Three Boulder Startup Week tracks to watch and the people behind them

BOULDER — Boulder Startup Week, which starts Monday and runs through Friday, is made up of tracks ranging from education technology to robotics, from putting more women in leadership to art to beer-related startups.

But all of those tracks — more than 30 this year —are run by volunteers.

To kick off Boulder Startup Week, BizWest spoke to three of those volunteers about what tracks they’re leading, why they saw them as important and why they took the time to organize these classes and panels.

Kevin Owocki, Future of Tech

Why Boulder Startup Week?

It’s a one-week celebration of entrepreneurs. This is my fourth year as a track organizer. My track dovetails with my personal interests, as my career has grown and changed in tech. I came to the conclusion after a decade in technology that you always have to be learning and adapting. I wanted to add the most value to the community by talking about the skills most important to the 21st century.

What can people expect from the “Future of Tech” track?

It’s going to focus on a few trends I see. First, virtual reality is starting to have a real impact on the way consumers do entertainment. Another trend that’s building on VR is augmented reality and mixed reality; it’s VR but with the real world superimposed by the digital world. That’s harder to do but has the possibility to be more integrated by the way we live our lives. That’s two of the trends. Moving away from the user interface layer, I’ll have a couple events on machine learning. The fourth trend I want to touch on is cryptocurrency. People know Bitcoin, but there are whole ecosystems of cryptocurrency that have evolved under Bitcoin that have their own competitive advantage. And the last trend I want to talk about is digital security. In the last 12 months, with the election, Wikileaks and Russia having arguably real effects on the election, as the tech community we all need to learn about operational security, cryptography and law.

Why take the time to run the Future of Tech track?

As technologies always have to be evolving, we need to be evolving towards where the future is going and focusing on what trends are important to you, as a 21st-century community member. With respect to why I do it, there’s an atmosphere in Boulder of “give first.” It’s so great to put this in front of the community.

Rylan Bowers, New to Boulder

What is the “New to Boulder” track?

There are five different events. There’s the New to Boulder dinner, where we’re pairing people up with people who have been veterans in the Boulder tech scene and startups. They’re taking eight to 10 people out to dinner where they can ask questions and introduce themselves. In this business, our lives can be skipped and we miss making contacts, introductions and friends in the industry.

Another event is “so you want to work at a startup,” where serial entrepreneurs and luminaries in the startup world talk about what the life is like. There’s also a resume and interview workshop.

The Tech Friends happy hour is a biannual happy hour we have for the Tech Friends Slack channel, where tech-related people can come have drinks and talk shop.

And on Thursday, we have our Gateway to the Weekend monthly dance party, which has been moved up a week for Boulder Startup Week as a special event.

Why have a track all based on being new to the area?

When I came here, I landed at a company that had 10 employees. It was a tightknit troup so I had a social circle to reach out to and do things. But it can be limiting. Having ways and insight into the community is important. There are Meetups, but I think it’s really common for people to have their heads down and be too tired to do it. At Boulder Startup Week, there’s a good energy, and it’s a good way to approach it. Maybe you can consider Tech Friends or the dance party as a way to meet people and expand that network.

For you personally, why get involved in this track and Boulder Startup Week?

It’s valuable for me to go to events like this: You have contacts that come from it and two years later, it spirals out to a job opportunity or something. I like hosting and welcoming people … Not that long ago, I was a transplant. I grew up and worked in San Diego. It burned me out. I made a shortlist of places I wanted to go and came to Boulder.meet, which was a precursor to Boulder Startup Week. Eventually, I got a job from someone I met there. For me, it’s giving back and completing the circle because this is how I got into the scene.

Yoriko Morita, Legal track

Why does Boulder Startup Week have a legal track?

We were fortunate enough to find two sponsors, so we’re going to have an entrepreneurship track and intellectual-property track within the whole legal sphere. There’s going to be 11 events. It’s the second year we’ll have it. It started last year because there was a demand for a lot more legal expertise. One of the stumbling blocks for startups are the legal aspects of running a business. It can be hard to understand the law implications, and that’s what we’re trying to address.

What can people expect from the two sets?

On the entrepreneurship side, we’re talking about what’s involved in starting a business. For people who are first starting off, we have an event about where to start. We have a young entrepreneur who just graduated from CU, and she will moderate a discussion with a couple of attorneys and a seasoned entrepreneur. She’ll be able to ask questions about business from the stage of “I think I’ve got a good idea, what are the things I have to do.” And then we have events at the other end of the spectrum, specific to exits and fundraising. What are the things you have to keep in mind as you’re taking in millions from venture capitalists or getting acquired.

On the IP side, which is more my background, we’ll be talking about the different things you can do to protect your business. I’m excited about one particular event that’s focused on visual artists, photographers and people who are making their business around a creative idea. They still have to think like an entrepreneur. They can’t just be giving away their art all the time. So we’ll have a couple seasoned attorneys and an artist who’s also an entrepreneur with some successful exits to have a really interesting conversation.

What is your background that lead you to do this track?

I’ve been in the patent business for over 20 years. I started off my career working at a law firm that specialized in working with startups. Now I do IP consulting for businesses small and large, but I work with a lot of very small innovators.

The whole Boulder Startup Week vibe is a labor of love by everyone. One of the big rules we have is no pitching: We don’t get to pitch our businesses. It’s about the connection you make and the community you build. That keeps me coming back.