Found In The Rockies

Kate & Chris (Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association) \\ Creating Community Through Fun Networking Events

February 23, 2022 Season 2 Episode 13
Found In The Rockies
Kate & Chris (Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association) \\ Creating Community Through Fun Networking Events
Show Notes Transcript

In today’s episode, I talk with Kate Beardsley and Chris Calder from the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association, an organization who represents entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and the service providers who support them in the Rocky Mountain region. We talk about what exactly the RMVCA is, how it got started, and what the association's goals are.  They talk about the benefits of the membership. We discuss the linking tissue that connects entrepreneurs to investment. We talk about their various fun events like the Ski-Doggle, the Food for Thought Series, and the Adventure-Doggle. We talk about the major themes, strengths and challenges. They share their predictions about the future of the region and the RMVCA.

Here’s a closer look at the episode:

  • What is RMVCA and what they do
  • History of the org and how it started 
  • Benefits of the membership 
  • The tissue that connects entrepreneurs to investment
  • The Ski-Doggle
  • The virtual member happy hour 
  • The food for thought series 
  • How can an entrepreneur get involved 
  • What are the states that we want see more membership 
  • Major themes, strength and challenges 
  • What’s next in the Rocky Mountain Region



Kate’s LinkedIn:

Chris’s Linkedin:

Chris 00:00

One of the things I think, sometimes new entrepreneurs do, and maybe learn over time to do less, is treat relationships with investors and service providers as transactional. And I think the RMVCA is just if you're a founder, it's a great way to build relationships with folks that, it might not invest in your seed round, or your next read, or maybe ever. But having that relationship means they'll be a sounding board. They'll be an ally, they'll be a friend, they'll be a connection to others.

Les 00:35

This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem, and the Rocky Mountain region, the founders, funders and contributors and the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. Our guests today are Kate Beardsley and Chris Calder from the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association, or RMVCA, for short. An organization who represents entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and the service providers who support them in the Rocky Mountain region. In this episode, we will talk to Kate and Chris about what exactly the RMVCA is, how it got started, and what the association's goals are. They will let us know how they became part of our RMVCA, why they think membership is important, and the fun events that members take part in throughout the year. Hello, Kate and Chris, thanks so much for joining us today.

Chris 01:30

Hi, Les.

Kate 01:30

Thank you for having us. Hi.

Les 01:33

To start off, Kate, why don't you share with our listeners a little bit about your background, your personal and professional kind of life story? And then mention, of course, how you became affiliated with the RMVCA. And then Chris, after Kate, why don't you do the same?

Kate 01:47

Sure. Well, thanks for having us. This is so fun to connect this way and talk about our organization. I am a partner at Hannah Grey, founding partner, we are a new pre-seed/seed fund investing across the country in any type of human being. We're focused on customer-centric founders reimagining everyday experiences. And, you know, we're headquartered in New York and Denver. So obviously, me representing in Denver as the part of the Rocky Mountain region, but we we as a firm invest across the country, as I said, and so I would say, I've been in venture for 15 years, this is the fifth fund that I've been a part of and manage. And I moved from New York City where I met my co-founder, partner, Jessica. So the perspective I have is coming from, I'm not a native to Colorado, my husband is and so that's kind of my touchstone, but I think coming in as an outsider to the rocky region has been really interesting. And I think, you know, I moved in 2015. There's a huge, obviously population swell, post COVID, that I think we can all talk about, and part of why we'd love to bring more people into our organization, because there are more venture capitalists and investors in the community now more than ever, and, you know, that's my perspective is I really just, you know, got roped in through friendlies that were in the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association said, you should come join us. You know, I didn't even know what it was obviously, it's just so great to be a part of a group that is doing the same, you know, profession. I think we've all looked to that in terms of just understanding our peers’ strategy. So it's a really good network to be a part of. Yeah, I'll hand it over to Chris.

Chris 03:19

Thanks, Kate. Yeah, Chris Calder, with Rose Park Advisors, which is a kind of stage agnostic, vertical agnostic investment firm based in Boston, but co-founded by Clayton Christensen. And we invest in companies that we think are harnessing the benefits of disruptive innovation. I'm based in Salt Lake City for now, unfortunately, fortunately, or unfortunately, I guess, depending on who's asking, we'll be moving to Boston pretty soon. But enjoying the last of my time in the Rockies actually grew up in Colorado, spent a lot of time in Montana, ended up in Utah for college, joined a start up in undergrad here at BYU. And then after a couple of years joined the venture firm that had backed us in Salt Lake and within a couple of years, got the chance to join the RMVCA and take over one of the board seats from one of the partners there and have had a great experience using it as a way to meet other investors, meet founders, meet the folks supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And the rest is history.

