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A Statewide Startup Spirit

Entrepreneurial perspective from the Western Slope of Colorado


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I recently attended and participated in Denver Startup Week and and left the event series feeling inspired and impressed by the willpower and brains behind the operations flooding our Colorado capital city.

But I got to thinking and was taken back to a time three years ago when I, alongside my cofounders, started our organization, aiming to replicate much of the work we observed in Boulder, Denver and the rest of the I-25 corridor.

The question we started with was:

Is there any startup activity taking place on the Western Slope and what can we do to create more momentum in rural Colorado?

As a Western Slope native, it was discouraging to see countless friends leave home in search of greater opportunity. I have seen locals and Colorado transplants who desired the attributes of a small town, but end up in a metropolitan area simply because they don't know how to make it work in the places they want to live. There have been countless books, articles and discussions about the metro/rural divide, and I believe that the only way to create thriving communities with diverse culture and work opportunities is to have thriving entrepreneurs who launch companies regardless of their zip codes.

Proximity Space opened its first coworking space in Montrose in July 2015. Since, several more locations have come online throughout the Western Slope, connecting more than 20 privately owned coworking spaces in Colorado alone.

Here's what we've learned:

Even though the majority of growth lives in our major cities, more businesses, such as Mercury Payments (Durango), Voormi (Pagosa Springs), Felt (Telluride), Mountain Racing Products (Grand Junction) and Code Beetle (Frisco) are choosing to live in small Colorado communities and make their professional lives work. Companies like this are what makes Colorado as a whole one of the most entrepreneurial states in the nation. This is possible due to a significant increase in infrastructure, business-building activity and statewide support. More rural communities are increasingly connected to broadband, and opening low-cost coworking environments for entrepreneurs to experience community. For instance, the Telluride Venture Accelerator is providing access to funding for small businesses in southwestern Colorado and thousands of individuals are joining entrepreneurial communities and meet-up groups, such as LAUNCH West CO, Western Slope Developers, ExSW Meetup, Telluride Entrepreneurs Meetup, ELEVATE: Entrepreneurs, Innovators & Badasses in the Rockies Meetup. This bustling growth comes in concert with a number of programs and resources coming to rural Colorado by the state, such as Rural Economic Growth, a $9 million dedicated venture capital fund.

So, if you're cooped up in your office reading this while dreaming about how to ditch the weekend warriror lifestyle and begin taking advantage of the Colorado you were promised, maybe it's time to take a second look at some of the other small, but growing startup communties throughout our state.

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Brian Watson

In 2005, Brian Watson graduated high school early to start his first company with his dad. Since, he's helped start, run and grow several other organizations. Today, Watson does business development for Hoptocopter Films, is an owner of three coworking spaces on the Western Slope and partner of Proximity. In addition to running companies, he is passionate about economic development and understanding the key factors for growing communities.

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