Last week, we took 20 students – eight graduate students and 12 undergraduate students – to Austin, Texas to meet startups and scaling ventures working to make the world a better and more sustainable place. We partnered with the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility (CESR) here at Leeds to emphasize how complementary our missions are.
Our students learned a great deal at each visit and it’s fascinating to think of how interrelated each company is. Not to mention, almost every company we met with has a tie to Boulder, Colorado!
“I loved meeting business owners and hearing the stories of their non-linear paths to success.” – Student Attendee
Jump ahead to see what we learned during our visits. And check out our Instagram channel to see photos from the visit.
Whole Planet Foundation
You’ll want to try one of these organic energy recovery beverages. They’re delicious and the company mission is to create a sustainable source of funding to help individuals recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
“I wanted to be an entrepreneur my whole life. I always searched for purpose.” - Wes Hurt, Founder of CLEAN Cause.
At CLEAN Cause we were treated to a discussion with founder Wes Hurt. Wes’s story of overcoming his addiction was moving, but feeling his entrepreneurial drive was equally inspirational. CLEAN Cause is scaling addiction recovery in a really innovative way.
Wes spoke to the importance of culture when building team. At CLEAN Cause, the company motto is “Heads down, heart out.” He respects people who allow themselves to be vulnerable. He also encouraged our students to listen to their gut when it comes to both interviewing for jobs and inking deals. You can always walk away.
This private, nonprofit organization established by Whole Foods Market, is dedicated to poverty alleviation. They aim to empower the world’s poorest people with microcredit in places where Whole Foods Market sources products.
Students got an inside look at how Whole Planet Foundation was born and how it addresses poverty worldwide with Philip Sansone, the Foundation’s President Executive Director and Daniel Zoltani, their Global Programs Director. The Foundation team is small, innovative, and most importantly, efficient.
The team has 13 employees that have facilitated an impressive $3 million in loans directly affecting 18 million people.
Through clever use of industry standard tools and partnerships, the Whole Planet Foundation is injecting more entrepreneurial spirit into the nonprofit world.
The ties to Boulder? Justin’s has been a key contributor to Whole Planet Foundation and was an integral part of founding their Microloan a Month Program. And Daniel Zoltani is a CU Boulder alum!
Meet a services provider helping companies start and accelerate AI programs by providing strategy and development services. The team at KUNGFU.AI focuses on practical implementations of AI, applying the same thinking that made us successful product entrepreneurs; build point solutions on narrow use cases that solve a big problem.
Students got access to the founding leadership team (CEO, Stephen Strauss; VP of Sales and Marketing, Steve Meier; and Chief Technology Officer, Ron Green) and a hands-on crash course in AI. It was awesome.
“AI isn’t always sexy, but it works and it drives value.” - Steve Meier, VP of Sales and Marketing
There’s a long history behind AI, but the business side of the industry is really just getting off the ground. Capabilities built from data, not human experiences, can solve big problems. And the team at KUNGFU.AI believes AI creates more than it destroys. As the saying on Steve’s shirt said, “fortune favors the nerds.”
The tie to Boulder? Ron, their CTO, has two sons attending school here at CU Boulder!
A Certified B Corporation, Capital Factory introduces the best entrepreneurs in Texas to their first investors, employees, mentors, and customers. This entrepreneurial hub houses two venture funds, an accelerator, more than 80,000 square feet of co-working space, and hosts events for entrepreneurs and investors.
“I really liked seeing all the cool things at Capital Factory.” – Student Attendee
We got a VIP tour of the facility (thanks Nikki!) and a chance to meet staff and entrepreneurs in the space. The most fun? Playing in their VR Megalounge (thanks Erin!).
A scientist at heart, founder Josh Hare likes to ask questions—and find the answers. While living in Boulder, Colorado, Josh competed in triathlons, long distance runs, and trained other athletes. He loved being part of a community built around fitness, and noticed a complementary market: beer. After moving back to Texas, Josh again found himself in the fitness community, but where was the beer?
“Not thinking through all the variables that can limit operation is why most breweries (and startups) fail.” - Josh Hare, Founder of Hops & Grain Brewing
Josh set out to tackle the regulatory challenges in Texas and build a beer brand that could stand alone, not based on the founder. Beer has a very active consumer market and he wanted to use stories to communicate. He noted how there is strong loyalty in shoes (runners typically stick with one brand) while customers in the craft beer market tend to be more promiscuous. Josh believes quality products grow industries and the beer industry is exploding: when he opened Hops & Grain Brewing there were two breweries in Austin. Today there are are over 70.
The tie to Boulder? Josh previously lived in Boulder and worked with some of our fabulous microbreweries and running stores.
This Austin-based company makes technical apparel for recreation. Outdoor Voices (OV) believes that when you drop the expectations to perform, the magic happens.
We got a tour of their Blanco Street store in the West End. Melissa, the company’s PR Manager, shared founder Tyler Haney’s story: she wanted to free the fitness world from performance and bring back recess. Her clothes are made for sweating in - interchangeable layers that play nice in any season or activity, from dog jogs to dodgeball.
Why did she move the company to Austin from NYC? To incubate the company from the market. And because Austin offers an amazing landscape for testing their products outdoors.
“We believe in Doing Things — moving your body and having fun with friends.” - OV Motto
We had a great time, and a few of our students may become brand ambassadors for OV here in Boulder!
This stop needs no introduction. Our crew got a rare inside look at the life of a Googler. The office uses an open floor plan in addition to fun places throughout the building where Googlers can work solo or have meetings. It also has a gym, fitness classes, free lunch in their cafeterias, a library, a game room, and so much more. Students enjoyed seeing the innovative work spaces, but more so, hearing about the importance of being efficient and knowing how to find the balance that brings out your best work.