2014 Letter from the Executive Director

Dear SFC Friends and Supporters,

The Silicon Flatirons community continues to make an enormous impact as we work together to engage students and prepare them for careers in the tech sector, support our entrepreneurial community, and be a thought leader in technology policy. Taking a lesson from the recently departed Tony Gwynn (one of the all time baseball greats), we remain committed to continue learning and growing, trying new experiments to see how we can even further elevate our game. This approach, as described in my graduation speech to the Class of 2014, emphasizes a “growth mindset.”

In terms of our growth, we are most fortunate to welcome a new professor to our core Silicon Flatirons team. Starting this fall, Professor Kristelia Garcia joins us, bringing a range of experience and expertise developed over a decade in private practice working for both elite law firms and in the music industry. For the past few years, she has published a number of important law review articles focused on music licensing and copyright law. At Silicon Flatirons, Kristelia will bring much appreciated energy and expertise to our intellectual property efforts, heading up an expanded content initiative that builds on some of our past efforts in this area.

With respect to engaging and preparing students, we continue to develop a range of programs that build on our strong community relationships and address the range of competencies that students need to be successful. This summer, we once again had 20 Colorado graduate students – in Law and from technical backgrounds – working as summer interns in Washington, DC. For all of our friends and family who have helped make this program a success, starting with Senior Fellows Bryan Tramont and Gene Kimmelman, we deeply appreciate your leadership. This summer, we doubled down on this model, developing an innovative Technology Lawyer Accelerator program that provides students with four weeks of training (a bootcamp) before placements at technology companies. This program, led by Senior Fellow Bill Mooz, recently received the first ever grant provided by the Access Group. In a related initiative that elevates our students’ in-house expertise, we have developed the Colorado Counsel Intensive Institute, which is open both to our students and in-house professionals seeking to raise their game.

Our effort to engage with and support the entrepreneurial community fits very well with our support for our students. We continue to be participant-observers in the innovation scene, at once studying conditions where innovations occur – as we did in our recent Boundary Jumping report – as well as helping architect structures to build the innovation scene at CU-Boulder. The New Venture Challenge (NVC), for example, represents an exemplary model of project-based learning and is yielding exciting results. In a first, the co-winner of the 2014 NVC was accepted into this year’s TechStars class of companies. And in a reminder of the impact of the NVC, consider that Taber Ward, Class of 2012 from Colorado Law, used the NVC to hone her social enterprise mission, the Mountain Flower Goat Dairy, which is now operational. As always, our Crash Course series and Entrepreneurs Unplugged series provide valuable programming to the community. Leading such efforts, Brad Bernthal continues to have a huge impact on our community and students.

With respect to our support of our entrepreneurial community, two central efforts are Startup Colorado and the Blackstone Entrepreneurs’ Network for Colorado. Startup Colorado, now finishing its third year, connects entrepreneurs from around the front range and sponsors programs to support emerging entrepreneurs, such as Startup Summer. The Blackstone Entrepreneurs’ Network, or BEN, provides support for the scale-up of promising “gazelles,” connecting them to a network of seasoned entrepreneurs. We launched BEN, which is a Silicon Flatirons initiative, in April with this video and this story.

With respect to technology policy leadership, we are proud to continue to explore how the digital broadband migration is transforming business models and creating new challenges and opportunities for policymakers. Our privacy initiative, which continues to stay ahead of the issues raised by big data and storing users’ information in the cloud, is led by Professor Paul Ohm, who continues to spot and address front page issues well before they land on the front page. In one such case, our December 4th conference on “When Companies Study Their Users: The Changing Face of Science, Research, and Ethics” will take up the very timely issue of how companies can ethically manage internal research efforts around consumer behavior advancing the public debate that has erupted over research being conducted by Facebook, OK Cupid, Target, and others. Our spectrum initiative, led by Pierre de Vries, has continued to develop and inspire thoughtful spectrum policy proposals, including the harm claim threshold proposal (developed in this Hamilton Project paper), the FCC’s Technical Advisory Council recommendation on the best use of multi-stakeholder bodies, and ongoing work around adjudication of spectrum disputes. Many of these issues will be explored at our November 14th conference on Getting Beyond Command-and-Control Regulation in Wireless Spectrum. And our flagship conference, which last year featured FCC Tom Wheeler’s first speech on network neutrality, continues to host discussions on network neutrality and a range of pressing policy issues. For my own effort to distill that topic down to a few minutes, you can hear my interview on Colorado Matters here.

For the Law School and CU as a whole, Silicon Flatirons’ deep connection to entrepreneurship and innovation is a powerful asset. Colorado Law’s first-ever annual report reflects our awareness we must continue to grow and innovate. Silicon Flatirons, with support from the Kauffman Foundation, has advanced the discourse on law school innovation, holding a very thought-provoking conference on the topic, with George Kembel’s tour de force keynote worth a watch. For CU as a whole, the challenge is to prepare all students for a world where we are all entrepreneurs now, whether developing a community goat farm or a high-tech startup. On that challenge, our earlier report on the entrepreneurial university remains relevant and a source of guidance.

In short, the Silicon Flatirons community continues to enable our policy leadership, support our students, and be enthusiastic about support for entrepreneurship. For those of you interested in being more involved, whether as a mentor for any number of our students, hiring interns, being a financial sponsor, or finding new partnerships, we welcome your interest and Anna Noschese, our Program Director, is tremendous about making such connections work. She can be reached at anna.noschese@colorado.edu and please feel free to reach out to me directly at phil.weiser@colorado.edu with any thoughts and suggestions.



Phil Weiser
Executive Director, Silicon Flatirons Center
Dean, University of Colorado Law School

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