In the world of tech startups and entrepreneurialism, business practices are often closely guarded secrets.
Except, that is, in the case of Colorado Springs Startup Week — a time in Southern Colorado when the barriers come down and professionals provide tips and tricks about how to bolster their businesses.
The series, organized by Colorado Springs-based nonprofit Peak Startup, attracted a wide range of professionals — teachers and students, techies and business owners, as well as artists and retirees — with the same ambitious mission in mind: to create a stronger and more vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“Startup Week is a new type of conference that builds momentum and opportunity around entrepreneurship, led by entrepreneurs and hosted in the entrepreneurial spaces you love,” according to the organization’s website.
From Oct. 5 through Oct. 9, more than 70 speakers and mentors from around 50 organizations aimed to address all of the many facets of that ambitious mission.
Kicking off Sunday evening at Epicentral Coworking (415 N. Tejon St.), the week’s events included lectures, workshops and other sessions focused on tracks such as adventure, art, community development, entrepreneurship and diversity, as well as mentoring opportunities and keynote speeches. The events took place at local landmarks including Colorado College, the Ivywild School and Catalyst Campus.
The organizers said the week’s events were expected to attract an estimated 1,600 participants, roughly twice the amount of last year’s turnout.
“We’re really excited,” said Ian Lee, an entrepreneur and Peak Startup board member. “We’ve grown about 50 percent as far as the events we’re slated for, and we’ve also grown in terms of participation.
“What we’re beginning to see is an incredible amount of synergy created here in town around the ancillary aspects of entrepreneurship in Colorado Springs.”
Among the week’s presenters were Pikes Peak region professionals: Jody Alyn, a former psychotherapist and professor who owns Jody Alyn Consulting; Jon Rose, president of the Partnership for Business Excellence; and Jenna Celmer, operations and marketing director for the Catalyst Campus.
During a Monday afternoon event in Colorado College’s Morreale Carriage House, a small yet diverse crowd listened to a lecture on “Product Definition and Selection.”
Rose, once an up-and-coming entrepreneur, explained that “most start-up entrepreneurs, and mature companies for that matter, have significantly more ideas than they can execute on.
“Since resources are almost always in short supply, it is critical that you properly define the products that you launch into development, and that you very judiciously select which products to launch. The consequences of not performing this will include limited success or even failure of the company.”
Shortly after, in the same location, Alyn presented her “Business Case for Diversity.”
“We’re going to have to come to terms with what diversity means,” she explained. “Diversity is variety — that’s all. It’s the variety of attributes, cultures, identities and ideas. … It’s all of our similarities and all of our differences.
“How do we handle all of that complexity in a document that says: ‘You’re welcome here and this is why we are doing this?’”
What followed was an interactive lecture discussing the importance of diversity in the business ecosystem, in which she referenced her own experience writing the first diversity document for the City of Colorado Springs amid a deluge of “bad press” in the 1990s.
At Ivywild School on Tuesday afternoon, Catalyst Campus spokesperson Jenna Celmer spoke on “How to Market on the Cheap.” Attendees filled the building’s Wildcat Room to learn how to bolster their businesses affordably, as well as for the free head shots offered by LMJ Creative Expressions following the presentation.
Celmer’s hour-long presentation discussed free or reasonably affordable online marketing tactics such as creating websites, building a robust social media presence and using web-based resources to gain access to other products and services.
She also discussed the importance of traditional media, and how maintaining a working relationship with reporters could help leverage his or her company.
“Not everyone has the budget for [professional marketing], and that’s OK,” she said, adding that what is most important is creating community partnerships, marketing and “growing your voice.”
There were, of course, also breaks in the routine, including yoga classes, happy hours and networking events.
Startup Week’s climax came Thursday night with a pitch night at Epicentral during which startup businesses presented their concepts before venture capitalists from the Colorado Impact Fund.