NewWest brings a much needed professional networking venue to Colorado

I attended the NewWest launch party Thursday night at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and was thrilled to finally be at a good, popular professional event that had lots of interesting and well-connected people present.
Local business folk who appeared include Brad Feld of Mobius Venture Capital (he’s a blogger too), Thomas Frey and Kevin Johansen from the da Vinci Institute, Greg Berry from Think Tank West, Usher Leiberman of The Usher Group, Dan Murray of Ravenwood Marketing, Liz Ryan of WorldWIT, Derek Scruggs of Escalan and many more. I’d guess there were over 100 people in attendance overall. Plus food, drinks, live music, and a great venue.


Earlier in the week I attended an organizational meeting of the da Vinci Startup Catapult, a new spin-off group from The da Vinci Institute and was very impressed by the calibre of people in attendance there too. Some of the brightest and most successful entrepreneurs in Colorado, all working together to help Front Range businesses start up efficiently and with minimal hiccups. Brilliant.
The two meetings with such interesting and valuable folk really reinforced how much I miss from my years in the middle of the entrepreneurial whirlwind in Silicon Valley. When I lived in the Valley, not a week would go by without some sort of excellent networking event, whether it was sponsored by a VC firm, an angel network, a startup, a school or an informal networking group. It was an astonishing time and, ultimately, the best part of the entire dotcom experience.
Three years in Colorado and I have not — until this week — seen even a glimmer of this same excitement, the opportunity to socialize and share ideas (and, often, grow partnerships or consulting relationships) with smart, engaged, people.
I’m a member of the Colorado Internet Kieretsu, CTEK, the Rocky Mountain Internet User’s Group and just about every other group I can find, but none of them attract the group I’m interested in connecting with, the “movers and shakers” of the next wave of successful businesses.
I’ve even tried social networking events, but, frankly, the bottom of the barrel as far as I’m concerned is Ryze and its sporadic Denver Meet and Greet events. The one I went to was loud and I received more MLM and pyramid pitches there than in a week of my spam.
Maybe it’s something about the rarified air up here or something. Even the photography group I joined has basically run out of steam after only five meetings. From a group that started with 10-15 interested members, we now have 2-3 show up at meetings. If we’re lucky.
What’s so frustrating is that there’s no question that we need a great entrepreneurial networking group here in the Denver/Boulder area. I’ve talked about this with a number of other frustrated entrepreneurs and business professionals, so I know I’m not alone in bemoaning this overt void in the Front Range business culture.
That’s why I am so delighted that NewWest has come on the scene, with its New Mexico to Montana beat, and that it’s already assigned Richard Martin as the Boulder editor. Local coverage and local energy should equate to more local events and a more vibrant local business community. The other NewWest folk I met at the evening event were equally great additions to the Front Range business community, notably Jonathan Weber (formerly with the ill-fated “Industry Standard” for those dotcom boomers out there) and Greg Cohn, with whom I spent much of Friday afternoon talking.
Let me end this posting on an up beat: There’s a lot of really positive energy and some very good trends appearing here in Colorado, and I’m delighted to be involved. I see lots of synergies just beginning to take shape — finally! — and this area is becoming an even better place to bring your online, your digital, your entrepreneurial idea and create a great company alongside many other great startups.
Welcome to the Colorado business scene, NewWest. We’re delighted you’re here!

13 comments on “NewWest brings a much needed professional networking venue to Colorado

  1. Welcome to Colorado… where its more than just the air that’s rarified. It’s not so much that things are rarified, but they’re stratified and segmented, so getting a critical mass for anothing “big” is rather problematic. It’s also important to note that Colorado is a “lifestyle” place, not a place where you only go to do business.
    Unlike Silicon Valley or metro areas on the east coast, Colorado is less like one big bee hive of activity, and more like a lot of smaller niche bee hives, each doing their own thing.
    Networking out here is less like a mega-group “sport” (or “rave” as the youngsters might call it) and far more personal and based on acquaintance.
    I’m involved with one entrepreneurial group of about two dozen that gets together once a year for a fairly intense weekend of technology-oriented entrepreneurial interactions, but whenever I bring up the idea of maybe having a monthly networking dinner, all I get is polite silence.
    I think a lot of people, especially those with entrepreneurial interests, are simply too busy, too over-commited, too overwhelmed to take on yet another responsibility, even if it might have led to greater business opportunities. Then there are all those lifestyle issues that also act as disincentives to making further commitments of our time.
    Another interesting twist is that the internet itself has virtually eliminated large swaths of need for traditional group networking. Need some answers or contacts… just go to Google and you’re only a few clicks away from your answer. And who needs a formal, flesh and blood networking group when you can get virtually any problem solved with a quick visit to the “Ask Dave Taylor!” blog. Yes, it’s true that face-to-face networking has definite benefits, but there are so many disincentives to doing it on a frequent basis.
    Group networking in Colorado seems more like gold mining or drilling for oil… lots of effort with very little durable success.
    Paradoxicall, when people do hit a big success, they’re likely to spend 110% of their time addressing social concerns and not really be that interested in mere networking for business.
    One big problem is that despite the “strong economy”, there are still vast pockets of weakness even as there are some brights spots as well, especially in the technology sector, and lots of businesses are being extremely parsimonious with their technology spending. Look what happened with CU and the vast amounts of money they were supposed to get from BEA’s Bill Coleman.
    I do agree 100% with your sentiments, but maybe people like us are too small a minority to serve as a critical mass for valley-style “Big Networking”.
    On the other hand, maybe we just haven’t stumbled on the magic formula for this region, yet.
    — Jack Krupansky

