Why Colorado is a Great Place for International Entrepreneurs
Recognizing the value of diversity – Perspective from a non-native founder
It’s no secret that many of the tech giants in the United States were founded by immigrants. From Google to Yahoo, foreign-born entrepreneurs have launched some of the most successful tech companies in the U.S.
But, for many aspiring international entrepreneurs and students from foreign countries, the outlook for launching a business in the U.S. can be both exhilarating and frightening. The already difficult task of starting a business in the U.S. can be further compounded by language barriers and visa concerns, complicating the prospect even further.
Here in Colorado, steps are being taken to help international entrepreneurs navigate these issues and maximize their opportunities, further encouraging global entrepreneurship. As a result, the state is becoming a wonderful place for non-native entrepreneurs to launch and operate successful startups.
SUPPORTIVE ECOSYSTEM FOR INNOVATION
Currently, Colorado ranks in the top five U.S. states for entrepreneurship and innovation, and hosts the largest startup week in North America. This encouraging environment has opened doors for a substantive tech community to develop, encouraging technological innovation and fostering a unique culture across the state.
One piece of that supportive ecosystem is the vast amount of tech talent nurtured within the state’s strong university system. In addition to telecommunications and computer science programs and startup incubator capabilities, local universities are integrating programs, including the Global Entrepreneurs In Residence (GEIR) program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to bring the unique perspective of international entrepreneurs to campus and encourage participation in our state’s vibrant startup community.
The program’s goal is to bring international business expertise to CU's campus and to connect international students to Colorado's active business community. Business builders in the program will be free to work on existing entrepreneurial ventures or launch a new company.
Unlike other — bigger — tech hubs, like Silicon Valley and New York City, the Colorado tech community is tight-knit. The closeness makes participants easily accessible, enabling networking opportunities and connections that can lead to mentorship and direction. In addition to local support, entrepreneurs have access to a rich community of accelerators, incubators, state programs and coworking spaces to boost businesses in their early stages. This access and the ability to easily develop supportive relationships is crucial for international entrepreneurs trying to get a leg up.
And it’s not just access to a supportive entrepreneurial community that makes Colorado special.
Access to funding is important as well, and until recently, Colorado was not seen as a major player in the venture capital (VC) community. However, 2017 witnessed the highest Colorado VC investment in 16 years as more than $1 billion were invested in various Colorado startups.
PROMOTION OF DIVERSITY
Colorado recognizes the value in diversity and a diverse economy. Today, industries represented here include travel and leisure, telecommunications, food and beverage, mining, healthcare, technology and much more.
Colorado values its immigrant population and recognizes the social and economic advantages of a diverse community. The state has several programs in place to help foreign-born entrepreneurs and their families adjust to their new home and integrate successfully. From the Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Families Initiative (SIRFI) to Welcoming Colorado, a branch of Welcoming America, the state offers its immigrant entrepreneurs a wealth of support.
These programs exhibit the value of cultural diversity and recognizes that differing points of view can contribute to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the state. By leading the way in its promotion of diversity, Colorado encourages international entrepreneurs to take part in our state’s lively startup community.
Another reason why Colorado stands out for international entrepreneurs is its natural environment. When asked why they moved here, many will offer an answer related to hiking, skiing, snowboarding, the mountains, 300 days of sunshine or all of the above.
Whatever the reason, it’s often related to getting more fun and fulfillment out of life.
International entrepreneurs are influenced by Colorado’s stunning natural beauty and the myriad outdoor activities housed inside our state’s borders. For example, in Boulder, it would not be surprising to see a startup super star and a venture capitalist on a hike together.
For most international entrepreneurs, the pursuit of a healthy work-life balance appears as an impossible goal. Torn between juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships and squeezing outside interests in — all in addition to coping with an entirely new environment, foods and language without friends and family — it's no surprise that international entrepreneurs can find balance between their career and lifestyle in Colorado.
In the end, Colorado delivers an exceptional environment that benefits entrepreneurs from around the globe and encourages business building – big and small. International entrepreneurs comprise an integral part of Colorado’s culture and play a vital role in the state’s continued economic success. Known for its distinct but welcoming culture, supportive startup ecosystem, expanding economy, natural beauty and openness to new ideas, Colorado represents a wealth of opportunities for ambitious individuals from around the world.
Lang Mei is the CEO of Informu. moved from China to Colorado in 2013. By the age of 20, he had founded three profitable startups. Lang's newest and most forward-thinking venture, Informu, recently launched the Mu tag, a personal loss prevention device that utilizes Bluetooth beacon smart notifications and is smaller than a postage stamp.