By Wyatt Carlson
“Starting this semester, the Global Entrepreneurs in Residence (GEIR) Program brings a trifecta of international entrepreneurial expertise to the University of Colorado Boulder.
“This pilot program was developed by the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneuriship and is being funded with a $150,000 grant from Brad Feld, a managing director at the Boulder venture capital firm the Foundry Group and a co-founder of Techstars.
“The idea is to connect and help students in all departments at CU pursue their entrepreneurial interests.
“Nigel Sharp, Hector Rodriguez, and Julien Denaes, from Britain, Spain, and Switzerland respectively, have been selected to mentor students in the new GEIR program. The goal is to bring international business expertise to CU’s campus and to connect students to Colorado’s active startup community.
“The trio of European entrepreneurs said they were all connected to Feld before the program launched, and Feld sought them out once the program was scheduled to begin.
“Sharp, in his early 30s, from London, became the director of the world’s largest creative technologies organization, Tumo. Sharp then co-founded Lionsharp, which produces Voiceboard, the world’s first gesture and voice-controlled presentation tool.
“Rodriguez, 45, a native of Madrid has 20-plus years of international business experience, raised more than $45 million in venture capital and multiplied the investment return on a company by 10 on its exit. Rodriguez was at the root of three startups: Bricsnet, Tapp.in and Flexiant, all dealing with cloud infrastructure and mobile technologies.
“Denaes, 32, an entrepreneur from Switzerland, has expertise in application design and IT project management, and enjoys helping others on project conception. Most recently, Denaes founded Loggr, which provides password-less and multi-factor authentication for cloud applications.
“Each of these men knows the amount of work that lies between an idea and a successful company. They also understand that students struggle with connections and putting an idea to practice.
“Lang Mei, a Leeds Business School student who is involved with GEIR, said he thinks the program is a fantastic way to get students connected, and his own startup has already seen benefits.
“”Hector was very thoughtful and helpful for the development of our startup,” Mei said. “Hector helped me to rethink the core of my product features, and he is a great mentor to help our startup to grow.”
“The international mentors will offer guest lectures, advice on entrepreneurial research, and provide mentorship to community members who are developing their own startups.
“The three global entrepreneurs arrived in the states late last year, and have been spending 20 hours a week meeting with professors and students , as well as connecting with some of Boulder’s homegrown entrepreneurial talent.
“”We know we don’t have all of the answers,” Denaes said. “One of our goals is to build some bridges between CU students and the startup community in Boulder, Colorado, or even further.”
“Sharp said students will still have a long way to go once they graduate, but he believes the pilot program will give them a sense of how to begin.
“”I think that we can have the ability to share information and knowledge, but the only way you can become an entrepreneur is to actually do it and get started yourself.”
“The program is open to all students, not just those attending the Leeds School.
“”Entrepreneurship is not really compartmentalized in to one department but has a multi-disciplinary life of its own,” Rodriguez said.
“Throughout the year at CU, the international entrepreneurs will be working on their own ventures. All three hope to join or continue working for tech companies and to use what they have learned here to create better connections between European startups and their academic counterparts.
“There are a lot of great people around the world who are effectively stuck behind a Visa barrier that stops them from operating and living the American dream,” Sharp said.