In today’s episode, we have a self described “Startup Addict” - Joseph Haecker. Joseph is using his vast experience in entrepreneurship to mentor new startups, and work to create a vibrant community in the startup ecosystem of Denver, Colorado.
Here’s a closer look at the episode:
Joseph LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/josephhaecker/
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So when do you give up and when do you not? So I asked these successful people, I said, hey, everybody has had that moment in their career, their journey where they were like, Man, I just, it's not working. And do I throw in the towel, or do I go three feet more.
This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain region, featuring the founders, funders and contributors, and most importantly, the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. And on today's show, we're going to have some fun. Listener Discretion Advised. In fact, it may get a little crazy, because I am so excited to have as a guest, Joseph Haecker, who I believe, Joseph I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, your official title is startup addict, I think right? Colorado startup addict, is that right?
I have an addiction. I have 23 tech companies right now. I run the nonprofit. I've got a media broadcasting company. And I just became COO of a trade association. I've got I've got an addiction problem.
That's all okay. Well, if I'm sure there's a 24th on the way if you've already got 23
It will happen by the end of this call. Yeah.
Amazing. Amazing. Well, we're I'm so excited to have you on the episode today we just met, which is exciting. And what I'd really love to do to begin to, you know, just let let your let our audience know a little bit about you is tell us your story. Who who are you? Where did this startup addict come from? And why how did he end up in Denver?
Yeah, so I did not even know what the term entrepreneurship meant. Well into my second startup. I had grown up a with mom who did taxes from home, I had a dad who worked a day job, but then also tried to do a welding business on the side. And so I knew small business, I knew small business fairly well. There was no such thing as side hustle, I just turned 45. So there were terms that I did not know about my first startup, I launched it wrong. I launched it as a small business. And I blew through $283 $283,000 of my personal savings. Oh, and ended up poor. Me and my kids moved into a one and a half bedroom apartment in Santa Ana, after moving out of an eight bedroom condo in Anaheim Hills, I lost all three of my Mercedes, I lost all of my toys. And by August of 2013, I was huddled on the floor with my kids in front of a laptop, because I couldn't get my things out of storage. And I only had $100 left in my account. Later on, I would go on to dive in the to the tech ecosystem. And in Orange County, California, okay. And I would get involved with 1 Million Cups and go hit all the different chapters and, and I went on to raise in total to date over $4.2 million for my startups. But I've had on my teams, the brand strategist from Adobe, the director of marketing for the Honda Center, the president Tech Coast Angels, the founder of Bright White, the CTO of Gateway computers, the CFO of cola clip developers from Nortel systems to Google and Amazon. So I'll tell you as we get into it, if you haven't found your startup ecosystem, that was a game changer.
Finding finding the ecosystem finding the community is as as a game changer.
It is. It is my view people have said Your network is your net worth. It is absolutely true.
Joseph, what about you know, I think this is a this is a I mean, thank you for sharing, sharing the kind of how the humble beginnings of your story and I think it's important because maybe not to that extreme but I think a lot of founders go through those those downs. There's the lows are low and the highs are high. But for you to experience that sort of a life event. What made you what made you want to keep after it or do it again, or do it 22 more times after that?
Yeah, I mean, so I, I didn't know what entrepreneur was that first time around. I was just I was a guy who thought I have this idea and I went after it and and for a little bit more background. Have you been to Vegas? Have you been to the Cosmopolitan?
I have beautiful hotel. I've never stayed there. I've never stayed there. Truth be told.
Oh, people don't, people just go to the bar. Yeah, so I designed the chandelier at the chandelier bar. I did all the lighting on the casino floor. And the bulk of my career was custom light fixture design for hotels and casinos. And I've, I've managed 250 people on multiple continents, restructured and reorganized two companies in net of $96 million. So like the I had a good background. James Packer, who was briefly engaged, to Mariah Carey offered me a job, heading lighting on their entertainment expansion in Perth. I was offered the head of lighting for kitchen, I had a cool career.
And then this is pre-2013. This what you're discussing right now.
