The Greater Colorado Venture Fund (GCVF) hosted an “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) webinar on Zoom Tuesday afternoon to further discuss and share more details about the Greater Colorado Pitch Series, a $250,000 investment fund aimed to help rural startups in Colorado.
Those rural startups — any rural area in Colorado outside of the urban corridor from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs — can apply by June 30 for a chance to be one of eight finalists who will deliver four-minute presentations on July 30 during a live Q&A broadcast.
On July 17, the finalists will be selected and will work with a pitch coach to fine tune the presentations. After each presentation, GCVF will share comments and reflection, and once all presentations are completed, a winner will be announced. Final investment negotiations will follow.
The pandemic changed the original plans for GCVF partners Jamie Finney, Marc Nagar and Cory Finney. The trio were set to host eight events, driving town to town in 10 days, culminating with one final event in Grand Junction at the Avalon Theater to hear pitches and pick a winner.
“It’s hard to know how many applications we would have had in the physical format from each region,” Finney said. “We would have seen more regional applications probably. But by and large, we’ve been really excited with the applications. One, with the strength of the applications, and two, the number of applications we’ve been receiving has been great as well.”
GCVF is two years into a 10-year fund cycle ($17.5 million under management). The fund has invested in 15 companies to date, with checks ranging from $50,000 to $750,000. As Jamie detailed in the Zoom meeting, there has been a history of entrepreneurial success in rural Colorado. Backed by 12 other private investors, with the state being the largest, the pitch series is a chance for GCVF to open it up for companies to make their pitch and help them grow.
“Our focus is on investing in growth companies in rural Colorado,” Cory said.
Also detailed in the Zoom meeting by Jamie was venture capital, and its limitations in rural areas. Only 1% of companies receive venture capital, but the GCVF partners don’t want that to dissuade companies from moving or starting their companies in small towns.
“It’s why we exist. To show that you can get venture returns outside of metro markets because we want to show that if you can get venture returns, then we hope that would open up more capital to these regions,” Cory said.
Cory added that over the last decade more than half of the economic growth was recognized in counties located in metro markets, which led to pushing opportunity and creativity into certain zip codes, something GCVF doesn’t feel is the right approach.
“We really want to show that business innovation and businesses can be built anywhere, especially now as geography doesn’t have the same level of importance as it once did. A business built in a community like Montrose, what it ends up meaning for that community, it ends up having an outside impact compared to being built in a metro market,” he said.
Companies on the Western Slope have sent applications for the pitch series, including at least three in Montrose, Cory said.
Those companies may have an inside chance at securing a $25,000 investment prize added by the Colorado Outdoors Pearl Fund. The addition increases the total investment to $275,000, and Colorado Outdoors will also announce its winner during the July 30 broadcast.
Colorado Outdoors is solely focused on outdoor recreation companies and is searching for the following criteria: ability to expand, show of high potential and willingness to operate inside a federally designated Qualified Opportunity Zone. Companies located, or willing to relocate to, western Colorado or Montrose will be looked at as a plus during decision making.
“It’s to try to help encourage more businesses to come to Montrose. It’s to help announce the formation of the Colorado Outdoors Pearl Fund, which is a fund that invests in outdoor companies. It’s part of the whole Colorado Outdoors project,” said Doug Dragoo, the CCIM principal at Colorado Outdoors.
Dragoo said there have been some companies that have shown an interest in relocating to western Colorado.
“We do think that there is opportunity for founders from the Front Range to consider relocating their business to rural Colorado. We are doing some push on that,” Cory said.