If you want to set a meeting this semester with Nigel Sharp to get entrepreneurship advice, he’s best approached with an invite for tea – his beverage of choice – versus coffee, he says.
The British-Armenian entrepreneur is one of three startup experts who were selected and who’ve recently arrived at the University of Colorado Boulder for the pilot Global Entrepreneurs in Residence program. The program is designed to bring mentorship to the CU-Boulder campus community and connect entrepreneurs domestically and from around the world to be part of Colorado’s vibrant startup community.
Hector Rodriguez from Spain and Julien Denaes from Switzerland are the other two entrepreneurs in residence.
By the age of 16, Sharp had started a metal welding company and competed in the Irish Young Entrepreneur national final with his invention of a computer mouse cleaner. Also early on, he built a website, a robot, and dabbled in pig farming.
After his studies in London, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and digital technology, Sharp – based in Armenia – became the director of information technology (IT) for the world’s largest creative technologies organization. Sharp then co-founded Lionsharp, which produces Voiceboard, the world’s first gesture and voice-controlled presentation tool.
As an entrepreneur in residence at CU-Boulder, Sharp is a go-to for discussions about software and hardware product design and development along with team building and culture forming, early-stage fundraising and pitch preparation.
In his 20-plus years as an international business leader, Rodriguez has experienced the whirlwind of everything from guiding corporate strategy to starting and re-starting companies, managing turnarounds in the midst of crisis and taking teams from pre-revenue to profit status. He has been at the helm of three international startups, raised more than $45 million in venture capital and multiplied the investment return on a company by 10 on its exit.
In his role at CU-Boulder, Rodriguez – who has a master’s degree in economics and a bachelor’s degree in business administration – is a resource for information on taking a startup to market, strategic planning, business development, capital raising, team building, internationalization, enterprise software, cloud infrastructure and mobile technologies.
Denaes, adding to his background in process analysis, business development and entrepreneurship, most recently co-founded Loggr, which provides password-less and multi-factor authentication for cloud applications.
With his expertise in application design and IT project management, Denaes enjoys helping others on project conception – from ideas to functional prototypes – and using his technical skills and wide corporate industry experience to coach young startups.
A unique program
“It is exciting to see the program launch with a strong trio of veteran entrepreneurs who want to share their experiences and international insights,” said Phil Weiser, dean of the University of Colorado Law School and executive director of the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship. “These resident entrepreneurs are part of the campus’s concerted efforts to make CU-Boulder a sought-after entrepreneurial university. We encourage members of the campus community to take advantage of this resource.”
The unique program was launched through a cross-campus effort with financial support from Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group venture capital firm, co-founder of Techstars and a leader in Colorado’s startup community.
The selected entrepreneurs’ duties entail up to 20 hours per week on campus while they also pursue existing entrepreneurial ventures or new companies in one of the best entrepreneurial communities in the world. The entrepreneurs initially were offered one-year appointments that could extend to a total of three years.
In addition to mentoring, the entrepreneurs will involve themselves in community engagement by contributing to other programs on campus, such as the New Venture Challenge, and engaging the entrepreneurial community.