Colorado is determined to be a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation. In June 2017, Melanie Pease Davidson contributed an essay entitled Welcome to the Impact Frontier to Cornerstone Capital’s Colorado Impact Report. Melanie’s piece emphasized that Colorado is NOT just a ‘silicon mountain.’ Rather, we’re operating in an entirely different space—’the impact frontier.’ The impact frontier signifies the high level of innovation and thought leadership occurring specifically within impact-driven solutions here in Colorado.
Some could read this as a bold statement. But we think it holds more truth than hype; and people are starting to take notice. Last week, the city hosted Denver Startup Week 2017, officially the largest entrepreneurial event of its kind in North America, with over 18,000 people registering for the week-long festivities. The event even showcased an “Impact” track throughout its events last week, highlighting a series of panels related to social entrepreneurship, impact investment, and other mission-driven projects. Hundreds of people attended each impact panel, whether because they are already in the space or wanted to learn more about it. It’s clear the impact movement is gaining traction here. So, is Melanie’s call to action and claim that Colorado has become the impact frontier a reality? Absolutely. PeakChange has identified 5 reasons why we believe Colorado is at the heart of America’s impact ecosystem.
Top 5 Reasons Why Colorado is the Heart of the Impact Ecosystem
1. Thought leaders and innovators prioritize their stops in Colorado.
Ross Baird and Village Capital hosted a variety of events prior to Denver Startup Week, including an Education Workshop and promotion of The Innovation Blind Spot in cities across Colorado. Why do these innovators and pioneers prioritize their visits to our state? They recognize how the Colorado community embraces inclusion when searching for solutions. The relationships between philanthropists, entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers in Colorado create an environment more focused on collaboration than competition. This means the solutions coming out of our state lead will to greater innovation and change for success among all changemakers.
2. Colorado explores innovative capital solutions to support entrepreneurs.
How familiar are you with the following terms? Social impact bonds, donor-advised funds, guarantor models, royalty or revenue based financing, ESOP, structured exits. During Denver Startup Week, PeakChange asked a crowd of over one hundred people who came to hear a panel, Innovative Capital to Support Colorado's Impact-Driven Companies, the same questions. With a show of hands, a surprising amount of folks in the audience were familiar with the terms. In Colorado, investors and entrepreneurs are thinking about capital a bit differently than traditional investment models. Ryan Kirkpatrick of Colorado Impact Fund, Luis Duarte of Gary Community Investments, Jeremy Priest of Knotty Tie, and Brook Eddy of Bhakti Chai shared their experiences and hopes with the community. The takeaway? Impact investing should be seen as a team sport engaging community foundations, funds, investors, and VCs to support entrepreneurs while developing strong partnerships and long-lasting relationships.
3. Colorado is home to the largest concentration of B Corps worldwide.
Every day more companies are choosing to redefine success in business by taking the B Impact Assessment and becoming Certified B Corps. It's an effort to think more critically about the impact a company is creating both internally and externally. As Kim Coupounas from B Lab highlighted last week, Colorado has the largest concentrations of B, or “Benefit,” Corporations in the world (93 and counting!) and is in a position to outpace the growth of B Corps internationally. Recognizing the interest in our state, B Lab expanded its offices to Colorado in 2014. This year, the organization launched its Best for Colorado Challenge. Best for Colorado is a program led by B Lab that supports and celebrate Colorado businesses to create better jobs, communities, and a healthier environment.
4. Our Governor is a champion for entrepreneurship and innovation, boasting ideas like ‘topophilia’.
In a time of political uncertainty and turmoil, Colorado’s Governor, John Hickenlooper remains a champion for entrepreneurship and innovation at the state and local level. The Governor believes in the concept of ‘topophilia,’ or love of place, and that through investment in communities and places of identity, Coloradans can find meaning and purpose where they live along with freedom to create and innovate. Federally funded research facilities in Colorado contributed an estimated $2.6 billion to the state’s economy in 2016 and supported more than 17,600 jobs. Colorado has a powerful innovation economy bolstered by partnerships between industry and academia.
5. Colorado is building a statewide marketplace to demonstrate impact opportunities at scale.
The Impact Finance Center founded CO Impact Days and Initiative in 2014. This initiative of the Impact Finance Center, a nonprofit led by Colorado State University, is a multi-year strategy to elevate and accelerate impact investing statewide. Over the next three years, the Initiative seeks to catalyze $100M of investment capital for Colorado-based ventures destined to make a lasting positive community impact. CO Impact Initiative pioneered the creation of a statewide marketplace for identifying, connecting, and celebrating Colorado’s top social ventures and the impact investors who make them possible. CO Impact Days’ education, symposium, market-place, awards, and celebration brought together Colorado’s top 60 social ventures, 200 impact investors, and 500+ community members for the first time in 2016.
PeakChange is on a mission to create a more vibrant and more purposeful impact investing ecosystem that optimizes opportunities for both investors and social entrepreneurs. In doing so, PeakChange believes that we can establish impact investing as a prominent solution for tackling the world’s largest issues, starting in Colorado. Join us on this quest to improve the impact investing ecosystem. Learn more about who we are here. Bolstering the ecosystem and doubling down on the way Colorado leads requires more than just funding and great ideas - it takes heart. And, Colorado is the heart of the impact ecosystem.