Startup Colorado team left to right: Taylor Grande, Margaret Hedderman, Vanessa McCrann

Startup Colorado Announces Nonprofit Status


February 1, 2023

COLORADO – Startup Colorado announces its relaunch as a 501c3 nonprofit, a change that will enable the organization to support rural entrepreneurs on a larger scale. The new nonprofit will continue building an online entrepreneur community, granting financial awards, providing access to educational and networking opportunities, and highlighting founder stories.

“This is an exciting time for the organization,” said Taylor Grande, Executive Director of Startup Colorado. “As an independent nonprofit, we will be able to invest more resources, time and energy into cultivating startup communities in rural Colorado.” 

Startup Colorado was founded in 2011 at the University of Colorado School of Law by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and TechStars Co-Founder Brad Feld. In 2017, the program evolved into a full-time organization that supported Colorado’s rural entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

The decision to relaunch as a nonprofit comes at a pivotal moment for rural Colorado. Throughout the state, rural communities are experiencing fundamental changes in their business landscape—from transitioning economies to population growth to the housing crisis. Amidst these systemic changes is a surge in business development and potential.

“Entrepreneurs and small business owners are driving the change in Colorado’s rural communities,” Grande said. “But they can’t do it alone. It takes a concentrated effort with a local-first lens to build vibrant business communities that provide entrepreneurs with the resources they need to start and scale businesses in the places they call home.”

In 2020, Startup Colorado identified fundamental gaps in the business resources available to rural entrepreneurs, including educational opportunities, visibility of service providers, and peer-to-peer networking opportunities. In response, the organization launched the first-of-its-kind rural Entrepreneur Network. The free online community now has more than 1,200 members in all regions of the state. 

Startup Colorado has also provided $175,000 in financial awards to entrepreneurs and business support organizations since 2019. An average of 67% of these awards are distributed to female-led businesses each year. In 2021, Startup Colorado launched a pre-accelerator program to assist idea-stage entrepreneurs with the launch of their business, distributing $24,650 in financial awards. Many of these founders have now started and grown successful businesses. 

“Startup Colorado has been an incredible resource as we grow our platform TripOutside,” said Julie Singh, co-founder of Silverton startup TripOutside. “From community and peer groups, to knowledge sharing and even a scholarship to showcase our business at an outdoor industry event, we are so appreciative of such a wonderful support network in rural Colorado.”

Through its holistic approach to business ecosystem development, Startup Colorado supports entrepreneurs through events, partnership development, and storytelling initiatives. In 2022, Startup Colorado was the fiscal engine behind West Slope Startup Week in Grand Junction, which welcomed over 500 participants and 110 regional speakers. The organization also produces a narrative podcast series and entrepreneur news site. 

“At CU Boulder, we spent the last decade growing into a cross-functional, rural-based team that supports entrepreneurs and startup communities on a comprehensive level,” Grande said. “We recognize now is the time to scale those efforts, which can only be accomplished with help from our community of supporters to build the financial stability needed for Startup Colorado’s continued growth and success.”

As Startup Colorado transitions into its new status as a 501c3 nonprofit, a key focus will be developing high-quality program sustainability—increasing the organization’s ability to serve rural entrepreneurs year over year.

“We’re focused on remaining nimble, responsive, and innovative to ensure success,” said Grande.

Startup Colorado intends to create a diversified set of revenue streams as it looks ahead, including donations from individual donors, foundation grants, and programmatic sponsorships to expand reach and impact.

Operating as an independent nonprofit will allow Startup Colorado to maintain neutrality and autonomy across rural areas of the state, which is vital to maintaining trusted partnerships and successfully operating programming for rural entrepreneurs outside of the Front Range.



Margaret Hedderman
Communications & Editorial Director at Startup Colorado