Yeah, all the way up until 2010. All the way up until 2012, my aha moment was in 2010. And, and then for a year, I call the people in my space. And I said, Hey, I've got this idea. But you know, I want you to poke holes in it, because I don't want to go down this route, and then it fails. And they did they did it totally failed. And it's just because people didn't really, you know, they couldn't tell me how not to do it. They they weren't doing it themselves. So why did I do it again and again, and keep doing it and keep doing it? I'll tell you, it is an addiction. Plus, I don't know. I mean, the community is cool. The ability to create ideas is so exciting and exhilarating. I've made a lot of money off of it too late. Last year, I made over $200,000 doing nearly nothing.
Passive income I I've read you're an expert in passive income. And maybe for our listeners who don't don't even know what that is what mailbox money is to maybe talk about that a little bit as an entrepreneur. What is yeah, what is that? How does it work?
So I think people screw this up all the time. And this is a concept that I know I introduce to people all the time. So a lot of startups focus on the problem, they get this problem, they figure they got this solution, a lot of businesses do the same thing. They they've got the best cupcake. And everybody puts marketing off till the end. I've heard…so in the startup world, this is typically a company will will validate, it'll go out and get its initial traction. It might have even raised money for that. And then they come back. And what they'll call it is scaling. What that really means is okay, we validated our thing, but now we need more money because we fucked up and didn't consider the marketing budget. Now we need to go get in front of people.
Now we know how much we actually need to raise.
Yeah. Hey I hope you don’t mind the cussing.
Oh, hey, it happens all the time on Found in the Rockies. So we know it's kind of a PG our listeners know this is a PG-13 audience at least Yeah.
So the founders will say scale. And what they're really saying is they didn't realize that they needed more money for for marketing. And so I call my strategy is turning your customers into your marketers. So when I meet with startups, I asked them all the time. So wonderful idea. How do you turn your customers into your marketers? And they're like, oh, referrals or you know, people just love my things, and then they tell everybody about it. I'm like that That's bullshit. That's not true. And that's not a strategy that you can employ. I believe in things that you can actually do. You can replicate that. Like, if you can replicate that, then that's something that you can have control over.
Like the definition of scale, actually. Right. I mean, if you if it's, if it's predictably replicable?
Well, I think a lot of times people think if it has the ability to scale, can people join on their own without you having to be there, then true, but I think a lot of times people forget the other part of scale is how much is it going to acquire? How much is it going to cost to get in front of more people? And that's the part that's that that you need to figure out. So one of my companies is Join Incrowd, it's a digital business card. If I were to meet a person and I ordered my business cards on Vistaprint, and I hand that person my Vistaprint business card Vistaprint isn't part of that equation. I am that person is the Vistaprint is not with joy. The crowd, I'm a part of that equation still. So my customer is my marketer. I just launched it, I told you was an addiction. Last Friday, I launched a new company called Top of Mind digital magazines. And so what this is, people can go in, and they can create their own digital magazines, with their own cover with their own editor's letter from the editor, they get a feature themselves, and then it also has in all this stock, other stories. So when they're done, and they hit publish, they get a copy, they get a link to their own magazine, that they then share out because they're actually sharing themselves. They're promoting themselves. But they're bringing all that traffic to me. So, so again, I've turned my customer into my marker. They're marketing themselves, but they're marketing me. Yeah. So that's the model that I like. And I won't even touch a company if, if I can't turn my customer into my marketer,
It's a great principle, it's a great principle to think about. It's a great principle for founders, you know, to consider adopting, I like it.
Oh, it should be a mind shift for all startups. Because Peter from RVC just messaged me the other day, I've been at their events where I've seen founders come back and ask for, for money to scale. And really, they just asked me for marketing money, they're gonna literally take I saw a company, they were asking for $10 million, they had validated their concept. And now they needed just $10 million to scale. And, and I was I went up to them afterwards. And I was like, so their platform was for the restaurant industry was kind of like a was like, indeed, but for the restaurant industry. Yep. So I said, Hey, so you're asking for that $10 million, so you can get in front of more people, because your cost of acquisition was $2.71. And it's awesome that you know that. But you're going to ask for $10 million. And then you're going to hand that money, most of it right over to Google and Facebook. And so it's just passed through, you're gonna take somebody's hard earned cash, who believes in your idea, and you're gonna hand it to Google? Or a marketing company? What if you didn't? And what if you didn't need to sell so much of your company? And I asked this person I said, so in the restaurant, industry, a person, they use your platform, you spent the $2.71 to get them. So now they're on. They've had the job for up, maybe maybe they landed the job interview? Maybe maybe we start there, right? Did your system, ask them? Hey, how'd that job interview go? Did you get the job? Oh, you did? Well, congratulations. Here's a link, share it on social media, and let your friends know that you got a job using our platform. Maybe your system checks in, hey, now we know that you got the job, a week from then two weeks from then a month and then ask them again. Hey, are you still on the job? I am awesome. Congratulations, you know that only 30% of all restaurant industry workers make it to 30 days, you know, so. So share,
It’s a virtuous cycle, right? For the for the for customer acquisition, and for the, you know, the reputation of the company, basically…
Yeah, do creative things like maybe have the employee to get a selfie well on the job and post it through your system, your system turns that into a shareable post. And now, because that person probably has restaurant worker friends, so why aren't you leveraging your customer to be your marketer? Do it fun gameify, have fun, but But um, don't end it. With that you got them. Now they're in your system. And now you're just kind of in this, I hope they stay. Let me go get another one. Use that. leverage that.
