Published: March 19, 2020

In hopes of securing investments to advance their companies, 18 university ventures spun out of Colorado research institutions and federal laboratories pitched to local and out-of-state investors at the state's second annual Destination Startup showcase.

Outside of investors, more than 200 people—consisting of fellow university peers, entrepreneurs and community members—attended the event on Feb. 27 at the Westin Westminster, which was hosted by Venture Partners at CU Boulder.

The five participating Colorado universities at Destination Startup included CU Anschutz, CU Boulder, CU Denver, University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), Colorado State University (CSU), and Colorado School of Mines. This year also had participation from one federal lab, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

"Over the last year or so, the pipeline of startups coming out of the Colorado research institutions has expanded vastly," said Bryn Rees, managing director for Venture Partners and assistant vice chancellor for research and innovation at CU Boulder. "Destination Startup is a way for investors and others in the startup ecosystem to access the pipeline in a single event."

More than 80 percent of the participating ventures were new to Destination Startup in 2020, allowing investors to connect with a fresh cohort of companies. However, returning investors and attendees noticed the few returning ventures had made significant progress year-over-year. 

"Returning CU Boulder startups like New Iridium and VitriVax updated the community on new corporate partnerships, awarded grants and early sales, Rees said.

Also returning for the 2020 event was Kevin Maher, founder and president of VetMeasure, a CSU startup commercializing a canine harness that monitors a patient's vitals. He noted that the event's energy level and investors' interest level in the startups were "ramped up" compared to 2019.

"We had potential investors express some serious interest into our tech, and we had several other attendees offer to make introductions to interested people in their network," Maher said. 

Jennifer Beach, vice president of business administration for Starfire Energy, a Colorado School of Mines spinoff, had a similar experience.

"We picked up an interested angel investor after our pitch and also made a potential overseas customer connection. Both were great outcomes of participating in Destination Startup," said Beach. Her company develops modular systems to produce carbon-free ammonia from air and water using clean electricity. 

Pascal Krotee, investment associate at Kairos Ventures in Beverly Hills, CA, attended the inaugural Destination Startup event in 2019 and returned for 2020. “Destination Startup consistently delivers top-quality pitches and insightful panels. This year, I thought the quality was even higher!" Krotee said. "We look forward to our participation in future events and investing in CU Boulder scientific opportunities for years to come."

Other attending investment firms included local investors—like the Innosphere Fund and Rockies Venture Club—as well as out-of-state investors Osage University Partners in Pennsylvania, SV Tech Ventures in Palo Alto, CA and Frontier Angels in Montana.