Sponsored by Colorado Springs Forward, today’s event will introduce Colorado companies to CIF managers and CIF managers to Colorado companies. The event is free and open to the public.
Created last year by Vestar Capital Partners co-founder Jim Kelley and Excellere Partners co-founder Ryan Heckman, the CIF initially set out to raise $50 million for its venture capital, but raised $62 million instead.
The goal of the fund is to support Colorado firms that operate in one or more of four areas: community health; natural resources conservation; education and workforce development; and economic development. It seeks to invest $2 million to $6 million in firms that generate consistent, market-based rate of returns.
The CIF has invested in two companies so far, $1.5 million to Denver-based tech startup Schoolrunner, and $3 million to Boulder-based Bhakti Chai.
“Over a year ago, Jim Kelley with Ryan Heckman came up with the idea about doing something very unique in the state which we thought would be helpful in spurring the economy and helping entrepreneurs,” said Federico Peña, a senior advisor to the CIF. Peña formerly served as the U.S. Secretary of Energy and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in the Clinton administration. He had also been Denver mayor from 1983 to 1991.
By investing venture capital into firms either new or existing in this state, “We don’t always have to worry about importing companies to Colorado,” Peña said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has been vocal about Colorado becoming a destination for business, and the CIF can aid that, said Heckman.
It’s “not just a Denver-Boulder fund,” Peña said, adding that visits similar to Wednesday’s are being made throughout the state.
“There’s a lot of ingenuity in the communities of the state, Durango, Meeker, Alamosa and more. When those entrepreneurs form companies, we want to make sure they have equity capital,” said Heckman.
Colorado Springs and Pueblo have not grown their job base as northern Colorado has, he said. Entrepreneurs in southern Colorado could benefit from the venture capital from the CIF.
“In Colorado Springs, there are slightly fewer jobs today than there were 10 years ago, yet there are 25,000 more people than there were,” so this capital investment can aid the southern Colorado area, Heckman said.
In addition to the venture capital investments, the CIF offers experts to give businesses advice as they grow.
“Some funds around the country are pure venture capital and not good at providing support,” Peña said. “We have deep backgrounds as entrepreneurs and advisors who are willing to help. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to benefit from the knowledge and experience of our advisors so we can help guide them.”
Advisors include Ryan Kirkpatrick, Carly Abrahamson, Kyle Klopcic, Grace Oliva, Mark Turnage and Renee Hamilton.
The advisory council includes Bruce Alexander, CEO of Vectra Bank; David Brunel, CEO of Biodesix; Scott Carpenter, president of Anschutz Investments; Gregg Engles, CEO of Whitewave Foods; Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global; Katherine Gold, CEO of Goldbug; J.B. Holston, executive director of Blackstone Entrepreneur Network Colorado; Dr. Pete Hudson, founder of iTriage Health; Justin Jaschke, founder and CEO of Verio; Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts; Jeff Kirwood, CEO of Aspen Grove Capital/Maffei Family Foundation; Bryan Leach, CEO of Ibotta.
Also, Denise O’Leary, former general partner of Menlo Ventures; Mo Siegel, founder of Celestial Seasonings; Ted Stolberg, founder of Stolberg Equity Partners; Jack Tankersley, co-founder Meritage Funds/Centennial Funds; Ben Walton of Sharpe Investments; Anne Warhover, former CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation; and Dave Younggren, president of Gary Community Investment Company/Piton Foundation.