Boise Rising

As usual, I woke up early this morning, poured my coffee and started scrolling through my streams to start my day. I was really happy to see that my friend Jeff Reynolds launched Built-In-Boise today, his labor of love to showcase Boise’s terrific entrepreneurs.  I shuffled off to the gym and as I sat on the bike, the miles rolled away as I reflected on all the great things happening in the startup community here in my hometown and then it struck me, they’re all being led by entrepreneurs!

It wasn’t always that way. Over the last couple of decades, plenty of effort has been made by various committees and organizations to kick-start our startup community. Groups led by various members of the ecosystem started well-intentioned efforts to make things happen here, all with the same results; a lot of fanfare & hand waving with little to show for it.

What’s really cool is that it’s starting to feel different around here. Jeff’s launch of Built-In-Boise is just latest of a handful of entrepreneurial-led efforts and the vibe is beginning to change as a result. Recently, my friend Raino Zoller launched The Trailhead, a non-profit community effort to connect entrepreneurs with each other, mentors and capital. Raino’s a successful serial entrepreneur who has been through venture financing, exits, mergers as well as disappointments. As an experienced tech entrepreneur himself, he’s the perfect person to lead an effort like this and I know The Trailhead is going to have a fantastic impact on our startup community.

One of the most innovative ideas I’ve seen anywhere in the country is Boise State University’s Venture College, which is teaching students to launch startups while still in school. Of course, Venture College wouldn’t have happened without the leadership of Kevin Learned, an entrepreneur who co-founded Idaho’s first software company and its first angel investment group. Another person leading the way is Jess Whiting, who has brought Startup Grind to Boise. Jess grew up in Silicon Valley and has deep ties to the venture community there. She’s leveraged her network to begin building bridges to the valley for startups in Boise. In fact, she’s bringing Scott Kupor (COO of Andreesen Horowitz) to Boise for Startup Grind on March 9. I’ll be there, you shouldn’t miss this. You can get tickets here.

Boise’s startups are thriving too. Terrific companies like Balihoo and Cradlepoint (which I’m proud that we financed both Series A and subsequent rounds at Highway 12 Ventures) are doing tens of millions of dollars in revenue and growing fast. Other new and exciting startups include TSheets, Wevorce and Meal Ticket (which the latter two we’ve financed through our funds at Techstars Ventures). Boise’s also becoming a hot cultural scene as well. As events like SXSW seemed to have grown so large that they’ve eaten themselves, Boise’s Treefort Music Fest is quickly becoming the most talked-about music event in the Northwest.

While my work at Techstars is taking me all over the world these days, nothing makes me happier than being here in Boise. I really believe it’s the most livable city in the country. Our trail system is second to none, we’ve got world-class skiing right here in town at Bogus Basin, and we’ve got a burgeoning startup community that feels a lot to me like Boulder did a decade ago. If you’re looking for the next great startup town in the country, come visit and I’ll show you around.

Yup, Boise. It’s surprisingly cool…

Showing 6 comments
  • Cyus Maaghul

    Love the Venture College idea. I launched my third start up in college writing software for businesses and government agencies with profits and no venture capital aspirations. Sold to partner who is still running the business…. Shoveling snow and selling balloons before that.

  • akismet-8a8ddfd19347c6d2062b061aab0eba44

    Thanks for the kind words, Mark. Just to be clear: Built in Boise is definitely a team effort. My co-founder Loren Morris, as well as a host of volunteers are giving up their time to tell these stories. Stories that need to be told to inspire others to chase their dreams.

    Boise’s getting there. The seeds were sown a long time ago. And now, I believe, as technology let’s us do more with less from anywhere, Boise’s quality and (low) cost of living will make it a great option for those who want to build cool things.

    • Mark Solon

      So glad you came back from the Valley to grow Wevorce here Jeff. You bring back much more than a great startup, but exposure to what it takes to succeed at a global level.

  • Matthew Delaney

    Thanks for the story and all the great resource links Mark. See you at Trailhead on Monday- I look forward to meeting you and everyone there.

  • Whitney Hansen

    Great article! Boise is definitely doing a lot of work to support local entrepreneurs. Thank you for the Venture College shoutout! I was part of the first cohort. We appreciate your your leadership in Boise. ????

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