Courtesy Indigo Sheri Smith, founder of Indigo, speaks to students and parents at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette. Courtesy Indigo

Niwot woman-led company competes for VC prize

NIWOT — A Niwot-based startup that helps to match personal attributes with careers was among five women-led companies nationwide to compete May 19 for a quarter of a million dollars in investments. The competition, a one-day pitch contest, resulted in funding, plus access to other investors.

The Niwot company, Indigo Education Co., didn’t win, but it did gain the attention of potential investors and was able to showcase its services on a large stage.

Hosting the pitch event was ECMC Foundation and Chloe Capital. Indigo, founded by Sheri Smith, was the only Colorado company in the hunt for the investment prize.

The five finalists were selected based on their ideas in education innovation, college success, career readiness and workforce transformation. The event was called “Invest in Women: Future of Work & Education.”

The event was significant for two major reasons. First, it was meant to combat the inequity in venture-capital funding of women-led businesses. As reported in Fortune magazine, only 2.2% of venture-capital funding in 2018 went to women-led companies, and one male-led company, Juul Labs Inc., took in more venture-capital money — $12.8 billion — than all venture-capital raised by the 482 female-led companies that received funding that year.

Second, the competition’s emphasis on career readiness and success comes at a time when 40 million Americans are unemployed.

“I think that a lot of the traditional jobs [lost during the pandemic] aren’t coming back,” Smith told BizWest. “I think a lot of the unemployed will still be out of work a year from now,” she said.

Kathryn Cartini, co-founder and partner of Chloe Capital, agreed. “Sheri is onto something hot,” she said. She said the company’s focus on preparing people for jobs, especially with so many unemployed now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be important.

“We hope that the spotlight we’ve put on them” will result in investment in her company, she said. Of the 600 people who joined the virtual pitch competition, half said they were investors.

Indigo Education Co., founded in 2013, “uncovers the intrinsic genius of the individual and then helps find the education pathway,” Smith said. The company helps determine not only what an individual might be good at, but also how the person is wired, which may be an indicator of success, she said.

Indigo Education has a three-pronged approach. First, its system assesses behaviors and aptitudes, then uses an artificial-intelligence platform to generate information that the student can act upon, and finally it maps the potential career and helps students plan how to navigate the path.

The company has contractual relationships with about 200 high schools and 25 colleges in 17 states. Its 10 employees have conducted about 100,000 assessments of individuals and have trained about 5,000 educators, she said.

A self-described “farm girl from Michigan,” Smith said she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life upon graduation from high school. She graduated from American University with a bachelors in international studies and earned a masters from Georgetown University in communication. Her work prior to founding Indigo was with a global women’s right’s organization, in personal development, coaching and consulting for companies.

“My first love is working with middle school and high school students, especially the disadvantaged. They grew up believing that they don’t have a place in the world,” she said.

As a result of that concern, Indigo Education has both for-profit and nonprofit divisions. The nonprofit is called Indigo Impact Initiative, a 501(c)3.

“We don’t want cost to be a barrier to this,” she said. If a constituency is unable to pay for the company’s services, the nonprofit arm finds a way to make it available.

Indigo was designed to shift away from standardization in education and to capture “a multi-dimensional view of the individual,” she said.

Smith pitched the company’s newest version, called the Indigo Pathways App, which provides a personalized pathway to careers.

Smith has lofty goals for the coming year. “We’re hoping to double our revenue and employee base in the next year, but it’s hard to sell in this environment” when schools are closed, she said.

NIWOT — A Niwot-based startup that helps to match personal attributes with careers was among five women-led companies nationwide to compete May 19 for a quarter of a million dollars in investments. The competition, a one-day pitch contest, resulted in funding, plus access to other investors.

The Niwot company, Indigo Education Co., didn’t win, but it did gain the attention of potential investors and was able to showcase its services on a large stage.

Hosting the pitch event was ECMC Foundation and Chloe Capital. Indigo, founded by Sheri Smith, was the only Colorado company in the hunt for the investment prize.

The five finalists were selected based on their ideas in education innovation, college success, career readiness and workforce transformation. The event was called “Invest in Women: Future of Work & Education.”

The event was significant for two major reasons. First, it was meant to combat the inequity in venture-capital funding of women-led businesses. As reported in Fortune magazine, only 2.2% of venture-capital funding in 2018 went to women-led companies, and one male-led company, Juul Labs Inc., took in more venture-capital money — $12.8 billion — than all venture-capital raised by the 482 female-led companies that received funding that year.

Second, the competition’s emphasis on career readiness and success comes at a time when 40 million Americans are unemployed.

“I think that a lot of the traditional jobs [lost during the pandemic] aren’t coming back,” Smith told BizWest. “I think a lot of the unemployed will still be out of work a year from now,” she…