  2. Dave,
    Well put. And I’m glad to hear your positive review of the DI catapult.
    I’ve been hungry from some forward-thinking discussions since the mid 90’s. And from time to time, found them — or more accurately created them — in small non-formal groups. You’ll remember the group we had together with Bill French, Les Squires, Art Brock, Ed Freeman (now CTO at Denver Public Schools, dontchaknow) et al. We were getting to the bottom of good ideas in that group.
    And as a two-term board member at CIK, I can report that the energy to sustain activity just hasn’t surfaced.
    For a couple years, I’ve been in running discussions with Kevin Johansen about the need for a roll-up of front range progressive business and technology networking groups. Individually, none are very strong. Together???
    The most enervating part of the dilemma is that there are AMAZING people here — many doing incredible work. But it’s like a bizarro Silicon Valley; everyone works in their own tiny world, with customers on the coasts and beyond, and barely engages in any local networking or professional development.
    It is interesting to see that Les’ photo sessions at CIK were well attended (is that the one of which you speak — maybe i was misinformed). I wonder if there’s a lesson in that, that we’ve got a subculture of people who want to get outside and DO stuff. If we take that lesson, and tie it into Jack’s comments about the active lifestyle time drain (to which i can certainly attest), maybe the answer is to set up networking hikes, ski days, bike rides and the like. I remember a good turnout at the CIK ski days of old.
    So, I remain ever hopeful that New West will bring some good energy to the space. I appreciate that their issues span the range of business and lifestyle concerns. Part of the problem with the CIKs and CTEKs is that they’re too narrow — not enough diversity of interest and opinion. Maybe with New West attracting those from different industries will stir the right ingredients together. I’ll be the one at the front of the pack waving a banner, that is, if it’s not a powder day.

  3. In my 5 years in Silicon Valley I never attended a “real” networking event, yet I wound up becoming very well connected as friends and coworkers moved around. I still maintain some of those relationships, and it’s amazing that even in the bust years I still knew people at very cool companies developing great products.
    I’ve been in Colorado now for a little over 5 years, and it’s definitely a different world. Jack makes a good point about industry being stratified. As an engineer, I see many (most?) engineers working in the storage industry and, if they move jobs, they just hop between storage companies. For example: I was at a standards group meeting with engineers from several companies. The organizer said, “okay, let’s go around the room, and everyone tell us your name, who you work for, and the last time you worked at Breece Hill.”
    Perhaps it’s different with the business guys, but Colorado is a pretty boring place for us geeks. I’m encouraged by Dave’s enthusiasm that this is changing, because sometimes I *almost* consider going back to Silicon Valley.
    Best regards,
    Josh

  4. Dave wrote — “Three years in Colorado and I have not — until this week — seen even a glimmer of this same excitement, the opportunity to socialize and share ideas (and, often, grow partnerships or consulting relationships) with smart, engaged, people.”
    ———
    Well, guys, actually there *is* a fabulous networking group of entrepreneurs here in Boulder.
    It’s called Boulder Media Women, and it’s been going strong for 15 years, with weekly coffees, monthly dinners, and more than 350 “smart, engaged” members. It’s for women who work in all kinds of media, digital included. We give each other support, encouragement, advice, and referrals.
    At least two BMW members, both of whom work in online media, were at the NewWest party.
    Maybe this lack of networking opportunities you see is just a “guy thing.”
    Cheers,
    Catherine Dold
    http://www.catherinedold.com

  5. Thanks for your posting, Catherine, but I find it curiously ironic since my pal Amy Gahran — http://blog.contentious.com/ — and I have been talking for weeks about gender discrimination in the entrepreneurial world. Isn’t BMW just another facet of this same discrimination?
    I’m glad that Boulder Media Women is a success, but it certainly doesn’t address the lack of a professional networking group that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, race, income level or gender.

