The TLDR version:
The longer version:
Before Techstars even existed, I got plugged into the entrepreneurial scene in Colorado through a small accelerator called CTEK.
I was fresh off a startup and didn’t want to replicate the errors I had previously made. I was (and am) “unemployable” meaning there’s no real job description that fits me and I wasn’t used to working for others. But I found a small and local org named CTEK, who claimed to help entrepreneurs through an advisory model, and thought I could learn what NOT to do my text time around the startup block. I applied for a VP of Marketing job there that I had no business getting, so was understandably rejected for the role. I’m not one who takes no for an answer, so I decided to stalk (not creepy stalk!) the CEO – a woman named Lu Cordova. I saw her speak at an event in Boulder, cornered her afterwards and gently informed her that while I understood why I was rejected for the role, I wasn’t going away, so she might as well find something useful for me to do, even if unpaid.
So I started hanging around CTEK which eventually turned into a full-time gig and a lifelong friendship with Lu Cordova and many others who were involved in those days. Together, we grew that office from 1-4 across the state and started Colorado’s first organized angel investor network called CTEK Angels. We scaled from helping a dozen or so companies a year to over a hundred. We had a great portfolio of companies, held events, and utilized an advisory model to help the companies get to the next level. It was through CTEK that I met David Cohen & Brad Feld, and I distinctly remember the day that David Cohen came into CTEK to pitch us the idea of Techstars. I loved CTEK, it was a springboard for me and put me squarely in the middle of the embryonic tech scene in Colorado. But CTEK had issues with it’s model, and the idea that David Cohen pitched us for Techstars was a tweak on the CTEK model that eliminated all it’s issues. I left CTEK not long after that to join another startup, and then started hanging around Techstars in 2008. The rest is my history at Techstars. Much of what Techstars is today is from what I learned at CTEK – so while the two companies aren’t necessarily related, they hold me in common.
Fast forward to today – CTEK is a non-profit who’s mission was to help entrepreneurs in Colorado succeed. It’s funding came from sponsors and government dollars (and the tireless effort of Lu Cordova) – but also through an investment model where we invested resources in exchange for a small monthly fee and a convertible debt note in each startup we supported. Over the years we built a very healthy portfolio – and the exits from that portfolio has sustained the organization to this day.
But last month, the board of CTEK has decided that it’s mission has been fulfilled – that there are other organizations (like Techstars!) who now carry that torch in Colorado. So CTEK is officially shuttering it’s doors. Those of us in the scale years of CTEK (including people like Lu Cordova, me, Mark Feuer, Stephen Miller, Mike Murphy, and others) have come together to help ensure the assets of the organization land with a non-profit that carries the same mission – to help entrepreneurs.
For us, it’s a happy end of an era, where we look back at the seeds we have sown and are proud. When we compare where Colorado was when we started, and where it was today, we know that we’ve played a big hand in diversifying Colorado from ranching and mining into the next century. And we’ve made great friends along the way.
I’m proud and honored to sit on the board that will help CTEK allocate it’s existing cash balance to a non-profit that can continue to carry the torch of CTEK. For me, this is no easy feat because I’m close with many non-profits that support entrepreneurship – including the Techstars Foundation
, and Patriot Boot Camp
. But fear not, I will recuse myself of voting for organizations of which I have a conflict.