Les 04:16

So it occurred to me already in these intros, you know, I've got two amazing VCs in this region that have been moving the needles for founders for years now. We should probably have you both back separately on another episode to talk about that. 

Kate 04:30


Les 04:32

But today, we're focusing on the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association. So, it's a lot to get out. Alright, we'll just call it our RMVCA for short. But Kate, can you tell us a little bit about the history of the organization and how it was how it started?

Kate 04:46

Yeah, you know, this is really, you know, I wasn't a founding member. So I'm, I'm, I would say reporting this through the history that's been told to me, but you know, like any kind of organizations, I think the the venture capitals in the community just looked around along with the service providers along with the companies and said, you know, we're all kind of participating in the same ecosystem, let's make sure that we get together on a regular basis and see each other and collaborate. You know, our funds are different structures, our service providers provide different tools and assets. And clearly founders are building different types of companies. But we all share the same, you know, love for the Rocky Mountains. And we're all here. And you know, at the time of formation, right, Silicon Valley was certainly the dominant player of ecosystem for our industry. So few and far between were venture capitalists across these states. And so working with the National Venture Capital Association, we are the arm of that in the Rockies, and said, look, let's aggregate, you know, our, our tools and best practices across communities, because at the time, there were so few firms, that it made sense to group the organization across Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. Just to be, you know, I would say scale with everyone's efforts in the same direction. And so part of the strategy to at the origination was, and this is pre-COVID, make sure that we do a bit of a roadshow across those states, you know, let's, let's host an event in Wyoming or Montana and see if we can draw our venture capitalists across these regions that care about innovation in these regions. And, you know, see what they're up to in those areas, network with the groups that are there. So that's really the impetus for the strategy as an organization to move capital and move connections across the region, you know, so it's very informal, in that it's largely based around events that are just networking purposes, is also so nice that it's taken down. It's not a pitch event. You know, that's usually not what we run here. It's just more along the lines of we have food for thought luncheons, you know, where we have a great entrepreneur who comes and talks about their journey. We have service providers who might talk about an expertise that they understand. But we're all kind of coming together around the same purposes to understand and grow and learn and build our network in person. Again, this is, a lot of this was designed for in person, so we had to do a bit of a rejigger, like everyone did in COVID. But I think that's only made it easier to network across state lines. But yeah, that’s what we do.

Les 07:10

Awesome. Yeah. Speaking of the the state lines thing, and just this the the pre-COVID. roadshow, I remember that was my first exposure was in 2015, the year I moved to Montana. And I remember hearing about the RMVCA doing this event. I was like there's there's venture capital in Montana. And at the time, there actually was none. Of course, now I work for one of two firms. There's two VC firms in the state. But so that was my exposure. And it was a very positive one. Chris, what was your, what was your first exposure to RMVCA?

Chris 07:39

You know, that's a great question. I think it was one of those things were when you get started in venture, when you're kind of earlier in your career, you're you're just really trying to build a network. And and I think I was probably at the time just asking the folks at my firm, like, how could I, how could I like build relationships with the other investors, with the other people that are supporting startups locally, and just was fortunate to just get plugged in directly. You know, I think there's just there are a lot of there are a lot of events that you can go to that are like in a conference format, or, you know, like Open House format. And they don't they don't necessarily foster, like one on one relationships the way at least for me, the RMVCA has. So it was it's been a huge kind of accelerant to my career.

Les 08:25

Awesome. And who, who can be a member? I mean, is there is there like a hard line between like, what constitutes, you know, the ability to be a member or versus not? Or? 

Kate 08:37

Yeah, so on our website, there's membership criteria that you can look for. But right now, members include venture capitalists, private equity firms, and so I'd say we have a wide aperture in terms of the definition, largely also, because again, we're talking about states that had smaller access to firms. Private investors, and Angel organizations, to service professionals, as we talked about, and I would say associate members. So this is like, corporations or government departments, I think the overarching theme is, if you're interested in participating in the startup community, you know, from any angle is welcome. We just looked at it to that we may host some events where it's primarily for VCs to meet VCs, or we're very excited to hear what service providers are, you know, seeing so I think it's it's really stems around that. But I think the way that capital structure now is is very differentiated across the country. And so we're trying to be as welcoming as possible.

