Boulder Startup Week 2011

So on the recommendation of my friend @sethhwilson in the hour before the deadline I half-assed an email to @ryanwanger of Boulder Startup Week for their "We'll fly you to Boulder free" offer.  They were going to hand pick a handful of people and bring them in for the event.  I honestly kind of forgot about it, and I really only did it as one of those "take advantage of opportunity because you never know" kind of things that I'm trying to be proactive about.  Logic says nothing will come of it due to too many other people being involved, but lo and behold I got a call a few days later asking if I'd like a free flight to Boulder, Colorado for Boulder Startup Week. I had already planned a trip to San Francisco in a few weeks, and work was piling up, so logically I should had said that too many things coming up in order for me to go.  But much like the reason I sent the email in the first place I went ahead and took advantage of the opportunity and said "Really?  me?  Well, ok.  I'm in."  The trip was booked and they found someone for me to stay with while I was there.

I didn't know what to expect, as I didn't know anyone who lived there, and I had no idea what was going on there.  I knew it as the home of TechStars, and that's really about it.  So with no expectations I figured I had very little chance of disappointment.  Little did I know there was no way for me to be disappointed by Boulder and its people.

The events for the week were loosely organized.  There was a central schedule, but anyone could organize an event and have it be added.  Some were very tech focused like "The Mobile Web and Why it Sucks".  Others had nothing to do with tech like the "Pizzeria tour and Tasting".  And then there was the immensely fun, 1300 people packed house edition of "Ignite Boulder".  I've heard of Ignite events in cities, but it was my first chance attending one.  It was so much fun.  The whole city was excited for it, and I came out understanding what the fuss was about.

But to be honest the events had little to do with my Boulder adventure.  It was the people and the culture that made it special.

Everyone was happy to meet me.  I think there was a certain novelty when they found out I was one of the few chosen for the "free flight" deal.  But the people were extremely welcoming to me from the second I set foot on Boulder soil.

The first thing of notice, when I met new people they all asked the same thing: "Are you moving here?"  I found that very odd.  Why would they think because I'm visiting they expect that I'm moving there?  I'd simply respond to the question, with a "no... I'm just visiting, I have no intention to move anywhere."

People were genuinely excited when I told them about Hollrback and the other work that I do.  They wanted to know more.  They wanted to be involved.  They made me feel special.

Speaking of Hollrback: Boulder likes Hollrback.  They've actually heard of it before.  Can you imagine the smile on my face when I walk into the TechStars bunker and someone from the TechStars class said "oh yeah, I know you guys."  Something about Boulder made me feel like a founder of a "real" startup, not someone pretending to be someone he once read about in TechCrunch.

At this point I'm not going to go into detail about everyone I met, or everything I did.  That would make this post kind of lame.  However, some things:

  • I was in the Denver airport when Britney Riley texted me with "Brad McCarty just told the pitch session attendees that Hollrback is one of his new favorite products."  Holy shit.  He told that group... a group of people who are doing awesome things, that he respects Hollrback?  Wow.  He also mentioned Hollrback in a couple tweets over the startup week.  Seriously, the US editor of The Next Web telling people that he influences that Hollrback is rad.  Mind.Blown.  Also, this tweet.
  • Andrew Hyde seeing my tweets online and replying to me because he knew I was in Boulder.  I also got to have lunch with him and hang out quite a few times chatting.
  • People like Chris Vieville, Marissa Berlin, Cali Harris, Ryan Angilly and so many others would see me at events and make sure to say hi to me.
  • Having Dave Taylor sit next to me at Atlas Purveyors and then realize after "Hey, that was the guy!"
  • I got quoted in Huffington Post after I spoke to a journalist at the Startup Week opening party.

Anyway, that's enough of that.  I could spend all day talking about the culture, the environment and opportunities for startups such as mine and the atmosphere that the people create.  I could compare and contrast to Omaha, but instead I'll thank those who made the week possible:  Elaine Ellis, Andrew Hyde, Ef Rodriguez, and Ryan Wanger who coordinated us out-of-towners.

Oh, and after a while when asked "Are you moving here?" I started to say "Maybe".  And I meant it.

Here's a video I threw together of some things I captured while at the event.  I put no time into it, and it's not very exciting.  I didn't grab as much content digitally as I should have.  It features some clips/photos  from Ignite Boulder, Boulder Open Coffee Club, and some of the other events.  Here you go!

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I have more stuff you can read if you like. You might like these:

Gabe Kangas

May 23, 2011