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Diversifying Telluride's economy with more middle class jobs

Serial entrepreneur, Jesse Johnson helps early-stage companies grow with Telluride Venture Accelerator


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Jesse Johnson

Founder and Managing Partner for Telluride Venture Accelerator

Age: 46

Serial entrepreneur Jesse Johnson brought his business know-how to Telluride, where he’s making the mountain town’s economy more sustainable.

Johnson was already well-versed in business by the time he founded Telluride Venture Accelerator. The entrepreneur has invested in several startups and served on boards of multiple companies, including Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment and the Colorado-based Telluride Foundation. After selling his first business, Q Collection, in 2011, Johnson and his wife took a “sabbatical year,” Johnson says, in Telluride — and the duo never left.

“Telluride’s economy was overly dependent on things out of its control,” Johnson says.

What if entrepreneurship could play a role in diversifying the economy by creating more middle class jobs? Johnson firmed up a plan to pool together and organize the town’s resources with the goal of helping early-stage businesses grow. The concept eventually became TVA, a mentorship-based program that has helped build 18 companies.

Maybe it’s too obvious, Johnson says, but the key to success is following your passions.

“Focus on the things that you know and do well,” he adds.

Entrepreneurs will be better off, too, if they take the time to really understand the market.

“In retrospect,” Johnson says,  “I probably jumped into this quicker than I would have – knowing what I know now – without having tested the market.

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Jamie Siebrase

Jamie Siebrase is a freelance writer based in Colorado.

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