So I love that you just share that anecdote, because that kind of checks, checks a box on one one of the things that we really like to feature on the show, which is contributors to our ecosystem. So you've already described, you know, a couple of your companies couple of 23. Clearly a founder, also a contributor. Now, the mentoring that you do like this company that you just the indeed of restaurants that you just described it, would you say like your role with RVC? And is it is it kind of informal as a mentor in the ecosystem, or are you doing more formalized programming and supportive founders in the Rockies?
So I don't even believe in formal stuff. I don't even like coaches. I know Tony Robbins, Gary Vee. Dave. I hate when I said that. I know people and then I forget.
Dave, but I know I know, Dave. Dave Yeah.
So so. So I've had awesome mentors, Jeff Weiner from LinkedIn, Nick Bell, the VP of Snapchat, Michael Jones, the founder of Myspace, I've had awesome mentors, and I've never paid for any of them. And so I just don't even believe in that whole thing. I get it if you pay a person, and they've got the extra attention and time for you. And yet, they also don't, because they've turned to this into a business. And most of them coaches have like that 20 minute call with you. I've hung out with Tom Wren, who lived three doors down from Steve Jobs. And we used to go what I call food grazing. You know, he would just like, be like, Oh, have you ever tried this place, and we'd head off to that spot. So I don't even function that way. As far as talking with people, my buddy Vadim, we're always kicking around things he just launched. A Ukrainian, kind of like a farmers market. Because at the very onset of everything, he's Ukrainian, and he wanted to help out. So we iterated through a bunch of different things. And we found the thing that was easy for him to launch and be effective. And he's loving that. So when I meet with founders and startups, I don't even believe in the like the coaching or the formal mentoring. I've gone through a lot of junk like the from the very beginning, like, Man, I had not even I don't even pretend it wasn't like, oh, yeah, you know, I have this one startup. But then my next one, no, no, I was poor, poor, I had an all I could afford was a bicycle. And I had to ride 130 miles each week to earn $12 an hour. This is after watching all three of my Mercedes get repo’d. So no, I'm very real about this. And so meeting startups, it's just my part giving back because, hey, I've been down the road before, I know a couple of things. And honestly, I learned a lot from the startups.
You know, you hit on something there that I think is so important, because a lot of time, you know, founders recognize that it takes mentors, it takes people who believe in you as a founder who will support you, and not just, you know, formal board relationships, but true mentors, like people that you can call and not worry, you know, about what you're gonna say, or what's going to be repeated in the boardroom. But like, what is your advice for creating for a founder that wants to seek that authentic sort of mentorship experience? What advice would you give to founders in the regions for, for developing that sort of natural or serendipitous sort of mentor, relationship?
Reach out and ask? Okay, yeah, that's it. Like, I know Kathy Ireland. She runs a $4 billion a year licensing empire. I've known Kathy for a few years now. Just reach out and ask
So you reached out to Kathy Ireland was like, Hey, how did that happen?
That was a whole other weird, weird, long story. But the short tagline on it was, she blew up my Twitter account. So yeah, it was it was it was weird. And I thought, I didn't think it was actually her.
