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Posted: July 30, 2013

On the road with the Free Enterprise tour

Roaming writers find what they're looking for in Colorado

Gigi Sukin

Two young journalists on a cross-country mission to learn more about the business of business found plenty to like during a recent stop in Colorado.

“We are looking at local businesses and seeing how communities are helping them flourish,” said Huffington Post business reporter Nate Hindman, who is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's On the Road with Free Enterprise tour.

“The conclusions we gathered while in Colorado were largely from our exposure to the tech community in Boulder," he said. "We’ve done a lot of tech events in New York, and one thing that was interesting about the Boulder crowd was its inclusiveness — people of all ages and backgrounds. Collaboration is key.”

From June 4 through Aug. 4, Hindman and Joseph Epstein of Thrillist are traveling from Washington, D.C. to California to check out local events, talk to small businesses and entrepreneurs and share stories of free enterprise. The pair, who happen to be high school pals, won a U.S. Chamber contest to undertake the trip, complete with custom-painted GM wheels and tablets and smartphones for on-the-road reporting.

“In our generation, it’s so easy to get stuck behind computer screens," Hindman said. "We spent the last four years staring at yellow cabs and skyscrapers, and just to be out in the open like this is fantastic.”

The roaming writers visited Boulder’s booming Rally Software July 18 and spoke alongside TechStars founder Brad Feld and Bill Aulet, head of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

“The guys agreed that ideas are worthless,” Epstein said. “This really stuck with us. It’s nice that startups are getting glamorized, but you can’t think that if you just sit in a room long enough with an idea that good things will come. There are definitely specific steps to building a successful startup.”

He said the talk in Boulder was more “academic and research-based” than the "bologna of a lot of other startup talks.”

Hindman and Epstein also touched on the benefit of accelerators and incubators, such as TechStars, to help small businesses set up shop and thrive

“TechStars is a model that I think a lot of other startups have picked up on,” Epstein said, mentioning a Nashville-based incubator. “What can’t be replicated is the community aspect.”

He said much of the Boulder audience stuck around post- presentation to introduce themselves, exchange business cards, ask questions and share ideas. 

“It feels like an amazing community,” Epstein said. “Collaboration is key when navigating entrepreneurial activities.”

He and Hindman also visited Root Down, Justin Cucci’s hip restaurant in Denver's Highland neighborhood, and enthusiastically spoke of their first run-in with Rocky Mountain Oysters at Bruce’s Bar in Severance.

“Our goal is to get as much exposure for the businesses as we go along as possible,” Epstein said. “We want to highlight what’s working in the country.”

The pair's blog posts and articles from business visits and city-stays are available on the U.S. Chamber’s tour website. The content has also been syndicated for publications with high-traffic sites such as Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. Magazine.

“That gives us access to different types of audiences,” Epstein said. “We want to provide a perspective that no one else has on startups – right up close.”

Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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Readers Respond

Gigi, Great article. While most glamorize the hippest part of a "Startup Community," don't forget that most startup businesses don't connect with this part of the local community. In fact, I'd venture to say that since startups come in many forms, these "roaming writers" will only touch a small percentage of a startup community. Read the book "Mystery of Capital" by De Soto and you'll find that even poor people in third world countries fit the "startup" model somewhat, but are not followed by those "in the know" or by any popular startup guru or governmental agency. They're more than likely "under the radar" of most until they catch on and show up out of nowhere. Keep the articles coming, startups are the backbone of this nation. By Kevin Cullis on 2013 08 03
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