Telluride Venture Accelerator: Blackstone Grant

Telluride Venture Accelerator: Blackstone Grant

Telluride Venture Accelerator Receives Blackstone Charitable Foundation Grant to Support Entrepreneurship and Innovation. $100,000 Grant Enables Program Expansion. Meet 2014 TVA winners at open house at Arroyo Telluride, Thursday, February 27, 5 – 6:30 p.m.

Telluride Venture Accelerator, 2014 winners

Telluride Venture Accelerator, 2014 winners

Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA), an initiative of the Telluride Foundation, was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation to bring last year’s accelerator pilot initiative to scale. Funding will allow TVA to expand its 2014 program by hiring a new program director, increasing the number of venture companies from four to six, expanding its mentor network, maximizing investor Demo Day and investment opportunities, as well as broadening the reach of its local entrepreneurial programs.

As part of its second annual Blackstone Organizational Grants Program totaling $1.6 million, TVA was one of 17 Blackstone grants awarded, focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation. Through this program, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is helping innovative organizations that directly support entrepreneurs to pilot, expand or replicate projects or programs that will catalyze the growth of successful businesses, industries, and communities.

“At Blackstone, we believe that a robust global economy depends upon a pipeline of creative, talented, and inspired entrepreneurs,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “Through this program, we are able to direct the Foundation’s resources towards helping entrepreneurship flourish across the nation and globally, and support entrepreneurs on a path toward innovation and discovery.”  

Grantees were selected through a Request for Proposals issued by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation as part of its 5-year, $50 million Entrepreneurship Initiative.

“With the help of this Blackstone grant, we are starting our second year strong with six outstanding start-up companies, a stronger curriculum, and more mentorship and community opportunities,” said Thea Chase, TVA’s new director. “Funding will also allow TVA to expand its local programs benefitting the Telluride entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

TVA’s local ecosystem initiatives, include:

1) Start Up Weekend (which attracted 30 regional entrepreneurs last year);

2) “TVA Partners” (select regional companies are given access to the TVA mentor network in exchange for a percent of their equity);

3) tellurideXchange” (an on-line resource for entrepreneurial happenings in the Telluride region and a catalyst for community-wide networking events);

4) TVA lite – an incubation program for local companies and;

5) an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Toolkit (targeted at rural/resort communities interested in developing a local ecosystem for entrepreneurship).

The six 2014 TVA companies arrived in Telluride February 1 for their five-month residence. TVA will host a public open house to meet the companies and their founders on February 27, 5-6:30pm at the Arroyo Gallery and Wine Bar 220 E Colorado Ave. The public is welcome to attend to meet the founders and learn about their ventures.

The six companies include:


•               LifeDojo is the online health & life skills education platform.  Schools, Nonprofits, Hospitals and Corporations rely on LifeDojo not just to teach, but to improve the health and life outcomes of the people they work with.  Every lesson is science-packed, whiteboard-animated, and taught by world-class experts.   CEO & Founder Chris Cutter. Website:


•               makeena is a location-aware mobile and web platform that allows shoppers to make healthy choices for themselves and for the environment while saving money, providing natural and sustainable brands with data analytics and highly-engaged shoppers.  CEO & Founder Karen Frame. Website:


•               PureFun – the first mass brand of USDA Organic certified hair care for kids (ages 3-9), that is affordable, with a simple ingredient list, and breakthrough design to engage and excite kids. Co-Founders Jean Sim, Irena Todd.


•               PlanitMapper makes it easy to plan, map and share your next adventure using our unique layered maps and “smart” product recommendation system – these same innovations allow us to deliver game-changing services to online retailers and the larger arena of online marketing. Co-Founders Haj Khalsa, Jonathan Repa, Pradip Hari. Website:


•               Awestruck Medical is a Telluride based company developing and commercializing a device that reduces the discomfort and pain experienced by millions of dental patients undergoing routine procedures – thus improving the total care experience and increasing the dentist’s productivity by shortening procedure time. CEO & Co-Founder Karen Gaines DDS, other local Co-Founders Richard Fulton MD and Mark Kozak.


•               Pläsays is a social networking application geared towards adventurers and the well-traveled that connects people based on demonstrated behavior. CEO & Founder Alex Grappo.

 About the Blackstone Charitable Foundation:

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of The Blackstone Group’s Initial Public Offering in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas hardest hit by the global economic crisis. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries and communities. (For more information, see

About the Telluride Venture Accelerator:     

The Telluride Foundation initiated TVA in 2012 with the overarching goal of launching and growing new, high-growth businesses out of Telluride. TVA seeks to be a catalyst for the sustainable growth and diversification of the Telluride regional economy. TVA invests in innovative enterprises with the aim of building and strengthening the entrepreneurial community in the Telluride area to create a self-sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystem bringing innovation, jobs, ideas and a renewed dynamism to the region. TVA is a mentor-driven accelerator with over 70 mentors representing TVA targeted industries and professional specialties and is a member of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN). Along with the Telluride Foundation, TVA is supported by individual donors, the Kaufman Foundation, the Johnson Family Foundation, the Colorado Economic Development Commission, and receives corporate support from The Peaks Resort, ASAP Accounting and Payroll, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP attorneys at law and Great Lakes Airlines.

For more information on TVA, visit

About the Telluride Foundation:

The Telluride Foundation exists to create a stronger Telluride community through the promotion and support of philanthropy. It is a nonprofit, apolitical community foundation that provides year-round support for local organizations involved in arts, education, athletics, charitable causes, land conservation and other community-based efforts through technical assistance, education and grant making. As a grant maker, the Foundation awards grants to qualified applicants that serve the people living and working in the Telluride area for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life within the region. For more information on the Telluride Foundation, visit 


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