Entrepreneurship, technology and major headwinds all figure to play leading roles at the Business Economic Outlook Forum.
Entrepreneurs will face plenty of challenges going into 2023—but for those seeking investors, the picture is perhaps not as dire as you might expect.
According to conventional wisdom, rising interest rates will limit investor appetite and resources, so they’ll be more selective about the businesses they support. But Erick Mueller, executive director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business, said there’s a lag in institutional money that will help founders weather the storm.
“From the venture capital perspective, they’ve already raised their funds, so they still have money they’re looking to invest,” Mueller said. “It will make it harder for them to raise their next fund, but they still have money on the sidelines that they’re ready to deploy.”
That’s a topic Mueller hopes to touch on in greater detail next month, when he leads a panel discussion on tech, trends and tales in entrepreneurship at the annual Business Economic Outlook Forum.
“There are a lot of great ideas out there, but in a climate like ours, you need to be scrappier and more creative,” he said, sharing a story from his latest venture, Funovation, which specializes in developing fun attractions that can be deployed in virtually any space. The company launched just ahead of the subprime slide that triggered a recession.
‘You've got to be scrappier’
“We didn’t have to be too creative—until things dried up,” Mueller said. “Then, we had to lean on our vendors in different ways to stay afloat. We’re not in what I’d call a contraction right now, but you’ve got to be scrappier.”
The entrepreneurship panel is just one feature of the Business Economic Outlook Forum, which is headlined by a deep dive into the state and national economies. The presentation—headlined by Richard Wobbekind, senior economist and faculty director of Leeds’ Business Research Division, and Elizabeth Garner, state demographer—provides a forecast for each of Colorado’s main industry categories while offering a macro view on larger trends.
The forum always draws a crowd, but should be especially popular this year in the face of serious headwinds—inflation, interest rates, supply chains, worker shortages and so on.
“We’re helping connect the dots for business and government,” said Brian Lewandowski, BRD’s executive director, who said the forecast is compiled in partnership with more than 100 private and public leaders across Colorado. “We look at these larger stories, like rising interest rates, and show all the places where we expect they will create impact throughout the economy.”
In addition to the forecast, the event will feature a keynote panel on disruptive technologies and industry breakouts on real estate and finance and water, in addition to the entrepreneurship session, which also will have a tech flavor.
“One of the threads we’ll be looking at is technology in our lives—the positives and the negatives, as well as the opportunities that maybe haven’t been fully appreciated yet,” Mueller said. “It’s fun, looking in the crystal ball with a group of really smart people to predict what’s next for robotics, quantum computing and nano.”
He’s got one prediction already: As they have in the past, entrepreneurs will continue to lead the way through this challenging economy.
“Founders are very well equipped for times of uncertainty, just in terms of tolerance for risk and ambiguity,” Mueller said. “They see opportunities where other folks may only see the downside.”