Over the last few months I have spent a lot of time thinking about the differences between professional networking in an entrepreneurial hotbed like Silicon Valley and the networking opportunities available in the Denver/Boulder area of Colorado.
And yes, there’s certainly a difference between them. When I was based in Silicon Valley, there wasn’t a week when there weren’t four or five great events going on, ranging from lectures at one of the research facilities (I recall that Xerox PARC had lots of good speakers) to evening events sponsored by Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs.
Here in Colorado, however, despite the best efforts of organizations like CTEK Venture Centers, the daVinci Institute, and the invaluable publicity efforts of w3w3.com, it’s very rare that there’s a good networking event.
Indeed, I still remember fondly the New West launch party as one of the two the best entrepreneurial networking events I’ve attended since I’ve moved to Colorado.
More recently, w3w3.com‘s Larry and Pat Nelson cosponsored (along with CTEK) a terrific Blogging Party a few weeks ago in their offices in Denver. Over 100 people showed up to learn more about blogging and enjoy the hospitality.
But that’s about it. Certainly in the last twelve months I’ve found that I find more sharp entrepreneurs by traveling out of state to professional conferences and training events than by attending events here in Colorado.
What puzzles me is why that is. There are certainly lots of very smart people here in the state, lots of world-class consultants and agencies, and even business gurus like Jim Collins, whose office is a proverbial stone’s throw from my own.
I have no answers to this dilemma, but I find it most curious that a state that prides itself on its entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to challenge the status quo can’t create and maintain a really high quality professional networking group for entrepreneurs. It’s hard to imagine how we can continue to grow Colorado as a great place for starting a tech business (which it is!) if we can’t start to really crack this nut.
After all, innovation is the lifeblood of any state’s economy, and anything we can do to increase the level of entrepreneurship is unquestionably going to reap significant benefits.
Anyone else have any thoughts on this subject? If you’re not based in Colorado, how does your city or business community help new companies flourish?