Telluride Venture Accelerator: Major Small Biz Grant Awarded

TVA Selected as one of 50 Winners out of 800 Nationwide Applications

MIT’s Enterprise Forum of the Central Coast featured TVA’s Thea Chase, then managing director of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

MIT’s Enterprise Forum of the Central Coast featured TVA’s Thea Chase, then managing director of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.


Last week, the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Maria Contreras-Sweet, a member of President Obama’s Cabinet, announced the winners of a national competitive process to invest in job creators. The Growth Accelerator Fund competition selected 50 winners from 800 applications across the country. The Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA), an initiative of the Telluride Foundation, was selected to receive $50,000 from the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund competition.

“TVA is thrilled to have been selected as one of the 50 winners for this SBA funding. It is a great validation of the work we are doing to help launch innovative companies and make our region a great place to start and grow a business,” said Jesse Johnson, CEO of TVA.

The Growth Accelerator Fund competition, in its first year, attracted 800 applications from across the country, and finalists were reviewed by a panel of seven judges who are experts in entrepreneurship, investing and business plans from both within the government and the private sector. The judges reviewed the applications and pitch videos submitted by the 100 finalists in the competition. The competition was created to draw attention and invest in parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Each organization will receive a cash prize of $50,000 from the SBA. In accepting these funds, the accelerators will also be committing to quarterly reporting for one year. They will be required to report metrics, such as jobs created, funds raised, startups launched and corporate sponsors obtained, among other pieces of information. This will allow the SBA to create a useful database of accelerators and their impact and to develop long term relationships with the startups and constituents in these innovative and entrepreneurial communities.

“The SBA is empowering accelerators and startups that are on the cutting edge of successful, innovative new endeavors,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “We’ve seen the enormous success of the accelerator model in communities like Silicon Valley. We believe we can export this type of sophisticated support structure across the country to help start-ups become commercially viable and create jobs more quickly.   want SBA to stand for ‘Smart, Bold and Accessible’ and these accelerators encompass all three of these goals.”

TVA wins the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund competition days after opening the applications for its 2015 cohort of entrepreneurs and businesses. Applications will be open through Oct. 15 at 7pm MST. TVA invests human and financial capital in innovative enterprises with the aim of building and strengthening the entrepreneurial community in the Telluride region. TVA seeks to create a self-sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystem bringing innovation, jobs, ideas and a renewed dynamism.

TVA targets entrepreneurs with innovative high growth businesses in the outdoor recreation, tourism, natural products, health, energy, water, and education sectors. Within these categories, TVA prioritizes technological products and services (e.g. software, mobile, mobile apps, hardware) and businesses that have a higher potential to operate virtually from Telluride and/or impact the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. TVA will select up to six companies for its 2015 session, which runs from February through June. These companies will receive $25k in seed funding, intensive mentorship, veteran Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, and extensive networks in TVA’s targeted industry categories, all in an unparalleled venue. The five month program helps companies hone their business models, vet financial and go-to-market strategies and prepare to raise funding. The program culminates by presenting to Telluride’s unique investment community – including Demo Day in Telluride and roadshows in Boulder and San Francisco.

Four companies were selected for TVA’s first cohort in 2013. All four companies are still operating, with two recently expanding into larger manufacturing facilities, one introducing their first product, and one launching their travel portal to hotels and agents world-wide. These four companies have collectively raised approximately $2 million since Demo Day 2013.

Six companies were selected for the 2014 cohort culminating on July 1, 2014 with Demo Day and subsequent roadshows. Of these companies, two have been fully subscribed with commitments for the six companies totaling approximately $1.7 million. Raising capital to support the launch of start-up firms is the key indicator of success for an accelerator program. The Global Accelerator Network (GAN), of which TVA is a full member, uses the benchmark for success of 30% of company graduates raising $300k or more within the first year, post accelerator.  TVA companies achieved 75% over $300k in the first year and have already exceeded the benchmark for 2014, with half of the companies raising over $300k in the first two months since Demo Day.

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 is a mentor-driven accelerator with over 80 mentors representing TVA targeted industries and professional specialties. Along with the Telluride Foundation and now the US Small Business Administration, TVA is supported by individual donors, Blackstone Charitable Trust, the Johnson Family Foundation, the Colorado Economic Development Commission, and receives corporate support from The Peaks Resort, ASAP Accounting and Payroll, Foley & Lardner LLP attorneys at law, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Verde PR, Office Outfitters and is Powered by IBM.

For more information on TVA or to apply, please visit or contact Director Thea Chase ( or CEO Jesse Johnson (


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