No Slinky Companies

I attended the 2007 iteration of the Esprit Entrepreneur Awards last night here in Boulder, Colorado. The Awards are held each year as the culmination of a nearly week long series of events honoring the local entrepreneurial community in Boulder. Organized by the Boulder Chamber of Commerce and run largely by volunteers from the entrepreneurial community, the Esprit events have really grown organically over the years to reflect and embody the community they seek to honor.

Among the notable winners, local VC, angel investor, entrepreneur and blogger Brad Feld was honored with the Rob Planchard Award. Named in honor of the late Rob Planchard, the award goes each year to an individual who has brought exceptional energy and support to the entrepreneurial community. As Brad noted in accepting the award, when he moved here in 1995 he knew only one person (who moved away 3 months later) and had few expectations of doing any meaningful business in Boulder. What Brad and others (including yours truly) have found is that Boulder is home to an outstanding entrepreneurial community and is a truly inspiring place to live. The rest as they say is history and Brad’s track record with Intensity Ventures, Softbank, Mobius, the Foundry Group, TechStars and other endeavors speaks for itself.

Capping off the night, Bill Perry of Softbridge Advisors won the Lifetime Achievement Award. I do not know Bill very well (yet), but really appreciate and admire the work he has put in helping Boulder become the hub for technology entrepreneurism that it is today. As Bill noted in his acceptance speech, it wasn’t always this way and there have certainly been low points. In Bill’s words, times when there were far too many “Slinky Companies” — those that “aren’t very useful but are fun to watch as they tumble down the stairs.” A line to remember — in large part because of its truth.

It really is true that behind any successful entrepreneur is a strong community — and Boulder is no exception. As this year’s master of ceremonies Mark Weakley noted during the event, while this year’s award winners are all in the audience tonight, what we should all remember is that next year’s award winners (and the winners for the year after that) are also all in the audience — we just don’t know who they are yet. Kudos to Brad, Bill and the other winners, and thanks to all those who have helped build our entrepreneurial community here in Boulder.


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