It was like, a Kathy Ireland bot or something that was
Well, if you’ve heard Kathy speak, she's got a pretty high pitched voice. And so she left me a voice message. And she was like, Hi, Joseph. This is Kathy Ireland. Um, we're on your platform right now. And I was like, okay, yeah, this is this is so fake. Like, why would Kathy Ireland call me like this is dumb. And then I ran into her in High Point, North Carolina. And she had she actually knew me, it was weird. We hung out the whole day, got pictures, and we've been friends ever since I called her for multiple projects. I did a series a podcast series called the three foot project. So I had a bunch of people on there, Randy Spinelli, Kathy, Ireland, all kinds of people. And, and the basis for that podcast was one I teamed up with them Feeding America. So it was their first podcaster to team up with Feeding America. They, they didn't know how that relationship would work. They didn't know. So they created a unique URL, feedingamerica.com/threeFTP, and we put out a series it was an eight episode series. And then I had on these successful people. And my question was very simple. It was called the three foot project and it was based off of the Three Feet From Gold concept. You've heard of this right?
I feel like I have, but I don't remember it. So please, I'm sure our listeners got quick version of it.
Yeah. Yeah. The story is it was a California miner. He sold his land rights after digging and digging. And he sold it the next day, the next day, just three feet further and hit the largest vein of gold in California history. So when do you give up and when do you not? So I asked these successful people, I said, hey, everybody has had that moment in their career, their journey where they were like, Man, I just, it's not working. And do I throw in the towel, or do I go three feet more. And so my questions were simple. What was that moment like for you? And how did you overcome it, and the moment for all of them, and I can just give you you don't even have to listen to the episodes. It was very simple. They all started out thinking that they have this great idea. They all hit that wall, they all hit it in some way, form or fashion. What changed for them was when they realized they couldn't do it themselves. And that they needed a more of a purpose, when they when they did it to support a cause or when they did it because of something other than I think I've got a great idea. And I think I'm going to get rich from this. When it became a better intention. They brought on other people, they trusted other people, and it had more of a purpose. That's when it took off for them.
I love it. Yeah. In fact, I like as you're telling the story. I'm thinking about a dear dear friend of mine, who this has been his exact journey, he built a tool to help salespeople be more efficient, but then he realized, actually, this can help addicts recover from substance addictions. And now it's taking off because it has a purpose, right? Same thing like I love it. Well, amazing. Now we're even we're summarizing entire podcast series on today's episode Of Found in the Rockies, so amazing. Amazing, Joseph, I want to go back to you. So you've been on it sounds like you've been all over the country probably all over the world, I would guess but
I've snorted coke with Macklemore stayed up till 5:30 In the morning taking whisky shots with Julian Lennon. I've slept with a couple of 90s supermodels that I I had on a Sports Illustrated calendar. I've had the wackiest ride ever.
And you and I want to know, how did you end up in Denver? That's what I wanted to know.
I hope yy ex doesn't hear this one. But I I broke up with my ex in Virginia. I had been filming out here and it's not a good reason. I will get judged for this one.
No judgment on Found in the Rockies.
I'm 45. And the girls out here are hot and 27 ish. So yeah, so it wasn't a it wasn't for the hiking. I'm not a hiker for the whether it was for Denver has some amazingly hot chicks. So if you're a founder, and you're like, hey, where can I you know, find hot chicks, Denver.
I Joseph, I admire you for your honesty. It is. It's amazing that you said it. And it's funny too, because we hear so much on this episode. Why are people coming to Colorado? And why are people coming to Montana and Wyoming? And it's usually the outdoors. But you're just being honest. And I love it.
The girls are outdoors too. It's all part of the same.
It's all Yeah, it's all part of the draw. That's awesome. That's great. So tell me about shifting gears a little bit. Tell me about Tech Alley. Is this something that you started in Denver? And I know there's locations in Reno and Vegas as well, I think.
Yeah. So um, so Josh Levitt is the founder of Tech Alley. And Josh, it's heavy. When I'm not there, he tells the story of Josh used to run a coding school in Las Vegas. And one day this guy walked in and asked him, you know, what is punch toe? And Josh said, Oh, it's a coding school. And that guy said, Well, you know, where is the tech ecosystem in Las Vegas, and Josh was like, you know, I don't know, like, you know, what do you mean by ecosystem? And I was like, well, so it was me. I was the dude. So I was like, Well, you know, where do where does this startup ecosystem meet? Like, we're in Menlo Park, you've got sand hill, and you've got you know, you've got different kind of gathering spots. Where's that spot in Vegas? So we kind of met up and had a few conversations and really kind of flesh this out. And then Josh did the thing that sets startups and founders apart from everybody else. Josh actually did something about it. And he went with it. And he formed Tech Alley. And he made partnerships. And he teamed up with the city. And he formed the organization. He formed it as a nonprofit. And he did all those things that people who have good ideas tend to not do. He actually did it. And then he expanded it into Reno and then early in 2021, around spring of 2021, I called him up and I was like, Man, I really want to plug into something. But I want to plug in something that already has a playbook. So, so we decided to bring Tech Alley out to Denver.