Les 09:33

Great. And Chris, you mentioned you know, some of the benefits, the biggest benefit being this like, need especially early on in your career to be networking and having those one on one connections. What are, what are some of the other some of the other benefits to membership? Like why, why should these these types of entities that Kate just described? Do it? Why should they do it?

Chris 09:54

Well, certainly I'd be remiss not to highlight the Ski Doggle and Adventure Doggle events we do, which are just like, just fun. Look, I think this startup ecosystem has this really great way of like, self selecting people into it that are smart, ambitious, personable, you know, high integrity, and like, they're just going to Ski Doggle. Like, you're surrounded by a bunch of really smart people that are doing interesting things like I just find that fun, I think most people do. But beyond kind of, you know, the softer benefits, I think for for VCs, it's a great source of like investment opportunities. For service providers, I think it's probably the easiest way to kind of build your business and build your relationships with venture capitalists and startup founders. And for founders, you know, these events are, I would say, probably unique in creating an environment where you can meet investors on your own terms, and not be pitching and not be like trying to create something transactional, but kind of saying, like, build your network in a different way. But I think that like takes a different facet for kind of where you sit in the ecosystem.

Les 11:00

I'm glad you said that, because it's become I think such an important theme of this season on Found in the Rockies is just the the importance of developing those, like authentic real relationships, especially for early stage founders, especially in our region. Right? It's kind of the way venture is done, I think, in our region. Do you make investments? Is there a fund or do you sort of rely on I mean, I know sometimes people get get this entity confused with like, the Rockies Venture Club or the Rockies Venture Fund, but those are two, those are two separate entities. How, like, how do you make these connections? Like what's the tissue that connects entrepreneurs to, to investment?

Kate 11:42

Yeah, we don't have a separate fund. You know, I think we all have our hands full managing our own fund. I can't imagine what the IC committee would be like, if that was just hilarious. But, but we do obviously, function like a normal, nonprofit, right? Voting structure, you know, we vote in new board members, we vote in co-chairs, you know, we think about structure and events, all that sort of as a consortium, I would say the connective tissue is really, as Chris said, relies around the foundation is this relationship building. And I think we can all say as VCs, sure, this finance, but the backbone of what we do is this is relationship management at its best, you know, and the ability to meet people and form trust through in-person events is unparalleled. I think we all miss that with COVID. And I think we've also, you know, all been a part of heavy Slack channels, which are great and very useful for distribution of information and quick answers for things. But it doesn't necessarily form the same kind of long standing trust or understanding of what our peers, businesses are that kind of thing. So, you know, if we’re looking for the best, you know, lawyer in our area that has a specificity in what they do that, that's probably a conversation had over a cocktail, or something else more casual, versus it's taking the aggressive pitch out of it, you know, I mean, I don't know about you guys, but I'm on back to back zooms all day long. And I feel like it's sort of very quick distribution of what your information is that and it's so nice to take it back to a more slower paced natural relationship building strategy and the way that we used to just meet for coffee or you know, just kind of casually get to know each other with no hard ask at the end of that. And so RMVCA is really geared around forming trust, forming relationships, at these areas less so about like, let's have a transaction at the end of Ski Doggle or something, which I  just find hilarious, because that would be so funny.

Les 13:38

All right, Kate, that's the second time a really interesting term has been dropped that I think I think now we just have to talk about it. This Doggle, the Ski Doggle I think Chris talked about a Ski Doggle or an Adventure Dggle or what, what in the world are these Doggles we're talking about this sounds cool. Who wants to take that one? 

Kate 13:58

Chris, go for it.

Chris 13:59

Yeah, I'll take it. I actually I don't know when the first Doggle was. 

Les 14:05

I think the first ever doggle was a boondoggle is…

Chris 14:10

Certainly, the name is a riff on boondoggle. And like, by calling it the Ski Doggle or the Adventure Doggle, I think we're trying to be a little bit tongue in cheek about the fact that like it is a boondoggle. To be totally honest, the first time I went to Ski Doggle and and submitted the expense report afterwards. Like I felt pretty sheepish doing it. I just went to Vail for two days and skied with a bunch of cool people and like, this is what happens…

Les 14:37

Such integritye, Chris I'm so proud of you for feeling guilt

Kate 14:41

For everyone listening just the core definition of doggle because I looked it up because I want to just understand like how to translate this. It's a work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value and so like that's the point that we're coming at this with which is a sense of humor and I think you'll find that too. It's like all of our members are have a good sense of humor about this. So yeah, go Chris.

