For more than 20 years, Silicon Flatirons has been a force that inspires and drives an inclusive and comprehensive approach to technology law, policy, and entrepreneurship. At the University of Colorado Law School, Silicon Flatirons has built a home to support a robust community of local, national, and international stakeholders tackling complex and rapidly developing issues at the confluence of technology, entrepreneurship, and law. We’re just getting started. As the rate of technological advancement increases every year, the ensuing changes make our mission and community as vital as ever.
Founded in 1999 by Phil Weiser, Silicon Flatirons started by hosting a conference series focused solely on technology policy. Our first conference, Telecommunications Law for the Twenty-First Century, gathered an impressive group of academics, governmental officials, and leaders from industry to join a set of conversations about the emerging policy responses to the internet. Our inaugural advisory board included forward-thinking leaders from tech and telecommunications companies, law firms, and academia. Since then, we have grown to a major center that supports interdisciplinary events and programs, runs year-round student programs, and serves as a think-and-do tank in law, technology, and entrepreneurship.
We are proud of our history of convening influential people from across sectors to debate urgent issues and seed the solutions. Our first conference developed into the annual Digital Broadband Migration (DBM) Conference, which Vinton Cerf called “the Davos of telecom.” The history of this conference, largely published in the Colorado Technology Law Journal, provides an important record of leading discussions, including the first about “network neutrality” regulation. Indeed, the term was coined by Tim Wu at our conference. The DBM held its final event in 2017, and in 2020 the series became “Topics in Law and Technology” (TILT), focusing on bringing together a diverse group of experts to study intersectional issues in the technology sector to find new paths for collaboration and progress.
Silicon Flatirons’ leadership in the entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus and in the community took off in 2006. We began hosting the New Tech Meetup and introduced events like the Entrepreneurs Unplugged and Crash Course series as well as an annual conference. The Entrepreneurial Initiative has worked across campus to develop the New Venture Challenge as well as other programs. Silicon Flatirons provides a home to Startup Colorado, which helps entrepreneurial communities get the right resources and thrive. We also launched and hosted the Blackstone Entrepreneurs’ Network for several years.
Silicon Flatirons has always put engagement with and support for students at the center of its focus. We support a wide variety of programs that prepare students for work in technology law and policy or entrepreneurial law, including two clinics, a law journal, summer internship programs, and an array of competitions. Hundreds of students have benefited from these programs, many having gone on to develop successful careers supported by the experience and expertise they developed through the center.
In 2020 and beyond, we’ll be considering fresh ways to support our community, including additional opportunities for people to learn about, discuss, and tackle issues across technology law, policy, and entrepreneurship. As we do so, we are placing a meaningful focus on inclusion and diversity, a renewed commitment to interdisciplinary programs, and a recognition of the international nature of everything we do.
The transformation over the last two decades of the context in which the center operates is nothing short of remarkable. Although our world and technologies look radically different, Silicon Flatirons’ purpose remains the same: to convene multi-stakeholder discussions, support innovation, and develop the next generation of technology lawyers, policy experts, and entrepreneurs. We are excited to work with our supporters and our staff, initiative directors, faculty, advisors, and fellows during Silicon Flatirons’ next chapter. It promises to be a vibrant one.