Very cool. I see. So it so it, it started and it started elsewhere. And then you brought it to Denver, and then what? Give us a flavor for like, what, what, what the initiative is how it works, what it does, and what your involvement is.
Did you make it out to have you made it out to Startup Week?
I have, in fact, stuck. Denver, Denver Startup Week. Yeah. It's incredible. It's why it's probably one of the best startup events. And I mean, this very sincerely that I've most meaningful, just like great content, great people, everybody shows up. It's one of the most meaningful I think in the country.
Yeah, so it's amazing. For those who have not been, it's an entire week of breakout sessions, panels, people flying in, there's great networking, and people come out of the woodworks for this diversity inclusion, the panels have top notch people. And from those panels, you get to hear about products and apps and things that you didn't even know about. And then you get to ask them about it. The knowledge, the information, the networking, the opportunity is amazing. Totally agree. And then Saturday, there's nothing. Then Saturday, there's maybe meetup if you're on meetup, this Facebook events, if you're on Facebook events, the access to that type of information, immediately shifts over to TechStars for their 11 week incubator, Rocky Venture Club for the hyper accelerator, and then you get to only be if you're lucky to be one of 10 people to join an accelerator or an incubator, then maybe you're gonna get that kind of information. Tech Alley. Could be should be would be startup week, every month.
Ah, so it's the continuity. It's not the flash in the pan, which is amazing. But it's a flash in the pan. I agree. I see. So it's every month. And what's the
Every month we host it for free. I've got up to 40 locations that will let us use their space. I, me and Josh cover coffee and lunch. We've for the past several months had a happy hour sponsor - Loco Plus, which is new to Colorado as well. And it's free for everybody. It's free for speakers, if you if you have a resource, if you're a marketing company, if you're an attorney, if you have some sort of service or thing that you can provide for the startup ecosystem, you can host a panel discussion, a presentation. It's yours, you get a 45 minute session to engage with people, people attending. On our first one, we had 28 speakers, seven speakers per session, so people could show up for the real estate panel. Let's stick around for the NFT panel. And so it was just like Startup Week, but it's every month.
I love it. I'm gonna have to get down for one of those. That sounds awesome.
Yeah, if anybody would like to speak, I can I can facilitate up to 40 different speakers every hour. So we could technically have 120 speakers per day and the VFW over in the Santa Fe arts district has said we can use their space to they've got three floors, we could technically post 900 people every hour just at the VFW. So we could as a community, this is this is the community’s if nobody shows up, it's nothing. If everybody shows up, it's amazing. So it's really up to the community, whether they want to use it or not.
And I think that's great. And I And we'll also make sure we put a link to Tech Alley in the show notes so people can find it there if you like what you hear. Awesome. What about tell me about something you just launched? I think it's called Startup stories. Is that right? So tell me about that.
Yeah, so the mission of Tech Alley is very simple. In fact, I mean, it's just me and Josh gonna be evolving this whole thing, but we're just there to help Startups, I had a passion for it. Anyhow, that's, I give away my time all the time. So with this with the Tech Alley, that's an extension of that. It's a nonprofit 501-3c. So we just both are passionate about this space. And so we're always looking for ways that how do we serve the ecosystem better. We've got a podcast section on there. So after this, we'll definitely be adding you on to that podcast section, because people should be able to discover things how they want to. And there's just a lot of things within any ecosystem that can use some help. So we launched startup stories, startup stories, let's it's free. People can go in and essentially fill out a questionnaire that serves as like a, an interview. And then our system converts that into a shareable interview that called Startup stories. And so I think we've got one guy who we did his startup story, and he's got over 3800 impressions on on LinkedIn alone. So it's completely free. We just launched the launch announcements. You know, startups don't usually use press very well. You know, 100, startups could have started today. How would I know about them? Unless I'm so big, I end up in TechCrunch, or TechBuzz or something cool like that? Or I ended up on your podcast? Like, how? How would anybody know about that? I started a startup today. Yep. Well, for free people can go on there. And they can they can put together a launch announcement. And they can have an article that it's almost like a press release. But you were gonna say what was it?