Chris 15:05

Yeah, you know, I don't know how to follow up that definition Kate. That is it, for sure. That's it. Yeah, so So Les we do we do a Ski Doggle in the winter in Vail historically has been in Vail. And we do what we call the Adventure Doggle in Park City in the summertime or the early fall. So it's it's a ski event in the winter. And it's a mountain biking, fly-fishing, hiking event in the fall. And they are a lot of fun. 

Les 15:33

I got to tell you, so I went to the Adventure Doggle in Park City, or I guess it was a deer valley at Deer Valley last last fall. And one of the things that it actually reminded me of was some of the events like the team building events that we used to do in the military, although I'll be it I mean, those are a little bit more extreme. But I tell you, like I did the I did the mountain bike ride and I'm a decent mountain biker, but I got convinced to go on the expert ride. And I was like fearing for my life. But the people that I went on that ride with like, I really trust them now like I developed this new level of trust. So like, that was not a doggle in my mind. That was like a brush with death. But I I really I didn't feel guilty at all about that expense report because I there's very few things I did last year that develop that deep of a network people, so I love it.

Kate 16:22

Yeah. Yeah, that’s the point. You should come away with these. And I think, you know, there's plenty of entrepreneurial entrepreneur entrepreneur events where you're sort of breaking down those barriers, and you're, you're moving past the coffee, right? Like, and you're getting into a real shared experience. And that's something you can draw on when you know, months later, Les you want to call up Chris and say, Hey, bud, like I have a question for you around this deal that I heard we're both shopping at the same time or want to come in on a co-invest with me. So there's that foundational trust, which makes Chris answer the phone, you know, and that's that's what I think we're all peeling back the layers of is how do you form meaningful relationships? Sometimes you just have to do dumb stuff.

Les 17:03

Wait, Chris? Chris, remember me that guy you had to carry off the mountain? Yeah. Totally awesome. Can you tell me tell me about the the virtual member happy hour. That's another event?

Kate 17:17

Yeah, so I take COVID taught us that we need to have more options, you know, in terms of it can't just all be in person networking. So we, you know, watch state regulations state by state, but we realized like, very quickly, you know, we can all get on Zoom calls and see each other that way for either board meetings, and then we just decided that actually Chris was the genius who came up with this idea of just remember when we were all in lockdowns, kind of repeatedly. And it was just feeling a little bleak on these back to back zooms. And, you know, so Chris thoughtfully, just was like, I'm gonna be on zoom from, you know, happy hour time. And, you know, just join, if you want to talk about anything, you know, there wasn't a company to pitch, there wasn't, again, a strategy, it was just unplugging with people you're comfortable with, or new people that you want to meet. And so he, I think, deserves the credit of spearheading that. And also, he would always bring along someone thoughtful, you know, to join at, which I think was just really well received and necessary at that time, and it was a good way to check in with friends across states.

Les 18:20

That's awesome. 

Chris 18:21

And thank goodness, we don't have to do that anymore. I mean, we had a, you know, we had a lot of people turn out and it was it was fun to do. But I think we're hopefully like knock on wood. This is, you know, we're on the tail end of Omicron. And things are getting back to normal. And there's certainly no replacement for you know, face to face in-person interaction.

Les 18:41

For sure, Chris, any anything you want to highlight, like any kind of unexpected topics that may be surfaced in those those events that were just really meaningful to you or to founders, like I can imagine, like, given the time when that happened, there was probably some some kind of intimate topics or

Chris 19:00

You know, the, the biggest surprise for me was just like, who ended up dialing in randomly, sometimes like people. I think, sometimes people would hear about this from another thread, and we'd have somebody dial in from like Los Angeles, or Hawaii or the East Coast. It was kind of cool, just, frankly, to kind of hear that people were still working on things and the world was still kind of turning around us a little bit

Les 19:25

And it probably gave a sense of solidarity to the founders, like other people are making it through other people are working just as hard as I am and charging through as well, I would imagine right 

Chris 19:36

Totally, totally. But you know, Les, the most like salacious and surprising conversations. I think like that was a cone of secrecy that like we I can't breach that.

Les 19:45

Of course. I totally respect that. No, that's great. I mean, that that's awesome. Thank you for for not sharing. What what about the food for thought series who was in charge of that that or idea or initiative?

