Entrepreneurs / Small Business  May 11, 2022

Boulder Startup Week: Founders living with the lights on

BOULDER — People are motivated by a host of things — romance, money, the love of the game.

Startup founders are no different, Boulder Startup Week panelists at an event called “Building a Great Company from the Inside Out, Insights on How Founders Affect Culture” said Wednesday. Their reasons for starting companies typically fall on a spectrum of light — because it’s a passion project or because it provides the freedom to be creative — to shadow — out of spite or because it provides the freedom to avoid being told what to do. 

Panelists speak at Boulder Startup Week
Techstars chief investment strategy officer Nicole Glaros, performance coach Joseph Logan, Energize Colorado CEO Wendy Lea and Soul of Startups founder Julie Penner participated in a panel discussion on startup founder culture Wednesday at Boulder Startup Week. BizWest/Lucas High.

While it’s not unheard of for founders who embrace the shadows to find successes, at least temporarily, it’s those who live in the light who experience longevity, panelists said. 

“It’s really challenging but not impossible” to shift from a shadow mindset to one of light, Energize Colorado CEO Wendy Lea said. 

Once founders discover that they can confront their shadows and successfully self-actualize, “there’s not a whole lot there that can hurt you,” performance coach Joseph Logan said. 

A founder or CEO’s “need to be king” is a “big red flag,” Techstars chief investment strategy officer Nicole Glaros said. 

Organizations led by those who grip power too tightly “very quickly hit a ceiling” because there is only so much time and bandwidth a founder can muster before they burn out, she said. “You lose good people like that because good people want to be trusted. They want responsibility and accountability.”

Micromanagement “not only is it inefficient, it diminishes the relationship” between founder and staff, Logan said. 

Strong leaders “share knowledge openly and willingly,” Lea said. 

She recommended that founders and CEOs “observe yourselves organically.” Examine how you interact with waiters or baristas at coffee shops, she said. “That’s where the beginning of self-awareness is.”

Well-run companies can ultimately lead to collaborative startup environments in which multiple participating organizations can thrive, panelists said. 

“Boulder punches above its weight” compared to other startup hotspots, Glaros said, because local leaders “have made community a priority.”

BOULDER — People are motivated by a host of things — romance, money, the love of the game.

Startup founders are no different, Boulder Startup Week panelists at an event called “Building a Great Company from the Inside Out, Insights on How Founders Affect Culture” said Wednesday. Their reasons for starting companies typically fall on a spectrum of light — because it’s a passion project or because it provides the freedom to be creative — to shadow — out of spite or because it provides the freedom to avoid being told what to do. 

Panelists…
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