Entrepreneurship Initiative — 2020 End of Year Update

Dear Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurship Initiative Community,

Sometimes we come to know things better through their absence. This year leads me to reflect, in these strange distanced times, on the startup community.

I miss the community interactions disfigured by 2020. Our rhythms of convening are off. Urgent challenges disrupt typical information flows. We’re each still busy. But now it is far more difficult to know what each other is working on, trying to do, failing at, enjoying, and accomplishing. This year is terrible. Everyone hurts and, of course, the suffering is not evenly distributed.

The startup community rallied to make things less awful. As Silicon Flatirons’ November Conference on Private-Public Partnerships documented, in 2020 Colorado’s startup community collectively lifted its sights to the problems of our times. Entrepreneurs self-organized entities like Feed the Frontlines and HumanKind, which primarily serve individuals outside of the startup scene. Entrepreneurs – including many of you – provided crucial philanthropic support. The startup scene, buoyed by entrepreneurial leaders like Governor Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser, interwove with the provision of crucial public services. Startup Colorado, Energize Colorado and CoVenture Forward mobilized to help small businesses. The Citizen Software Engineers and Colorado’s Innovation Response Team helped on epidemiological matters. I could go on.

These collaborations are all the more striking against the broader backdrop of a fractured and angry country. The collective action of the startup community is not an accident. Social capital (i.e., trust and feelings of cooperative spirit) accrued over years of collaboration within that startup scene. We’ve long known how important cooperation is to helping launch new companies. But in 2020 our social capital paid powerful dividends in crisis response. High levels of social capital should not be taken for granted.

A full end of year update about the Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurship Initiative and the New Venture Challenge is directly below. The short version: we well exceeded my expectations. While I cannot wait to kiss 2020 goodbye, this has been a powerful year for the entrepreneurship work at CU. Indeed, it might just be our proudest year so far. Many thanks to our Silicon Flatirons team members, our partners across campus, as well as many of you in the community, for making this happen.

I hope you’ll find some joy in the 2020 update. In one form or another, I look forward to working together in 2021.

Brad Bernthal

Director, Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurship Initiative

Letter from Entrepreneurship Initiative Director, Brad Bernthal, at the close of the 2020 academic year.

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