DENVER – Colorado is home to an ever-growing community of startups and entrepreneurs and a newly-launched business accelerator wants to bolster the Centennial State’s reputation as one of the best places in the country to start a business.
TiE Rockies, the local chapter of international entrepreneur organization TiE Global, just graduated its first cohort of startups earlier this month as part of its new Propel program.
TiE has offered a business accelerator in the past, but Executive Director Rachel Isaman says Propel aims to solve some of the issues the previous program had, such as a low success rate for funding.
“The meat and potatoes weren’t really there,” Isaman said, so Propel takes a different approach, aiming for its companies to come out of the program “investor ready.”
“We really want to be a leader in making Colorado a top hub for entrepreneurship,” Isaman said.
Over the course of seven weeks, entrepreneurs in the Propel program hone their business pitches and work with mentors to identify problems and their solutions. Propel aims to pair entrepreneurs with experts within their given field so they’re working with someone who is familiar with the particular challenges of a given industry.
The program ends with a pitch competition, in which each company presents its business to a panel of investors. The winner of the first pitch competition was PuppTech, a local company that is working on a device to help pet owners monitor their dog when the animal is left in the car. PuppTech’s prize for winning is having its Propel tuition reimbursed.
Denver-based Evoke Medical also was among the companies selected for the first cohort in the Propel program.
Evoke Medical is working on a new kind of medical device that will help speed up bone healing after spinal surgery. Founder Leighton LaPierre said the advice and guidance he received from professionals within the medical field gave his young business the boost it needed to line up more funding.
“The biggest thing as an entrepreneur is trying to raise money and get exposure,” LaPierre said. “[Propel] really helped all the pieces kind of come together to really refine the messaging and refine our content.”
All of the mentors and advisers within the Propel program are volunteers who devote hours of their own time to helping fledgling businesses get off the ground.
“The TiE network had some incredible volunteers willing to give a lot of their time for nothing,” LaPierre said.
While there are many other business incubators and accelerators in the area that offer similar programs, Propel has the advantage of TiE’s international reach, Isaman said.
“You don’t only have access to local investors and investor opportunities but also our TiE global network of investors and strategic partners,” she said.
Propel also works with many of the other accelerators in the area rather than treat them as competition. A company that isn’t developed enough for one accelerator may be a perfect fit for Propel, and vice versa.
Propel will be launching its next cohort in August. The program accepts businesses from all over the country, but Isaman said it’s important that entrepreneurs know what they’re getting into and come into the program with an open mind.
“If you want to go through a program like this, you’re going to have to take a lot of advice and criticism,” she said.