Innosphere, China alliance to bring pitch event to Colorado

FORT COLLINS — Innosphere and the U.S. China Innovation Alliance are bringing InnoSTARS, a pitch competition for Chinese investment in U.S. companies, to Colorado for the first time.

Six preliminary competitions will take place in the U.S., seeking companies in four key industries: health care and biotechnology, environmental technology, renewable energy and new materials, and information and communication technology. Applications for Colorado companies, which can be startups or small businesses, are due April 17, and the pitch competition will occur April 27 in Denver.

Winners of the competition will receive an all-expenses paid trip to China, where they will pitch in front of investors for the chance to win investment and customers. Last year’s winner, a small Houston company that does wastewater treatment, got $120 million in investment.

This year, it was important to bring the competition to Colorado, which has been under the radar in the investment community when compared to Silicon Valley or Boston, two places where InnoSTARS has been taking place.

Min Fan, Colorado ambassador for InnoSTARS, said she was eager to bring the spotlight here.

“In bringing the event here, we had to find the right partner, and Innosphere was at the top of the list for its longtime commitment to Colorado,” Fan said.

Unlike competition cities like Houston, there’s no Chinese consulate in Colorado; the closest is in Chicago. But Fan and Innosphere was able to bring InnoSTARS to the state.

“There is so much innovation here; I’m happy it can have the spotlight,” Fan said.

The goal is for nine companies from Colorado to be selected for the trip to China. The competition will also be held in San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Boston and Atlanta. Fan hopes to get Colorado local governments interested in the competition as well. Houston and Atlanta have had their local and state economic development agencies partner with the event, while Denver so far has been limited to Innosphere. Fan said that is largely attributed to this being the first year Denver will host the event.

But she added that Innosphere has been a key driver to bringing the event to Colorado in the first place.

“There are a lot of players in the innovation space, but one of the reasons I advocated for Innosphere is because they have been around for 10-plus years, with a  long-term commitment for the state,” she said. “It’s something to be very proud of, the Northern Colorado innovation at Innosphere. What they’re doing is a huge benefit for the state and getting it on the map for this kind of play.”

Local companies interested in the competition can apply online.