TiE Rockies graduates first class in its startup accelerator

CENTENNIAL — TiE Rockies, the Colorado chapter of a global community-based nonprofit focused on growing entrepreneurship, has started its own accelerator to grow startups in the state.

The Propel Accelerator, which just graduated its first cohort, is meant to help mid-stage startups grow, said Rachel Isaman, executive director of the Centennial-based chapter.

“Our big goal is we would love to be a leader to build Colorado into a top hub for entrepreneurship, not only for the country but for the world,” Isaman told BizWest. “That entails working with different membership bases, working with local strategic partnerships and tapping into the global TiE community.”

There are five pillars to what TiE Rockies does: networking, education, funding, incubating and mentoring.

The accelerator is part of the funding pillar, and directly partners with the angel investment group Rockies Venture Club.

Isaman said that for the Propel Accelerator, she decided to target startups that were in the middle of their development.

“There are a lot of accelerators for the ideation stage and a lot that focus on higher level funding for more robust startups,” she said. “There’s a piece in the middle: companies that have been operating a while and are looking for their first round of funding, but are not ready yet to play with the big boys.”

The accelerator follows Guy Kawasaki’s 10 slides for a perfect pitch, and partners participants with an advocate mentor and subject matter experts to help them prepare.

To add a little extra fuel to the fire, Isaman said that the final pitch is actually a competition, where the winner gets their tuition for the program back.

“We’re getting them investor ready,” she said, “and helping them tap into getting the right funding around Colorado.”

Isaman added that the Propel Accelerator does not take any equity stake in the company and charges a nominal fee for tuition. To apply, applicants must first reach out to the accelerator’s program manager so someone from the leadership team can meet face-to-face with the interested startup. After they submit a formal application, they give an in-person pitch to TiE Rockies so the organization can assess in real time if the startup is ready to participate.

“The two biggest components we look for in an applicant are: do you have a fully invested founder, someone who is committed to the program?” she said. “And the second biggest is: are you coachable? Can you take constructive criticism?”

For the first cohort, seven companies participated: IdeaJam, Spark Mindset, Evoke Medical, Audit Prodigy, AidLogic, EBS and, the competition winner, PuppTech.

The Propel Accelerator is already seeking applicants for its next cohort, which will begin after Labor Day.