Startup Week attracts new people, ideas

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Thuylien Lampe, who is active duty Air Force, transferred to Schriever Air Force Base seven years ago with the goal of retiring in Colorado Springs with her husband.

Today, after serving in the Air Force for more than 20 years, Lampe is working on two ideas to launch future businesses once she retires in November.

Her businesses will be service-centered — one involves dogs and the other deals with Millennial women and leadership.

Lampe heard about this year’s Startup Week the day before the first event and decided to attend the entire week to learn more about the startup community in Colorado Springs.

Hosted by Peak Startup, the week (Aug. 21-25 ) provided free events, speakers and sessions focused on all phases of creating a startup business.

As part of Startup Week, the Colorado Institute for Social Impact officially launched Aug. 23, and startups competed in a Pitch Night Aug. 24.

Lampe is the perfect example of someone who should attend Startup Week, said Michelle Parvinrouh, executive director of Peak Startup, who added that the events drew more than 250 attendees.

“I want to engage more people like her who are coming out of the military who aren’t looking for workforce placement,” said Parvinrouh. “They might not know startup concepts yet, but they could learn it really easily.”

Lampe said she was amazed by how much support exists in the Springs startup community.

“People giving their time — they didn’t come in with presentations just to advertise their company — it’s to teach us something, to educate us, to give us tips on pitfalls, failures they had so we don’t go through the same path,” Lampe said. “That, to me, is very generous.”

Attending the week of sessions helped Lampe narrow her ideas and make them more viable and confirmed that Colorado Springs is the best location for her to launch quickly.

“The economy in Colorado Springs is very stable because of the military presence,” Lampe said. “We have three Air Force bases, one Army post, up north in Denver we have another Air Force base … we’re not far from Denver, and people are moving down here because of the cost of living. The economy I feel is very stable to start a business.”

Parvinrouh said the week’s sessions covered the steps entrepreneurs have to take in order to be successful.

“We have a lot of founders — they tend to want to skip steps — they want to skip the bootstrapping stage and they want to skip foundation, and they just think their idea is good enough,” Parvinrouh said. “But what we heard over and over this week is, ‘No, you have to spend time in the beginning really developing that business idea, really getting that validation, really getting those customers using it before you’re ready to do anything external.’”

Startup week was just as beneficial for the experienced entrepreneurs as it was for beginners, Parvinrouh said.

“It’s nice to see it being observed by the founders and being like, ‘Oh, this is what I need to do, now I see why I’m missing the link or why I haven’t been able to have successful conversations,’” Parvinrouh said.

The week featured 43 speakers, and Thursday’s Pitch Night, which usually draws no more than 80, saw more than 100 audience members, according to Parvinrouh. She added that 63 percent of the audience had never attended Pitch Night before.

“I met a lot of new people I haven’t met before and that, to me, is a really good sign,” Parvinrouh said. “That might be, to me, the biggest success.”

Pitch Night also brought a diverse representation of industries and types of businesses.

“I think that’s probably really valuable for someone sitting in the audience,” Parvinrouh said.

Winner of the pre-revenue pitch was transitioning Army officer Luke Hutchison, whose startup is called Perfect Venue, a website that helps people find and book a venue in Colorado Springs for events.

Hutchison was happy with the feedback he received from the audience.

“I think what’s great about Peak Startup and Pitch Night is that it really gives you the opportunity to get the community’s feedback in a way that is pretty difficult to get … in any other setting in town.”

It is challenging to pursue one’s own startup when people reject ideas, but it’s important to keep going and seek feedback, Hutchison said.

“I’ve seen people where they’re so afraid of sharing their idea or they’re afraid of people stealing their idea that they don’t get enough feedback,” he said. “With opportunities like Startup Week and Pitch Night, you’re really able to get your idea out there.”

Parvinrouh said she received positive feedback during the week and hopes to duplicate the startup lifecycle format next year, but with more advanced sessions.

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