Published: April 20, 2009

The University of Colorado’s inaugural Entrepreneurship Week began April 13 with a luncheon on starting companies at CU and culminated April 17 with the announcement of winners of the CU New Venture Challenge, the university’s first business-plan competition for students and faculty. The week was a campus-wide initiative comprising the Silicon Flatirons Center, the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, the ATLAS Institute, the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program, the Engineering Entrepreneurship (E-Ship) Program, the University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office, and numerous students and faculty members. Governor Bill Ritter helped mark the weeklong events on April 16 by announcing information and communications technology (ICT) as a pillar of the state’s economic-development strategy. Ritter delivered the keynote address at a conference titled “Putting the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Perspective” at Colorado Law. The event brought leading academics and business people to campus to discuss entrepreneurship as a horizontally integrated “ecosystem,” in contrast to the traditional top-down structure of corporate America. The governor committed to promoting Colorado’s Front Range as a national hub for technological entrepreneurship, noting that the area has one of the country’s most highly educated populations, as well as high concentrations of software engineers, aerospace workers, and university researchers. The teams competing in the New Venture Challenge provided a window into the exciting, high-caliber innovations and business ideas emerging from CU. Eight teams presented their plans before a panel of judges, made up of investors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and service professionals in the community. Four teams were chosen to continue to the finals. The four judges were Paul Berberian, co-founder and former CEO of Raindance; Catharine Merigold, general partner of Vista Ventures; Ryan McIntyre, managing director of The Foundry Group; and Nancy Pierce, co-founder of Carrier Access. First prize went to the non-profit organization Knova Learning, which aims to operate and manage public charter school Second prize to 3QMatrix, a biomedical company developing products to heal wounds based on patented material from CU Third prize to Fetcht, a social networking venture that intends for its users to create targeted networks for knowledge gaining purposes A special computer science award was given to TechoShark, Inc., which is developing a mobile smartphone application surrounding social networking An honorable mention to Ap.igy, which will provide customizable application programming interfaces for businesses A most innovative award was given to Conifer Quantum Technology based on its plan surrounding efficient solar energy conversion devicesThe April 16 conference also included presentations of academic research and discussions by panelists: The first panel focused on how to recognize “disruptive” technologies that change the marketplace. Participants included moderator Professor Phil Weiser, executive director of the Silicon Flatirons Center; David Cohen, co-founder of TechStars; Heather Gates-Massoudi, director of venture capital services technology, media, and telecommunications for Deloitte Services; Tom Moore, president of Viasat Satellite Holdings and founder of WildBlue Communications; and Karl Ulrich of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Ulrich discussed his upcoming book, “Innovation Tournaments,” which compares the process of successful innovation to a competition where numerous raw ideas are filtered for quality until only the best remain. A second panel on the elements of an entrepreneurial culture featured moderator Professor Brad Bernthal; Paul Jerde, executive director of CU's Deming Center for Entrepreneurship; James Linfield, a partner at Cooley Godward Kronish LLP; Jana Matthews, CEO of the Jana Matthews Group; AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley; and Michael Zeisser, senior vice president at Liberty Media Corporation. Saxenian presented her research on elements of entrepreneurial ecosystems, which she described as a shift away from a model of corporate hierarchies to one of regional communities where careers are specialized, flexible, and likely to span across many different companies. The third panel discussed how, and how not, to capitalize on innovation, featuring moderator Jason Mendelson, managing director at The Foundry Group; Paul Berbarian, co-founder of Raindance Communications; Steve Georgis, CEO of ProStor; and Sue Kunz, founder of Solidware Technologies. The group of serial entrepreneurs traded war stories about hiring the right and wrong employees, borrowing money from relatives, and sleeping on the office floor while working 20 hours a day to get a company off the ground.