2nd year planned for CU business-accelerator program

BOULDER – Perhaps the biggest sign of success for the University of Colorado’s new Catalyze CU business-accelerator program as it wrapped up its first cohort Thursday night is that a second year is in the works, complete with new digs.

College of Engineering and Applied Science assistant dean Doug Smith, who spearheaded the launch of Catalyze, announced at the accelerator’s first Demo Day that next year’s cohort will be based at Idea Forge, a new makerspace being built out in the former law library in the Fleming Building.

Six student-led companies pitched their business plans to investors and community members Thursday, culminating the eight-week Catalyze program in which the business leaders worked with mentors in Boulder’s startup community. The program was based this year at Spark Boulder, a student-run co-working space on University Hill.

Smith said the hope is to expand next year’s cohort to eight to 10 teams, and extend the length to 10 weeks or more.

“Campus has been pretty supportive, and we want to take what we’ve done here and push it forward,” Smith said.

Smith noted that Catalyze would likely try to keep some sort of relationship with Spark. But he was also excited about the prospects of the added space and amenities Idea Forge will bring to the table.

Work began on Idea Forge in the spring and is expected to be completed by October. The $2 million renovation, funded by the engineering school, will convert about 22,000 square feet of space into an area where students can collaborate on their innovations and build and test prototypes. It will be open to anyone with a campus ID card, and will include various equipment like 3D printers, a laser cutter and machine shop.

“The idea is for it to really be open,” Smith said.

Helping to buoy Thursday’s Demo Day enthusiasm was the news earlier in the day that Forbes magazine had ranked CU one of the top 20 most entrepreneurial universities in the country, not to mention the six companies that pitched a wide range of business ideas. Catalyze CU came together quickly in the spring as a collaboration between the engineering school and CU’s Deming Center for Entrepreneurship.

“I’m kind of a proud papa right now,” Smith said. “It’s exciting to see how far it’s come.”

The six companies that finished the program Thursday included:

Mallinda, which manufactures a plastic polymer that can be quickly molded directly to the body to make a wide variety of products like orthotics more accessible and less expensive.

SolVia, which is working to provide Nicaraguan farmers with a solar energy solution to their traditionally diesel-powered irrigation systems.

IconPulse, which provides a web platform and app that helps teams and organizations in the sports industry gauge their social media influence.

QuintEssentials, which delivers personal care items to college students on behalf of their parents.

Dynamic Measurements, a company that is developing a new measurement device for improved fitting of artificial limbs.

Shinesty, a web retail site geared toward helping people find “outrageous and hilarious” clothing for theme parties and other events.


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