Boulder Startup Trek

On January 25th, ten Sloanies in the E&I Club touched down in Colorado to kick off the second annual E&I Club Boulder Startup trek.  The trek started last year at the behest of Brad Feld (MIT ’87), co-founder of the Foundry Group and Techstars, as a way to build a pipeline of talent from Sloan to Boulder.

An opportunity to visit a budding startup community in one of the most beautiful areas of the country as a precursor to the annual Sloan Breckenridge Ski Trip?? Sign us up!!

Over the course of three days, we visited representative companies of that ecosystem: 8 companies in all that ran the gamut from a boot-strapped team of 10 to a pre-IPO company of 500, consumer devices to enterprise security, and accelerators to traditional VCs.   We kicked off the trek at PivotDesk, an online marketplace matching startups that need office space with companies that have extra, and we couldn’t have picked a better company to start our conversations with.  We met with David Mandell, its founder, a serial entrepreneur and respected mentor within the Boulder startup community.  Yes, he told us about PivotDesk and how it got to where it is, which itself is a great story. But perhaps more valuably, he told us his own story, which is inextricably intertwined with that of the Boulder startup scene, and what he believes are the necessary ingredients to become a great founder and CEO.  We’d tell you what that is, but then we’d have lost our competitive advantage.

The talk provided a great frame of reference for what the Boulder startup scene is all about; from there we were able to dig deeper and see different angles with each company we visited. With that said, the theme of the week was without a doubt, collaboration.  As a David said, an early rule to joining the community was that there are “No A**holes Allowed in Boulder”  – an ethos echoed by each company we visited.  There was a universal feeling of mutual respect amongst all of the founders and teams, with some of the more experienced ones taking it upon themselves to mentor the newcomers.

Of course, we left time in our schedule to explore a few other booming industries in Boulder.  We visited several of the amazing micro-breweries that Colorado has to offer and sampled the beer of many others.  Some of us even found time to hike through the Flatirons or take a jaunt through the Rocky Mountain National Park. All said, this was an amazing trek and we would like to extend our thanks to all of our hosts Foundry Group, TechStars, PivotDesk, JumpCloud, SOVRN, Rachio, Haven, and Sphero for welcoming us with open arms into this special community.


-Burton Woodhull, Trek Organizer (MBA ’17)