Published: April 23, 2014

The University of Colorado Law School’s Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship will host a Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network (BEN) here in Colorado. This BEN initiative, which is supported by a generous $3 million grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, was officially announced on Wednesday, April 23 at a launch party at the Denver Art Museum.

More than two hundred governmental, academic, business, and entrepreneurial leaders from Colorado and from around the nation attended the event. In particular, Governor John Hickenlooper, Senator Michael Bennet, Amy Stursberg, the Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Jonathan Gray, the Global Head of Real Estate for Blackstone Group, University of Colorado President Bruce Benson, and University of Colorado-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano were all on hand to officially announce the BEN initiative.

The objective of the BEN initiative is to build entrepreneurial networks in the state of Colorado, thereby strengthening our base of emerging growth companies and facilitating economic growth across sectors and geographies. BEN’s ambition is to carefully curate cross-industry, cross-geography, and cross-stage networks between highly successful serial entrepreneurs and a select number of Colorado “gazelles”–high-growth companies that have the potential to quickly scale and make a significant economic impact. BEN focuses on five industries in Colorado–digital technology, biotech/health care, energy, aerospace, and natural foods. To encourage cross-industry and cross-geography connections, the BEN initiative will pair seasoned “Advisors” and “Master Entrepreneurs” with “gazelle” companies from different industries and different geographic locations across Colorado. 

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is working in close conjunction with leaders and organizations throughout Colorado including Senator Michael Bennet; Governor John Hickenlooper; the Colorado BioScience Association; the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association; and the Colorado Technology Association. The Foundation selected the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Law School to host the initiative, which is supported by what is expected to be a $3 million grant to be used over the course of three years—along with a complementary technical assistance grant to the University of North Carolina, designed to enable the sharing of the lessons from the earlier BEN project hosted there.

The University of Colorado and the Silicon Flatirons Center are excited to host this program and look forward to continuing to participate in the growth of the entrepreneurial community in Colorado. For years, the Silicon Flatirons Center has hosted the New Technology Meetups, the New Venture Challenge, and, more recently, they have supported Startup Colorado, an initiative to support startup companies throughout the Front Range.

The selection of Colorado Law and the Silicon Flatirons Center to host the BEN initiative is a great validation of their leadership in the entrepreneurial community and their ability to develop a nationwide model. The initiative will be led by J.B. Holston, a serial entrepreneur and civic leader, who will be build a team that will make a measurable impact in our community. 

Dean Phil Weiser of the University of Colorado Law School and founder and executive director of the Silicon Flatirons Center notes that, "The opportunity to support a Blackstone Entrepreneurial Network in Colorado enables us to work intensively with valued partners around the state, and is all about making an impact in our entrepreneurial community. This project is a logical extension of our work through the Silicon Flatirons Center, which is an interface between the Front Range's innovation community, partners around the state, and the Boulder campus. We are honored to be selected as the steward of this opportunity and are most grateful to all of the community partners we have worked with to develop the vision for this exciting initiative."

Brad Bernthal, Director of the Silicon Flatirons’ Entrepreneurial Initiative, added "The grant is another strong sign that CU-Boulder is, increasingly, an entrepreneurial public university that supports the Front Range's innovation scene. The opportunity to facilitate cross sector interaction and promote companies that scale will favorably impact Colorado's economy for years to come."

“Colorado has created great conditions for entrepreneurship and innovation, via extraordinary grassroots activism, strong civic leadership, and the wonderful work of organizations like the Silicon Flatirons Center," Holston said. "The Blackstone grant and connections are great fuel to help us ensure that more of our great companies scale-up, rather than stall out or sell out too early. I’m honored to help.”