I’ve been working on a new project since leaving my position as the Director of Operations at the Rockies Venture Club. Tom Higley and I have started something called 10.10.10. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you will during Denver Startup Week. Unless you purposely avoid us, that is.
If you have talked to me or Tom in the last few months, you’ll know that 10.10.10 is about gathering ten big problems with significant market opportunity, then inviting ten prospective startup CEOs from around the country to meet in Denver for ten days to think hard on the problems, decipher some solutions, and create some companies. We’ll do this twice next year in both February and August. If it goes well, we’ll do it a lot more after that.
10.10.10 is Tom’s brainchild. He introduced me to the concept last year at Denver Startup Week when we first met. We’ve talked to hundreds of people since then and we’ve been incorporating everyone’s feedback into the program as we are building it. If you talk with us, it’s likely your fingerprints are on 10.10.10 in some way too.
There are a bunch of reasons that I’m working on this project. Community building and problem solving are two big parts of 10.10.10. I’m very passionate about both of those topics. In fact, we’ll be talking about each of those topics in separate sessions this week. 10.10.10 Denver Connected is on Wednesday. We’ll discuss the state of Denver’s startup community network and connectivity to people in other places. On Friday morning in our session called A Big Friggin’ Problem we’ll talk about building companies by starting with the entrepreneurs and the problem instead of the idea.
Tom’s been thinking about 10.10.10 for a long time. He’s been waiting. Denver is coming into its own as a startup community. There is a critical froth of entrepreneurial activity in the last year or so that makes this the right time to launch 10.10.10.
The Denver startup community maturity-level is evidenced by the gargantuan awesomeness that is about to be Denver Startup week. Just look at Basecamp – the brick and mortar startup lounge – that has been created at 16th and Larimer just for this week. Denver Startup Week been an intensely collaborative planning process including 30+ planning committee members, and hundreds of total volunteers. There are 150 or more events over the 6 day week, and some events are booked solid with 800 tickets claimed. Almost all events (most between 50 and 125 seats each) are full and have been full since the second week that registration was open. That’s kind of a lot of people who care about startups in Denver. Understatement.
All the Denver startup organizations have been working at full tilt, donating time and energy to pull Denver Startup Week together. Downtown Denver Partnership, Colorado Technology Association, Something Independent, Denver Founders Network, BDNT, Startup Weekend, Galvanize, 10.10.10, and on and on.
It’s because of all this local work that Denver’s startup community is healthy and fertile enough to support the efforts of 10 (many out of state) CEOs as they create companies during the 10.10.10 program. By bringing many speakers, thought leaders, and CEOs from outside the state to Denver for this program we will form tight personal relationships between folks in Denver and folks in other cities. This growing external network might look to the outsider like a side effect of the program, but don’t be fooled. It’s all by design. The startup community in Denver will benefit greatly from the new relationships that 10.10.10 provides. Are local CEOs allowed to participate? Of course!
10.10.10 isn’t all about Denver, it’s mostly about starting companies in a smart way. With lean startup methodologies, cheap access to internet, cheap cost of making a first product, and all the other reasons illustrated by Steve Blank, it’s very cheap and easy to start a company these days.
With so many new companies popping up here, there, and everywhere, there is an increased demand for startup capital because of all the competition. This is a noisy system. Investors have to spend a lot more time sifting through investment opportunities to be sure they’ve got the right one.
10.10.10 helps founders start companies using a new approach. By bringing prospective CEOs together with problems that have been highly vetted long before the onset of any new business idea, 10.10.10 will challenge the prospective CEOs during the idea formation process so that they make the absolute best choice in new venture opportunity.
We all know a serial entrepreneur. Heck, you may be one. After the Big Exit (or the spectacular failure), an entrepreneur might take a little time off, but how many cashed-out entrepreneurs stay detached for long? Most start something new.
10.10.10 is the support system for a prospective CEO as he or she determine what exactly is the next big thing. Over a 10 day period, many of the pitfalls for the nascent business will be uncovered through conversation with thought leaders, industry experts, investors, and other prospective CEO peers around the table. Solutions will be challenged, and the newly-born company will be quickly hardened by a big family of brothers and sisters knocking it around.
10.10.10 is an experiment. Why else would Tom have asked a recovered scientist to run it? Like any experiment, the outcome can’t be fully predicted. This ambitious program might crash and burn right out of the gate. There are a lot of things we have to get right; we’ll need some luck, and a whole lot of community support to pull this off.
If 10.10.10 is successful in helping prospective CEOs determine the best next big thing, then it could become THE way that lots of serial entrepreneurs chose their next adventure. A ten-day Denver retreat designed for self-discovery, network building, problem solving, and venture creation.
If you want to get involved, we are taking nominations for the first 10.10.10 CEO Cohort. Follow us on Twitter @101010denver and sign up on the 10.10.10 Mailing List to get information about upcoming 10.10.10 happy hours and other news.