Name: Collin Bunch
Title: Program Coordinator
Years at Venture Partners: 1.5
Q: Tell us a little about yourself!
A: I studied Marketing for Undergrad and MBA in Ethical & Strategic Leadership at UCM in Warrensburg focused on company culture and eliminating risk/dysfunction. I started my first social venture as an undergrad, Chairs that Care, where we donated all of our profits to the Women's Shelter in my city.
My family owns Bluff Dwellers Cave in Noel, MO. It was discovered by my great-grandfather, and my parents currently run the business as the third generation. It has a show cave, museum, and Cavern Inn out of the historic limestone farmhouse.
We decided to move to Colorado when a business my wife and I were helping in Missouri fell apart, and we ended up camping across the state for three weeks with our two kids. I moved to Colorado for this role right before the start of the pandemic.
Q: What led you to this career and working at Venture Partners?
A: After starting a successful social venture and some large corporate culture and consulting roles while in academia, I was recruited by the Small Business & Technology Development Center in Missouri. Similar to the SBDC in Colorado, they provide no-cost resources and coaching to entrepreneurs from Main St. to University IP.
As a specialist in digital marketing and sales, I was part of the Growth team for Missouri where I got to work with second stage or scaling innovation firms. This was my first real exposure to the difference between a traditional startup or entrepreneur with something like a service or app vs. creating a new battery the size of train cars to bring in after natural disasters. I also began to appreciate that these types of firms create high-value, net-new jobs. Essentially the way you build up an economy is supporting these types of firms that solve big problems and pay their people well.
A few years later I relocated from Kansas City to Columbia, MO to work with the University of Missouri’s tech transfer program. This was my first experience with NSF I-Corps and different models of customer discovery applied to deep tech companies.
I have experience starting a company that wasn’t properly validated and understand the frustration of putting so much time and effort into something that nobody wanted. One of my early failures was for a platform called Preznc where we provided benchmarks for digital marketing efforts against competition to orient strategy and spending for online sales. I still use the tool internally, but there was not a consistent group of people who would pay what we needed, so it didn’t make sense to form a startup.
After my wife and I quit our roles to help transition our family cave business, I took a role as an Entrepreneur Program Manager with a private/public partnership where I launched an incubator, several hackathons and a game jam community.
For the past seven years I have also worked as a contract specialist for the National Center for Economic Gardening based out of Golden. They partner with cities and economic development entities across the U.S. to provide strategic growth research for second stage innovation firms to help spur targeted job creation.
Venture Partners has created a very market-focused and outcome based program over the last several years. Having worked within academia for 10+ years I was drawn to the difference in having a startup program vs. designing the entire program to successfully launch ventures from CU. We had 2-3 former CU clients that IPO’d this spring and could not be more excited for the cohort going through our programs this year.
Q: What is your role at Venture Partners? Tell us more about what you do.
A: I am our Program Coordinator for Venture Development. We are a small team within Venture Partners that seeks to directly help teams and founders while also developing programming and resources to increase the success of future entrepreneurs from CU. We host two core programs each month around the Elements of Entrepreneurship—core skills and knowledge anyone will need to succeed and a talk from a successful founder from CU or the deep tech world. Beyond our monthly cadence we offer deeper dives into customer discovery with programs like Starting Blocks and Research-to-Market (R2M).
We are also launching a new accelerator program in 2022 that is a natural evolution of our offerings and special programs like PHAST and IN2 where we provide additional coaching, mentorship and executive leadership for our teams.
Q: What is your favorite part about your job and what do you like most about working on the Venture Partners team?
A: The constant evolution and striving to improve our programs and the associated outcomes in our clients. A lot of this job is helping brilliant people solve problems and make connections which keeps everything interesting. It's been great to tap into the Boulder ecosystem and mentors that Stephen and Sally have developed. I have followed Boulder/Denver as a startup hub for years, and it’s great to be a part of this dedicated group of people creating tomorrow. It has also been fun and challenging to apply the same strategies and processes that we teach to our own work like customer discovery, lean development and agile project management.
Q: If you could invent/discover anything, what would it be?
A: A universally trusted source of the current best information on a topic. There is a half-life of facts as we continue to learn and expand the questions we ask, but there is too little trust and understanding of how scientific knowledge is gained, and it seems like a huge risk to our country/society.
There would be no demand for it and it would fail spectacularly.