  6. Actually, as an active member of Boulder Media Women, and as a female professional, I appreciate women-only groups. I think we need our own space, in addition to not being excluded from other networking opportunities.
    Women have been marginalized and alienated in so many professional groups and gatherings. Also, more aggressive/masculine styles of communicating and interacting often are the norm in professional groups and gatherings. Therefore, I welcome the chance for women to be themselves and network in their preferred style without hindrance or judgement.
    That said, if you really want to attend BMW activities, or even try to join the group, I personally wouldn’t have a problem with that, Dave. Just recognize that the culture of that group is different from more conventional professional networks.
    And while we’re on the topic — if you think BMW is discriminatory, what about Liz Ryan’s efforts?
    – Amy Gahran

  7. Dave, you do have a point. And for about 3 years some friends and I organized an “offshoot” of BMW — a monthly networking party for both men and women, to address just that issue. It was mostly women who showed up.
    I agree with Amy — women have been marginalized for so long in networking circles, that we really do need our own opportunities. And the dynamic is often very different in women-only groups. Much less competitive, much more cooperative.
    Not to criticize, but just as an example, I couldn’t help but notice that you mentioned only one woman who attended the NewWest event. Yet there were lots of women there, many of whom I’m sure are doing interesting things. Same thing with NewWest’s own list of favorite bloggers — nearly all men. I don’t think that any of you *intend* to discriminate — you just see the world in a different way.
    Cheers,
    Catherine Dold
    http://www.catherinedold.com

  8. I don’t see much value to getting into a nitpick session: I went through the stack of business cards I collected at the NewWest event and selected those folk that seemed most plugged in. Nothing mysterious about it.
    But, still, while I agree that the Boulder Marketing Women group sounds terrific, I’d still like to see a gender neutral or gender equal organization. When I think about networking with others, I’m interested in what skills and ideas people bring to the proverbial table, not what gender they are, their personalities, race, or even socio-economic status. For our region to have a successful entrepreneurial environment and thriving startup economy — which I believe we have the potential to realize — it’s critical that we create some exciting networking groups where *anyone* can attend and find value from the assembled members.

  9. Hey Dave,
    Not nitpicking at all. I was just pointing out what jumped out at me from your story and what perhaps is a good example of what many men see at a networking event: a room filled with other men, not women.
    Is it possible that at the event you talked to more men and collected more business cards from men to begin with, and so when writing your story had few of the women’s names to mention? I’m not implying that you discriminated intentionally — just that perhaps your instinct is to talk with men. Or maybe not. Something to think about, anyway.
    Apart from whatever your intentions were or were not, it all points to why women often need their own events.
    However, that said, I too would love to see some gender-neutral networking events. If you hear of or any, or put something together, I’d be happy to invite the Boulder Media Women list, as well as some other media lists I manage.
    Catherine Dold
    http://www.catherinedold.com

  10. You’re not nitpicking, but you *are* projecting, Catherine, when you tell me what my motivations, biases and instincts are.
    I think we’ve done a great job of addressing this particular topic, however, and I’d rather see the discussion focus more to what we’d need to do to create a new group that met our collective needs and interests.

  11. Dave, I think you’re reading way too much into what I said. I was only raising possible scenarios, as food for thought. Sorry if it came across another way.
    I would never presume to tell you what your motivations, biases, and instincts are.
    Moving on, what kind of a new group did you have in mind?

  12. Hi guys! While I do so enjoy this “firendly” bantering, can we please focus on the SOLUTION and not the “p” WORD?? Thank you. Now, I am extremely open to stop talking about it and DO something! TAKE ACTION! When do we start and what do we want this group to be called?
    I am a Chiropractic Assitant for a local chiro in Boulder, yes, not so high powered and “important”, but I do work extremely hard for my boss and want him to succeed to his Fullest potential. I came from Los Angeles and also lived in the Bay Area for a year, and coming out to Boulder, I see a lot of struggle and laziness. Please do not take offense!! There is a lot to get caught up in here–the beautiful scenery, hiking trails, spiritual community, skiing, etc..however I see so many businesses settling for less than their personal best.
    I for one know that my boss and I would be open to holding monthly meetings in our new, beautiful office on 30th with wide view of Flatirons. There is enough room for 20 ppl at least and is a good start. Each month we could focus on a new theme. As T. Harv Eker says, it is important to JUST START. Get press releases out, alert the media and all our collective contacts. Maybe I’m missing the mark here, and if so, I apologize for wasting everyone’s time. If you are interested in GETTING STARTED, Please shoot me an e-mail. Best of luck to everyone and keep shining the light!! ~Kimberly

  13. Hiya Dave! When this conversation (above) happened a couple of years ago (and when my name got dragged into it!) it did make me say, Hmm, it’s true, Boulder needs something different than what’s it got now, networking-wise. You and I talked about it at the time – I wrote a blog post on New West called “networking lite in Colorado” where we all bemoaned the networking dearth around here. So anyway, all this time later, I’m doing a new thing called Ask! in Boulder, and our first event is next week, Wed Aug 15 at the Sunflower Restaurant at 5:30, and it’s sort of the Big Tent Networking thing I’ve been waiting for – men and women, entrepreneurs and corporate types, artists and writers, techies and musicians, etc. Should be fun. Also, free. I hope you can make it and maybe something good will start! cheers – Liz

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