the same thing."
Moore said the company plans to relocate to Boulder when the session is over.
And that's good news for Boulder and Colorado.
"They are going to be a major, major player in home automation," said Krout.
Boomtown gets 6 percent ownership in every company that goes through its program.
The accelerator aims to focus on helping to fund and develop startups in the media, marketing and ad tech sectors.
"I think Boulder is in a very unique position where we have a ton of talent in the marketing and media and ad spaces, so it's a very sweet spot for Boulder," Krout said.
But he noted that Boomtown won't limit itself to those sectors.
"One thing tech startups really need is the branding, the marketing aspect," he said. "We think that's a real strength for us but we're not restricted to that.
"Quite frankly, we want to have fun and have interesting and fun people here," Krout said. "If we see there's an interesting opportunity, we would select that."