Kate 19:58

Yeah, I think that that one predates both Chris and I, but it was a really good thing to continue. And we're actually very excited to put new dates on the calendar this year. Because as Chris said, you know, we're trying to do a combination of virtual and in person and food for thought, I think was just It also an excuse to get together over lunch, usually, and again, any city that where we were dialing in an entrepreneur, or maybe an author of a recent book, you know, something where again, it was, it was over lunch, you wanted to meet other people, but you also wanted to listen to something really interesting that would stick with you or, you know, open your perspective in a different way. And so that was really the approach we would try to take of finding, you know, maybe it was a previous entrepreneur had an incredible exit, or just a really, really cool story around how they got into business. And I think we sometimes brush over those when we're meeting entrepreneurs of like, okay, how did you get here, but the layers to those can be really fun. And there's a lot of lessons to be had for the room. So we try to encourage entrepreneurs to come to that as well. But oftentimes, we have a great service provider who's a sponsor, and you know, the VCs in that area, or it's also a perfect excuse, like, say, we have one in Santa Fe this year, I hope we do, because then that gives me an excuse to go down a network around an event. So I think that's part of how we think about the calendar and planning too is, if you're going to if you know, you want to take a trip to Utah, and you're from Montana or Colorado, plan it around Adventure Doggle, where you will get to immediately another 30-40 people that are relevant to your industry, and then you can have the one off meetings that you were planning on having anyway. So that's sort of the the continuous underlying perspective we have is like, let's drum up meaningful events in these areas that you would normally be traveling to, or trying to network to anyway,

Les 21:44

That's, I love the strategy. Speaking of the entrepreneurs, I'm wondering, and by the way, most most of our listeners on the cast, I think are entrepreneurs. I think the only VCs that typically listen to our podcasts are the ones that are on listening to their own episode. It's a bad joke. That's a bad joke. But, but seriously, though, for the entrepreneurs, which is most of our listeners, like how should they be thinking about RMVCA, and specifically getting involved and being, you know, being involved and participating?

Chris 22:12

Yeah, I think the biggest challenge honestly, for for the folks active in the RMVCA is, is helping to get entrepreneurs more involved. I think service providers and investors kind of realize this as part of the job description like this is part of the function that defines how you're successful in the long run. One of the things I think, sometimes new entrepreneurs do, and maybe learn over time to do last is is like treat relationships with investors and service providers as transactional. And I think RMVCA is just if you're a founder, it's a great way to build relationships with folks that they might not invest in your seed round, or your next round, or maybe ever, but having that relationship means they’ll be a sounding board, they'll be an ally, they'll be a friend, they'll be a connection to others, who might be kind of a better fit for what you're looking for. So in terms of like, how to get involved, we kind of put a contact form on the website, we're, we're all all of us that are involved, We're pretty public about the fact that we're involved with the RMVCA. And myself, Kate, I'm sure everybody on the board would love to get kind of an inbound note on LinkedIn, or something from a founder who just wants to come to Adventure Doggle, that would about make my day.

Les 23:30

That's cool. Unfortunately, they're gonna by the time this episode airs, they're gonna miss the Ski Doggle, I think, yeah, because it's next week. But maybe the Adventurer Doggle this summer.

Kate 23:42

Yeah. But the attraction, I think, for those two Doggles. Also is that like, they're positioned around sort of highlighting the great things that are in our states naturally, that people would love to find a reason to come to Vail to go skiing. And how about tack on some business while you're here. Same thing with Utah. So we're really kind of positioned those ideas to also attract external capital, meaning coastal capital, or just other firms that have an interest and, you know, want to be looking and meeting entrepreneurs across the states. So oftentimes, everyone says, you know, the best time to have an ask is, make a relationship before you have the ask, you know, and so I think these experiences are perfect highlights for that. And as Chris said, you know, the VCs are very much looking to have these kinds of casual conversations and interactions in a low pressure event like this.

Les 24:31

For sure, maybe maybe we should try to do one of these in every state every year. 

Kate 24:37

Let’s do it.

Chris 24:38

The summer, Flathead Lake Doggle, I would be there in advance. I’d help set up..

Kate 24:42

My husband and I were just trying to figure out how we could go to Montana this summer. So I think this trio right here just signed ourselves up.

Les 24:49

I know some people Yeah, let's do it. It's great. What about on the membership side, like how is it laying down right now in terms of states like where let's do a call out, like where some of the states that we want to see more participation more membership?