Yeah, no, I was just gonna say I think this is phenomenal. Because this is what I feel like this is one of the only truly missing ingredients in our in our ecosystem in the Rockies is like, these stories aren't being told enough. These these, the visibility of founders in this ecosystem is just not what it should be based on the level of accomplishment, determination, drive, and the stories of these people are amazing. And that's why that's why this podcast exists. Those are the stories we want to tell. And I'm super, super excited to learn that you're you're doing the same to help really boost the stories of founders in our ecosystem.
And we see that because I had a guy reached out to me yesterday, he's like, you know, how much does this cost? And I was like, free and he's like, free. Nothing's ever free You know, why are you doing this? And I was like, because I think startups are pretty amazing. I think whether whether you gave it a go, I think the fact that you gave it a go is pretty amazing. So why should it be hard to share that? So yeah, this is we've got that we just later on tonight, I'll be adding so when this airs, it should be well baked in. We are adding on pitch decks. So strangely enough. And this all came from a buddy of mine, Daniel Lowe, who owns Melodyne he messaged me and sent me this link, this company is trying to charge $4,000 a month, As like a retainer thing to create your pitch decks for you. And I was like, Ooh, that's sucks. And we're in the wrong business. And like, man, you could charge startups four grand for this, like, that's awesome. I don't know what startups these are. But they definitely drives startups.
I know, as you're saying, I'm selling I'm selling water out of the faucet for $5 a glass to that's not even as good of a margin.
So, so I saw that he sent me that today. And I was like, Oh, this is stupid. So I created tonight, it'll be on there, and it'll be ready to go tomorrow. I'll start pimping it out. But uh, where you'll be able to go in and fill out a form and create a shareable pitch deck.
Super cool. Yeah. So we'll put a link to that too. By the time this airs like you said it'll be it'll be well baked. So we'll we'll put a link to that as far as
And ours, it's free.
The way we tap water should be free. Yeah. Awesome. What, uh, tell me about Joseph. Tell me about what what are your thoughts on the ecosystem? We've already said it's got a great dating scene. Okay, that's a plus for young founders. We got that good for singles and coeds. What about? What else? What else is great about Colorado? Sell founders in Colorado? Why should they move there? Why should they be you know, start their companies there.
So and this will sound like I'm not answering that correctly. So in June of 2021, June of 2021 we had just kind of reopened up. And I was volunteering over at 1 Million Cups Denver. And we were struggling to get people to show up and no sponsors, the sponsors, agenda 2021 restaurants who normally are sponsors and bars were normally sponsors. They didn't have enough staff. They were overworked. And they didn't need marketing because they were slammed. So I put together this event called restarting the startup community over at Commons on chamber. And we had guys from bunker labs and Denver angels and a bunch of people and, and they said, Hey, so we've never shut down before. You know, what's it's going to be like I brought in organizers, I brought in heavy hitters to let's, let's put our brains together. And Paul Foley from Denver Angels in Colorado startups is like Joe, we don't have a problem. During COVID, we moved over to zoom and we've got amazing deals. So So, put that put a pin in that now. Fast forward, I was over at an RVC event last year. And they had Brad, not Brad Feld. But Brad…
Brad Pitt? Wit you, just I would expect it at this point.
Anyway, but he decided in in bread startup communities. He runs the CU Boulder CU Denver entrepreneurship program. That's put out 140 businesses and over $3 billion in revenue right. Now. Oh, let's see if I can find it.
Okay, well, we'll put it in the show notes.
