Fort Collins kicks off state’s Startup Weeks

FORT COLLINS — Andrew Schneider and his nonprofit, CreatePlaces, may have taken over Fort Collins Startup Week on short notice, but they have big ideas for the event that will run from Feb. 27 to March 3.

As the event enters its fourth year, they want to grow it into a more community-oriented affair while leaving guests, as Schneider said, “motivated to go back to the entrepreneurial lifestyle.”

The steering committee for Startup Week approached CreatePlaces to produce the event when the gig suddenly became open in November. Schneider formed the nonprofit in 2014; it provides grants and loans to local artists and companies that employ them.

Schneider said that despite a hasty beginning to Startup Week’s organization, organizers have expanded the week to more than 100 separate events in venues all around Fort Collins.

CreatePlaces had pre-existing relationships with various hosting venues across town, such as the Museum of Discovery, which Schneider said was crucial to their putting Startup Week together on such short notice.

That’s manifesting itself in this Startup Week’s greater focus on Fort Collins’ craft food and beer industries; they’ve always been a part of the week, Schneider said, but this year CreatePlaces has made them more of a focal point.

Four out of the five days of Startup Week will have catered lunches, more than ever before, and Schneider said that he’s instructed the caterers not only to work with local companies, but also with up-and-coming ones with a story.

Schneider cited Rebel Popcorn as an example; it opened in Fort Collins in 2015, selling flavors such as pumpkin pie and Sriracha tikka masala, and its website boasts the “world’s hottest popcorn.” It’s bringing its popcorn and craft soda to Startup Week’s film events. Attendees will also be told about Rebel’s history and growth, Schneider said.

About 80 percent of Startup Week’s events will be focused on education, and 20 percent on bringing people together, Schneider said, for what he called “cool collisions” of people from different startup sectors.

“It’s a celebration of the entrepreneurial community, not a business conference,” Schneider said.

As for some of the events themselves, they range from “Have Fewer Meetings that Suck Less” at the Community Creative Center (11 a.m. on Feb. 27) to “Opportunities for Women in STEM” at FVC Mesh (3:30 p.m. on March 1) to a week-ending plunge into the Poudre River, which Startup Week’s calendar likens to that “huge leap to faith to dive into entrepreneurship.”

Fort Collins Startup Week is an affiliate of TechStars, a service that gives startup communities the tools and guidelines to build their own Startup Weeks within a framework but unique to their community.

Other Colorado Startup Weeks fall under the same umbrella, including Boulder’s — the original Startup Week — Denver’s (Sept. 25-29), Colorado Springs’ (Sept. 26-30), Loveland’s (April 6-8) and Longmont’s (July 24-28).

Loveland Startup Week is only in its second year, but it’s bringing U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, as its keynote speaker. It’s running two tracks, one dedicated to “renovating” careers in the arts and another to the “basics of business.”

As it grows, Schneider said that Loveland’s and Fort Collins’ Startup Weeks will have opportunities to collaborate, share ideas and host events together.

“People should leave with the impression that opportunities for prosperity and success are all around them,” Schneider said.


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