Kate 25:05

Yeah, I mean, unfortunately, and fortunately right Colorado and Utah are sort of the central I am using brother sister here because me and Chris, but I think the we sort of collaborate that way, there's a lot of deal flow sharing across states naturally. And I think they're kind of leading the charge in terms of largest amount of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs per state. But there's so much activity happening in you know, other states, Arizona is actually has a bunch of venture madness, events, things like that. So we actually help and support those events, our friends over at Stout Street run a series of UNMET events across the states in the middle of the country. And so we try to also highlight other you know, VCs events, that kind of thing, and just try to bring our network to what their efforts are doing to so we'd love to see more participation, I think, from New Mexico, we love going down there and doing activities with them. But I think we could probably push more effort in that direction, too. I mean, Les, you know, better than me, but I would love any excuse to come to Montana to Wyoming, Idaho. I mean, I feel like I have one in a few interactions here and there, but I don't have regular cadence with those states. And I think that's just also the natural ecosystem.

Les 26:17

What about more, more broadly, in the region, I'd love to get kind of a perspective from both of you on just themes, major themes that you're seeing, maybe even an opportunity to highlight some strengths to the region, challenges of the region, I just love love to hear from, you know, our guests always how they think about venture in the Rockies?

Chris 26:36

Well, I'll take a swing, and then Kate can share maybe a more insightful view than I might provide, the lore of the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountains is super interesting. You know, like they're there. If you hadn't been here for like, 25-30 years, you might miss that there are some really, really iconic companies that were founded in Colorado, founded in Utah, up into Idaho, and down into the southwest. And I think, you know, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, investors were, I think they've maybe looked at like the Mountain States as an arbitrage opportunity. You know, there wasn't a whole lot of capital here. There were really bright entrepreneurs who were like doing great things. And it's kind of an opportunity to be like a, like a discount investor. And then and then help the companies grow and kind of take them to the coasts and raise at a kind of more market multiple. And I, what's been really, really exciting for me to see is like that paradigm shift, almost completely, I kind of saw it firsthand, actually, four or five years ago, in Utah, the firm I was at, we went from kind of never losing a term sheet, to suddenly it was like, I could count on both hands every week, like the person from the coastal VC firm, who was assigned to come to Salt Lake and meet the startups. And we just on the one hand, it was it was, I think, like an awakening moment for, but on the other. Like, what an amazing thing that you've got this kind of untapped pool of entrepreneurial talent that suddenly has all the capital it needs and like maybe more capital than it needs at times. I think there's also this like maturation that's happened in the last maybe decade where, you know, folks have had exits, people that were kind of the founding teams, or the executives at companies that were really successful have now like had an exit. They've actually a VC, your counterpart in Montana shared this wisdom with me a long time ago, which was you want to look for people that were at the scene of the crime, and saw what it was like to you know, build it at hyperscale. And just their are armies of people, I think now in the mountain states that have seen what building a really great company looks like. They've they've got the experience and the talent and the relationships. And, you know, notwithstanding the last couple of years, just being banner years for fundraising and exits, I think we're still kind of on the left hand side of the J curve here. There's my characterization for the day Kate can can put a fine point on it. 