He, so he was talking at the event. And he and I asked him at the end of it, you know what? The then we were struggling with some things in the ecosystem. Currently in the ecosystem, like I said, Startup Week was amazing. But then immediately afterwards, if the access to information to let's say, I start up my startup, where do I go? Where do I go to learn about pitch decks, about equity distribution? The importance of building a good founding team? Where do I even go find some co-founders? There's, there's not pedigree around here. When I get out to events, you can go out to an event, anytime this week, you'll find stuff on meetup, you could probably find an event to go to at least one night, a week, Monday through Friday, you probably could. When you get there, you're gonna find financial guys who are trying to sell you financial services, you're gonna find some life insurance, guys, you know,
There's always lawyers there, right? Yeah,
You're not really gonna find the founders. On my second startup, I was able to find the brand strategists from Adobe, the director of marketing for the Honda Center, the president of Tech Coast Angels, and all these cool people. And you're not finding them here. And, and then for the events that are going on, there's no education, there's no panel discussion, there's nobody leading that. To find that you've got to go to, you know, a, whose founders and Founder Institute, they might, Diane might put on an event, and then you'll have your panel, you might go to RVC, they're gonna have the hyper-accelerator, I encourage people to apply, they do amazing things. But it should be also happening out in the public on a Tuesday, you should be able to go attend to a panel from Sequoia group on, you know, the, what's going on in the venture capital world like,
Right, because isn't it? Isn't it so true? It's like, so much of what happens in the early stage tech company or venture capital world. It's constantly evolving and changing, like, actually, startups are constantly evolving and changing and probably the only thing changing quicker than startups are the environment that they're in. And so it's like, how do we stay up to date? How do we stay educated on it? I mean, when you're doing it every day as your job, it's a little bit easier to stay up on it, but even then, it's hard like I have trouble stay at keeping up with things.
So for that person coming to Colorado, there are a lot of great resources. The problem is is finding them and then gathering them Startup Week did an amazing job of it. But but we need more of that we need it happening. startups don't wait. Comments on Champa has this like, oh, I forget. It's like this program. And here's the problem with programs and even the problem Like the use of the university entrepreneurship programs, if I'm a startup, I don't want to wait till next semester to see my idea through. I had an idea on Friday and I registered my company at one o'clock in the morning and, and I've already got customers like I, I'm not waiting for some program, that's going to happen in three months to start my startup. Startups are fluid, they, they're, they're inventive people. And I would say the biggest problem with the Colorado ecosystem right now is for the frickin life of me. Everybody in this ecosystem thinks that like, oh, I can solve that with a program. But your program, get your program out into the public to crazy people like Daniel Low, who does pitch nights or Nick Campion, who does 1 Million Cups, investors should be more active. And instead of thinking, How do I get people over to my thing, be better community partners, get out into the public, go team up with other people.
Team up with the crazies. I love it. That's great advice. Great advice. Um, we're just about out of time. But I do have two more quick questions. I want to make sure we get to first of all, do you have any I love to ask. I usually ask our guests this question. I'm especially excited to ask you this question. I gotta say, crystal ball predictions, anything you're thinking like, what's coming in the next you know, call it year, two years? Anything you're either you know, region wise, crystal ball prediction, something you're seeing happening, or just something in tech or something in marketing or, like predict the future for me?
Yeah, yeah. So I hope people are listening, I hope. I hope the community leaders of this space are listening. pull your head out of your ass, quit trying to do this shit alone, and partner up with people. That's what a real community does. Now Colorado will say that the the what's awesome about Colorado is we all work well together. That's bullshit. Everybody wants you to come over to their party. They don't and rich from not sweater ventures. Oh, sorry. Yeah, originally, yeah. Springtime ventures three times. He uses this analogy about a being a junior high dance. Nobody wants to step out onto the dance floor. Right? Step out on the dance floor. That's the only spot that you're gonna be able to meet other people get to dancing and have fun. Otherwise, you're just some lame junior high kids huddling around the wall, doing dumb shit. So now I don't know, if Colorado just has an independence problem. Colorado is like, Oh, they're fiercely independent. But they act like they get along well, and they do get along. They don't talk shit about each other. I'm talking more shit than I've ever heard. But they also don't dance. Well. They're not getting out on the dance floor. Get out on the dance floor. Go partner with other event organizers. Go do more shit. Go do stupid shit and go put weird shit together. Go try shit. But they're standing around the wall. And they're like, Isn't this a great party? And you're like, No, it's not get out on the dance floor. bust out the robot, do a worm on the floor, do something stupid.
The lawnmower, the lawn mower is my move. Yeah.
