Jesse Johnson & Paul Major, by Brenda Colwell


Editor’s note: Katie Singer of  the Telluride Foundation circulated the following story, featuring new Venture Accelerator Program. Read it and celebrate all the Foundation does in our region and beyond. And if you are an entrepreneur, one day you might want to apply.

Telluride launches accelerator to push entrepreneurs higher
By Aldo Svaldi 
The Denver Post,

Jesse Johnson & Paul Major, by Brenda Colwell

Jesse Johnson & Paul Major, by Brenda Colwell, special to The Denver Post

There is an effort to access entrepreneurs in Telluride, seen illuminated by vehicle lights during rush hour.

Telluride wants to tap a largely unused resource to diversify its economy — the successful entrepreneurs and financiers who visit and live there.

“Telluride is known for festivals in summer and skiing in winter, but we have a very diverse community of technologically savvy and successful people,” said Dennis Lankes, a board member and mentor with the Telluride Venture Accelerator.

The nonprofit accelerator wants to develop new businesses with a focus on outdoor recreation, tourism, natural products, health, energy, water and education.

Backed by funds from the Telluride Foundation and other sponsors, the accelerator recently took applications for its first round of companies in residence.

Three winners will receive a six-month stay in Telluride, including work space, a $30,000 stipend and up to $8,000 in travel and living expenses, said director Jesse Johnson.

Perhaps even more valuable, backers say, is the chance for those starting out to learn from Telluride residents who have “made it” in the business world.

The program, which runs from February to July, will end with an investor pitch day, where participants will make presentations to local and regional financiers for funding.

Johnson said he visited about seven accelerators before deciding to model the program on Boulder’s TechStars.

“Like all things in life, it’ll take some effort, but I think it’ll be good effort,” Boulder venture capitalist Brad Feld said of Telluride’s accelerator.

TechStars, co-founded by Feld and a group of Boulder entrepreneurs in 2006, is one of the nation’s first and most successful accelerators, with programs in a handful of cities. It provides mentorship, seed capital and immersion in a three-month “boot camp.”

“Telluride is home to at least 20 senior venture-capital executives and several entrepreneurs, with backgrounds at, and,” said Paul Major, president and chief executive of the Telluride Foundation. “The hope is that the accelerator will draw more residents into the life of the community and re-establish Telluride as a place of innovation.”

“In 1891, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse and L.L. Nunn built the first commercial-scale alternating-current power plant near the mining town, transforming how electricity would be delivered.

Skiing eventually replaced mining as the bread and butter of the isolated town, which sits at 8,750 feet. But the most recent recession showed the pitfalls of relying only on tourism and mountain real estate,” Major said.

“The accelerator has additional space for entrepreneurs who didn’t get funded but still want to participate. And if the program is successful, the hope is that other mountain resorts will copy it,” Johnson said.

Read more: Telluride launches accelerator to push entrepreneurs higher – The Denver Post

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