Kate 29:12

So insightful, Chris, I can't follow it. No, I think everything that Chris was saying applies absolutely to Colorado. Again, my perspective is somewhat different because I came here in 2015. So I wasn't at the scene of the crime in terms of the Colorado and arguably Boulder ecosystem taking off. I did see that at the very beginning of New York and I can tell you how amazing that was, but the perspective I had coming from New York was a oh I get this like this is going to happen in Austin, this is going to happen if this happened to New York and New York obviously has a ton of you know, super power behind it, what what's going to happen all these other micro cities, you know, in larger cities that want to have the same, you know, people are living there and wanting to work and live in the same place. And Colorado is a huge like Utah, huge lifestyle draw, right? If you're not from there, but you aspire to play in the mountains and just have a different perspective on where you want to, you know, build your life or raise your family, you're sort of allowed to do both here. And I think that that is a huge draw for a number of, you know, engineering talent, right, that we're looking at. So we over the few years that I've been here, you know, we've seen outposts of larger corporations like Google and Slack and, you know, start to put offices in this location because of that lifestyle. And also, frankly, it's cheaper than real estate in San Francisco. So it's easier to have a more national presence. But just as Chris was saying, the maturation of the ecosystem, you have people and you know, David Cohen, who founded TechStars, is in Boulder, you know, so there's a splay of TechStars programs across, but also, that's the hub of where a lot of decision making happens, and innovation for that organization. And so I think, you know, calling out some of these ecosystems are just really helpful to mature the startup ecosystem in general. But then, as Chris was saying, same thing, you have high exits, those entrepreneurs decide to be investors or angel investors or go build, you know, another strategy, the money, you know, kind of cycles back through the community, we hope, right? And we've seen that in, in our ecosystem here. So I think it's, and then also, there's a mentorship that also happens naturally, with new emerging entrepreneurs looking to seek out, you know, either talent advice from successful entrepreneurs, and how do they, you know, build the same strategy here or something similar. In terms of types of companies, I mean, I think that the telecom industry that was pretty dominant to Colorado, morphed into software and Boulder was like a great hub for that, you know, just SaaS businesses, some hardware companies, so I would say more traditional engineering, and then there's this really interesting ecosystem around Boulder, and food and CPG. You know, there's just a number of probably companies that you can walk through the aisles of Whole Foods that are attributed to just the ecosystem of way Boulder likes to produce food innovation. So there's a nice CPG angle here, too. And I think, as Denver has become more of the, I would say, emerging market because Boulder’s  more established, there's just the number of people who are coming here with their expertise. And they just want to build here so Healthcare's starting to evolve in an interesting way. Education for sure. I was a part of Galvanize and Guild, it's now doing really well here. So I think there's a number of industries that are starting to see their category creator, if you will, and how there's examples of you can build your vision of a company here and why but yeah, I mean, I'm, I'm super proud to be building our firm here, because I think there's a ton of opportunity.

Chris 32:57

You mentioned something I thought was really interesting. You said the phrase, like people coming here and wanting to build here. And I think like a decade ago, 15-20 years ago, like people were kind of here in the Mountain States, and they wanted to build but they didn't want to leave. Yeah, and and I think what we've seen and accelerated by the pandemic is, like people consciously choosing I'd rather live in the Mountain States, then yeah, maybe in the Bay Area, or in SoCal, something like that. And just like I'm gonna, I'm gonna put a stake in the ground with a prediction here. And I'll come back and re-listen to the podcast in like, 10 years, and see if this was on or off.

Les 33:14

I'm sure it'll be spot on. Yeah, whatever it is.

Chris 33:38

Maybe. I think that, you know, in the past, Utah, and I think we could extrapolate to the other Mountain States was capital constrained, you know, valuations weren't as high here. Talent was harder to recruit, I actually think that with the way kind of remote work and mobile workforce is shifting, that people who are really good will be able to choose where they want to live. And it's certainly if you're an engineer, but probably if you're in sales too if you're in inside sales, if you're in product, if you're really good. Why wouldn't you want to live in a place like the Rockies? And so I think over time, actually, I would imagine that you end up with enough talent in a place like this and capital is portable talent is portable,     why wouldn't you end up having premium valuations for companies in the Mountain States. I think people will be happier just like the proximity to nature and the quality of life will be good for them. There's a lot of room to grow a Utah's a little bit constrained because of the mountain range here. But generally speaking, plenty of room to physically build your company and bring people in. So that is a long way of saying, my prediction is that in 10 years, startups in the Mountain States will command at least a slight premium valuation. I guess it's just the over I'm not gonna say how much over the over

Les 34:37

You know, it's good. It's good. I got to tell you there's already data suggesting that trend as of last year, we pulled some stats for our annual LP update. And what's happening is actually although series A and earlier are underpriced and undersized, according the market, yeah, Series B in region are actually higher and larger rounds Higher, higher pre-money and larger, larger capital raise at least that was a trend as of last year. Yeah. According to PitchBook, which is the gospel. We always got to say, according to PitchBook.

Kat 35:34

Totally, no, but it's very interesting, because, you know, obviously, with a great resignation, and even before that, everything points to it's a talent war. And so how do you continue to innovate so that you can attract the top talent and have them stay with you. I mean, in, you know, pre-pandemic, I remember talking to my portfolio companies that were in the valley, and they were just living in fear that Google would come over and offer them or some much larger series A would offer them the moon, and they're like, I can't keep my talent, you know, so it was actually a strategic move, to have their talent sort of be undiscovered in a different part of the country where, you know, they were, I would say, just building a deeper partnership with one another, and they didn't want to leave. So I think you you're onto something, Chris, in terms of factoring for desire and lifestyle, or maybe it's, I want to spend part of the year ski season or something, you know, in the mountain region. But I think that's, that's becoming the norm. Because obviously, you know, entrepreneurs and talent can dictate terms a little bit more.

