Colorado Springs has a vital opportunity to grab onto high-tech firms and startups to create the kind of economic development and high-paying jobs that could transform the city.
But we’re missing out on that opportunity. Lack of funding for firms that are inventing, creating and designing the next generation of phone applications, of medical devices, of health-and-wellness innovations is driving those firms away from Colorado Springs — and toward places like Boulder, Fort Collins or Silicon Valley in California.
Those jobs are an investment in the future, and we need to invest now in firms that are willing to take risks to innovate and create products. So few people have the ability to be inventors — to imagine a world that doesn’t exist and see new concepts through to the marketplace.
It’s where good technology goes to die, that place inventors reach when their products been proven in the lab but there’s no funding for further development, for marketing, for reaching the people who need the products.
We could lose out on research that could slow the onset of Alzheimer’s, the product that makes it easier to track sleep and fitness schedules, the next big technological breakthrough. And we’d miss those opportunities not because there aren’t bright, inventive people in Colorado Springs. We’d lose out because we’re not assisting, supporting and funding those people and their work.
So here’s an idea: What if developers created a venture capital funding source? What if they invested in companies, not just in developing the land for houses and apartments and retail stores? If they created a fund, these hungry inventors could pitch their ideas and receive money to help business grow. Even finding a way to assist three companies a year — with a return on that investment — could create a dynamic, innovative ecosystem in southern Colorado that, with time, would rival that seen in Boulder or Silicon Valley.
We all know it’s less expensive to live here than either of those places, so attracting the inventors, the risk-takers, those who see solutions to problems is easy. Keeping them here requires local investment by people who see the value of having high-tech, well-paying jobs in their communities.
Colorado ranked fourth in venture capital investments during 2017, and billions of dollars went to companies in the state. With the exception of Cherwell Software, which received $50 million in VC dollars, businesses in the Springs didn’t receive any of those billions.
And that causes companies to seek money elsewhere. One firm spent four days in Florida and received $1.4 million in investment dollars — money not available in Colorado Springs. It’s not that the ideas here are bad. It’s that no one is investing in tech startups and businesses. They’re investing in real estate developments.
Boulder and Denver both have dozens of venture capital groups, created to invest in the future of their cities. Colorado Springs is full of small, struggling companies working hard to create that same atmosphere of innovation — we should create our own means to get venture capital, instead of relying on a handful of angel investors or the occasional donation from online funding applications.
Let’s get all the interested groups together — from the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, to the city of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, the Housing & Building Association, individual development companies — and build on the wealth that is already here by investing in future technology and in future jobs. Let’s invest in Colorado Springs.