The College of Engineering and Applied Science welcomes the newest member of its engineering entrepreneurship team, Entrepreneur-in-Residence Karen Crofton.
Crofton brings a wealth of experience as an investor in data and financial technology startups, a former principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute dedicated to the transformation of energy systems, an intrapreneur at Air Products & Chemicals, and a lecturer at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“We are pleased to have Karen Crofton join the college as Entrepreneur-in-Residence this academic year,” said Doug Smith, associate dean for programs and projects and CFO of the college. “She brings a load of investment and startup experience, but in her heart she is a mechanical engineer who can relate to our students and understand the pressures they are experiencing and the hopes that drive them on.”
Crofton, who joined the college in September 2020, provides leadership insights and mentoring in engineering capstone courses and advises engineering students through all phases of their entrepreneurial pursuits, from idea validation and prototyping to market readiness and attracting seed investment.
“There are a lot of really fantastic ideas, but they have to be salable,” said Crofton. “This was Thomas Edison’s genius, marrying world-class engineering with the fickleness of a consumer’s appetite.”
Crofton guides students on how to test the marketability of their ideas with minimal risk and effort so that they can have the confidence to take the next step. She can also plug students into Boulder’s rich entrepreneurial ecosystem, which she came to know through her investing.
“Boulder is roughly twenty five square miles,” said Crofton. “The concentration of companies in Boulder makes people very accessible. You have coastal-type money and experience combined with small-town America access.”
She will help the college prepare for the next Catalyze CU, a summerlong startup accelerator program for all CU students, faculty and staff. The program combines world-class mentorship, funding and dedicated coworking space to help launch promising ventures from across the CU Boulder campus.
Working with students is exciting for Crofton because they approach problems with fresh perspectives and new ideas. In exchange, she shares lessons like the one she learned as a CU Boulder graduate student pursuing her master’s in data analytics by encouraging them to experiment in an academic setting where they have the freedom to try new things, and sometimes fail, without losing a lot of money.
As a core member of the university’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship team, Crofton joins others on campus and in the college who are dedicated to fostering the entrepreneurial interests of engineering students, including Christy Bozic, the Stephen M. Dunn Endowed Professor of Engineering Management and faculty director of the college’s entrepreneurship programs.
Crofton holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University, an MBA from Rice University, and a master’s in data analytics from CU Boulder. Students can sign up for office hours with Crofton.