Chris 36:16


Les 36:18

Chris, you must be a listener, because you just totally stole my thunder on the last question. I always like to ask, which is the predictions. You've already made one. But Kate, it's your turn any? Any, any, by the way? Doesn't need to be a prediction. Chris’s was great, but any, like crystal ball the future for a moment? Like what is what do you think about the future of either RMVCA? Or just, something? Throw it out there.

Kate 36:41

Yeah, I think in terms of I'll play in the vein of community, right? You know, I think we had this very strange disruption around all of us, and how we participate in communities and what that looks like on a hybrid scale going forward. And we're going to be more critical about where we spend our time. And I love that there, you know, I have a family of two kids. And I love that there's sort of the redirection to prioritization, as you know, we are making these choices. So I think of communities will have much more pressure to do deep value add, and, you know, it's not just value add to, but what am I getting out of it? How am I enjoy it? Do I have feel good being a part of this community. And so I think people will have a higher pressure on that, in general. And I'm thinking of the communities that I'm a part of, RMVCA, included, that just I get a lot out of, and, you know, the I would say the prediction is around, what's community going to look like, now that we don't really have state lines in the same way that we used to the world is flat, and opportunities, I think are more readily available, if you're willing to network to the right communities, I'm also fascinated as how community exists in web three, that's something that we're investing in looking at quite a bit. So and that, in some ways, is a bit of a walled garden, also incredibly welcoming. So I think there's a number of tiers that we can think of, but the evolution of community now that I think as a VC and as you know, champion for our regional investment strategies here. We just don't have the same barriers, we were sort of fighting, you know, pre-COVID have, like come care about our region, like it's already happened. So now that that's gone, how will we facilitate community in a more national perspective?

Les 38:22

Yeah, we all the world gets a little bit closer. It's, it's, it's exciting. Yeah. Chris, any you've already made your prediction, but any other closing thoughts maybe related to the future of the RMVCA or future of membership?

Chris 38:35

You know, I just think that the the, the Mountain States have been a really great place to build a build a company and raise venture capital for a long time. We're if the audience here is mostly founders, I'm preaching to the choir, in in saying like, this is a great place to build a business. But I think the RMVCA is is kind of accelerant for all of the great things that are going on. And if if you're a founder, and you're just starting out, and you know, you, you want to understand how high growth companies get financed, if you want to build your support system of service providers and advisors, if you want to meet other founders that are just starting out. And frankly, if you've done it a couple of times, and you're getting back into founding and you need to reconnect to the community very quickly. I think the RMVCA is probably the like best positioned community to facilitate that. It's been really interesting over the last couple of years to see the coastal investors getting involved with the RMVCA, as they tried to plug into the Mountain States, I think that's going to kind of continue. And I think it's just it's a really interesting opportunity and great way to kind of help bolster your endeavors, whether kind of professional or entrepreneurial, what a

Les 39:53

What a great thought to end on. I want to thank you both for your time today, such an insightful episode, hoping that our listeners will tell all of their friends in the Rockies about this organization and all of the great benefits of membership and thankful for you and the rest of the board for what you're doing. We know this isn't your day job, but definitely something very important. That's had a tremendous effect on our ecosystem. So thank you.

Kat 40:16

Thanks Les.

Chris 40:18

Thank you, Les. It's great to have you involved too.

Les 40:22

Awesome. And Kate, why don't you tell us a little just tell us where our audience can find more about the RMVCA online?

Kate 40:27

Sure. So Rocky Mountain is the website just reach out to us through that there's always our events are always posted under the Events tab. Again, we were trying as best we can to be as welcoming and inclusive. So no question is will go unanswered. Just shoot us a note or hit up Chris or myself or Les I’m volunteering you, individually through right that Sara social channels are emails for funds and will direct you to the right person who can answer the question and hopefully see you at our next event.

Les 40:57

And we're off to the Ski Doggle. Thank you both. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Found in the Rockies. You can find links in the show notes or go to our podcast page at to get links and contact information for today's guests. If you like what you heard and want more, please rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop. We'll see you next time.


RMVCA, events, VCs, founders, states, entrepreneurs, rockies, service providers, build, ecosystem, community, talent, venture capitalists, terms, doggle, utah, companies, region, colorado, montana