Do more things. My prediction is, unless, unless they leave the wall. Everybody's gonna stand around thinking that we've got this really good thing. And yet. We don't We really don't. We do it in bits and pieces. But we could do an awesome job. We could teach the world how to do startups, right, Brad Feld is amazing, but I don't know the last time he's come out to an event. And that book is old now. The book talks about it, you know, the coffee shop meetups. That's cute. We don't do that anymore. We're more likely to meet up over an improper city and go grab a beer. You know, so
Maybe you should work with Brad on the next edition.
I messaged him. I tagged him on shit today. And he's emailed a few times. Probably more likely to say Hey, dude, cut it out. But but we don't have that anymore. We need we need something. But it's not really true anymore. We have this little thing that came in it disrupted everything called COVID. And prior to COVID the Center for the startup ecosystem was hands down, Boulder. Now post COVID I would say that um, you know, it's more like Denver, but we don't have a Brad Feld, we don't have somebody leading it there or not. If you really distill the startup communities book down, Brad is really talking about you can highlight them. It's about five people that he talks about, who really built that boulder ecosystem. They were the ones throwing the events, Boulder’s, tiny, Denver is not. And so we don't have those five people, even if we have five people, we need like 30. We need like 30 people to really be like the boulder ecosystem. And we're struggling to get those people.
Well, if I'm reading the tea leaves on your prediction, your crystal ball moment here, it's a call to action. And you're also saying there needs to be a Brad Feld in Denver. And I don't know, Joseph Haecker sounds like a good candidate to be the instigator in Denver.
I don’t need to encourage my kids to follow me. But what?
All right, well, let's see. Let's see what happens. Last question. And it's I always tried to go with something fun or something personal. And for you, what I'd like to know is, what is something that our listeners would be maybe surprised to know about you having listened to you? For the past 45 minutes? And my guess would be do you play the violin? Or?
No? Oh, I thought that would be perfect. Ukuleles? Yeah. Oh,
You do play the ukulele. Okay. What's something interesting,
I will talk story about that. So. So what my kids are my kids, as of right now are 23 and 24. And when they were kids, when they were little, I used to play the guitar for them. I would read them a story, and then play the guitar until they fell asleep. I heard that it was good. You know, those simple sounds were good for their brain and kind of like defrag their brain. So So fast forward, my my oldest, I guess both of them were in high school at this point. So I'm at home, and they come running in the door with all their friends. And Tyler's got this guitar. And he's like, Yeah, Dad, Lorenzo's dad just gave me his classic guitar. He's like, here, can you play it? And he handed it to me, and I go, shit, kid. I don't know how to play the guitar. And he was like, boy, I told everybody that you in this. And it's the reason Lorenzo dad gave him the guitar was because he said the story about like, how my daddy said, it's hard for me to you know, every night and blah, blah, blah. And I was like, oh, kiddo. That guitar had like three strings. And I don't know how to play this. I don't even know what a chord is on a on a guitar. But you were so little. You had no idea. So I was like, I was like a rock star. So on that day was the day that I burst the bubble. Yes, yeah, life isn't always what it's cracked up to be.
That's right. You never know. You never know what you're gonna get. In the words of Forrest Gump. So, first of all, Joseph, I just want to thank you for being on the episode. I've got to say, I mean, we're only at episode 50 something I could imagine even by episode 250, I would be shocked if we have a more intriguing guest with a more intriguing story. I really enjoyed having you today. Definitely an instigator in our ecosystem. And I think if we ever decided to do like an 18 hour episode, you'd probably be the first person I'd call because I'm sure we could fill it!
I could talk you through 19 of those hours. Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Short on words or stories.
Yeah, but I just really great to get to know you a little bit look forward to meet you in person and seeing you soon in Denver. And just that on a closing note. Could you please just tell our audience a little bit more about where they can find you? And perhaps maybe Tech Alley online?
Yeah, definitely. So it's TechAlleydenver.org. So that's a great one. I also do a podcast it's called the join and crowd podcast so you can go to joinincrowdpodcast.com. And then LinkedIn, hit me up on LinkedIn. I'm, I'm a social media hooker.
Awesome. Startup addict and social media hooker. Thanks, Joseph.
You know, it's a grimy life. But it's just grimy. There's no but it's just grimy.
Yeah, you're a great guy to do it. Thanks for being on the show. 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 nextfrontiercapital.com to get transcripts, links, and contact information for today's guests. If you like what you heard and want more, please don't forget to rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop every two weeks. We'll see you next time.