Tech spars: Founder Fights boxing added to Boulder Startup Week lineup

BOULDER — When the word “valuation” enters the pre-bout boxing trash talk, you know it’s a pair of seasoned entrepreneurs stepping in the ring.

“Winner gets to pick valuation,” PivotDesk CEO David Mandell tweeted last week to Brad Feld, the Techstars cofounder and Boulder venture capitalist whose firm, Foundry Group, is an investor in PivotDesk.

Fightin’ words. Boulder-style.

Both men are signed up to participate in Founder Fights, a new event on the Boulder Startup Week calendar this year aiming to match up founders, VCs and other local business owners to raise money for charity. The event will be held in the New Vista High School gym on May 20, the final night of BSW.

It’s an event dreamed up by Mandell, who has been training with The Corner Boxing Club cofounder Carrie Barry for well over a year. The relationship started as a way for Mandell to rehab a bad back but quickly morphed into his newfound love of boxing.

Entrepreneurs are notorious, after all, for being consumed mentally, and often physically, by the pursuit of their companies. What better way to escape than by taking — or rather trying not to take — a few punches.

“With boxing, all of that stuff disappears,” Mandell said this week of the stresses of running a startup. “You’re so focused for that hour, it’s almost meditative because you don’t think about anything else. … Not only that, you get to hit stuff.”

“It’s completely changed my life over the year and a half I’ve been doing it.”

The idea of Founder Fights is one that’s quickly resonated in Boulder’s startup community. Barry said 18 people have signed up to participate so far. Noted startup coach Jerry Colonna is among them, as are Made Movement partner Graham Furlong and Premier Mortgage Group’s Ariel Solomon, a former University of Colorado and NFL football player. Techstars’ Nicole Glaros is one of the latest to throw her name in the ring, tweeting Tuesday, “ok. I’m in. how do I join?”

Of course, Mandell, Feld and the others will have to make it through Barry’s training regimen before they’re allowed to settle their fiscal feuds with gloves.

Far from your average strongman competition, Founder Fights will be a USA Boxing-sanctioned event run by Barry, a former U.S. national team captain.

Barry said fighters will be matched according to age, weight and ability, with plenty of emphasis on athlete safety. They’ll also be meeting at the gym at 5:30 a.m. a couple of days per week in the coming weeks to learn the basics of boxing and get ready. Nobody will box under the lights on May 20 without making it through the training and proving to Barry they’re ready, she said. Bouts, for the most part, will consist of three 1-minute rounds. About two weeks before Founder Fights, projected competitors will spar to make sure people are evenly matched.

Because who’s going to run the city’s startups if a bunch of ill-prepared founders get knocked out?

“Just because they sign up doesn’t mean I’m going to let them box,” Barry said.

Ideally, she said she’s hoping for about six or so founder bouts intermingled with four regular amateur bouts featuring fighters who train at her gym squaring off against fighters from other gyms.

Sponsor tables are going for between $1,000 and $3,000, with individual tickets also available at www.founderfights.com. New Vista will receive some of the door proceeds for hosting. But a title charity will also be selected to receive proceeds from the event. And participants themselves will be raising money, box-a-thon-style, for the charities of their choices as well.

“It’s a really cool opportunity for them to get their health back and get back into shape if they’ve gotten out of shape … do something competitive, and do something to give back to our community,” Barry said.

Barry cofounded The Corner Boxing Club, 5500 Central Ave., with her wife, Kirsten Marshall, not quite two years ago. The two coaches — Marshall is also an active competitor — also have Khumiso Ikgopoleng, a three-time Olympian from Botswana, on their staff.

While The Corner Boxing Club might be the first to stage a Founder Fights event, the club might not be the last.

Mandell said he’s gotten inquiries from other cities around the country that host their own startup weeks about staging similar events.

“We don’t want to commit to anything before we get through this one,” Mandell said. “But it could have a lot more legs.

“It’s certainly turned into a lot bigger event than we thought it would be at first.”

BOULDER — When the word “valuation” enters the pre-bout boxing trash talk, you know it’s a pair of seasoned entrepreneurs stepping in the ring.

“Winner gets to pick valuation,” PivotDesk CEO David Mandell tweeted last week to Brad Feld, the Techstars cofounder and Boulder venture capitalist whose firm, Foundry Group, is an investor in PivotDesk.

Fightin’ words. Boulder-style.

Both men are signed up to participate in Founder Fights, a new event on the Boulder Startup Week calendar this year aiming to match up founders, VCs and other local business owners to raise money for charity. The event will be held in the New Vista High School gym on May 20, the final night of BSW.

It’s an event dreamed up by Mandell, who has been training with The Corner Boxing Club cofounder Carrie Barry for well over a year. The relationship started as a way for Mandell to rehab a bad back but quickly morphed into his newfound love of boxing.

Entrepreneurs are notorious, after all, for being consumed mentally, and often physically, by the pursuit of their companies. What better way to escape than by taking — or rather trying not to take — a few punches.

“With boxing, all of that stuff disappears,” Mandell said this week of the stresses of running a startup. “You’re so focused for that hour, it’s almost meditative because you don’t think about anything else. … Not…