Since 2022, I have been serving a two-year appointment to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), a federal advisory committee managed by the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship under Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Beginning last October and through March of this year, I led a subcommittee of advisory council members shaping a $10B Regional Innovation Hub program that will be funded by The CHIPS & Science Act.
The program prioritizes advancing technologies, building new businesses, and shifting talent patterns around diversity, inclusivity, and job opportunities. It will invest “catalytic” $1B over five years in 10 state ecosystems that qualify for Tech Hub Designation.
Colorado’s Big Opportunity: Tech Hub Designation
After learning so much from my colleagues, the EDA, and the Department of Commerce, I came back to Colorado to help our state pursue Tech Hub Designation.
In April 2023, Governor Polis and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) launched TechHubNow!, a new public-private initiative to accelerate statewide collaboration, highlight Colorado’s strengths as a tech hub, and bring together partners who will develop equitable, inclusive, and highly competitive applications for Tech Hub Designation.
TechHubNow! seeks to catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship in Colorado “through advanced technologies that deliver economic and national security.”
In fact, Colorado already has components of a successful hub, including:
One to two advanced technologies (KTFA) serve as the clear focal point
A strong leader to bring together the coalition and execute on its mission
Based in a defined place (MSA), but with clear benefit to surrounding rural communities
Attract and grow diverse talent via inclusive ladders of opportunity
Grow a collaborative ecosystem of established companies & startups
Connect and accelerate industry applied R&D with academia
Appeal to investment from private & public sector funding
Gathering a Consortium & Government Support
Since March, I’ve been working with state economic development officials at the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to communicate about the tech hub opportunity to our stakeholders. I’m delighted to be collaborating on these efforts with the new Executive Director of OEDIT, Eve Lieberman.
In April, TechHubNow! and OEDIT officials—along with Angela Martinez, Regional Director, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Trent Thompson, Economic Development Representative for Colorado at U.S. Department of Commerce—met with Alejandra Castillo, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce of the EDA to announce Colorado’s intention to seek Tech Hub Designation.
And, in August, Governor Polis and OEDIT announced two strategic proposals to secure federal designation: the Colorado Cleanrange Consortium, representing advanced energy and cleantech industries, and Elevate Quantum–transforming our state’s nationally competitive clean energy tech hub into a global leader and establishing Colorado as the world’s leading hub for quantum information technology.
As I said when the state announced TechHubNow’s launch: My goal is to ensure we elevate our status as a national innovation leader to become a premiere inclusive global tech hub, driving wide-scale, state-wide opportunities for family-sustaining, tech-related careers. TechHubNow! will help Colorado’s coalition to create the most robust application to ensure Colorado is designated and receives funding as an innovation hub.
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking about that new program with David Ponraj on Breaking Down Barriers, a podcast that “explores the opportunity to build wealth in local, regional, and national economies through entrepreneurship-led economic development.”
The Regional Innovation Hub program’s plan for “catalytic” investment of $1B in 10 state ecosystems over five years.
What the Regional Innovation Hub program prioritizes: advancing technologies, building new businesses, and shifting talent patterns around diversity, inclusivity, and job opportunities.
What qualifies a region for the program, and why the program prioritizes a region’s potential over its need–the assets, resources, and opportunities that will translate into the greatest wins for the national economy, as well as for national security.
The importance of breaking down barriers for traditionally marginalized communities, setting the conditions for new businesses to launch and thrive.
Where ecosystem development starts, ideally: Mapping conditions and assets in the region or state, then recognizing opportunities to connect businesses and other entities for growth.
The significant impact startup communities have on state, region, or community ecosystems when “nodes” are connected, including entrepreneurs, angel investors, incubators, universities, and corporate entities.
The National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) is in the Department of Commerce. Its purpose is to support entrepreneurs who are advocating for innovative technologies. Regional Innovation Hubs is one program under CHIPS & Science. Learn more about NACIE and the Regional Innovation Hub program.
Celebrating a big transition–and Energize Colorado’s next phase
In March, Energize Colorado kicked off its fourth year by celebrating its major impacts since launching in response to the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, and I announced my transition from CEO to Chair of the organization, effective April 1st.
From the very beginning, co-founder Brad Feld and I along with our fellow co-founders – Marc Nager, Erik Mitisek, Abram Sloss, and Eric Drummond – sought to unite Energize Colorado partners, volunteers, and board members. We also focused on building a dedicated Energize Colorado team to close significant gaps in support for Colorado’s small businesses.
The transition from CEO to Chair allows me to both focus on emerging economic development opportunities at federal and state levels, and it also supports Energize Colorado’s next phase of growth in service to the state’s underinvested in entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The Next Step: Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Certification
Over the last three years, Energize Colorado has sought to meaningfully address the nearly half-billion-dollar gap in small business funding in Colorado, particularly for women, BIPOC, veterans, and rural small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Our unique, data-driven approach resulted in Energize Colorado becoming Colorado’s newest and most efficient mechanism for deploying low-cost capital in tandem with dedicated assistance. To date, Energize Colorado has deployed $45M in grant and loan capital to more than 5,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Through that process, it became clear that our state needs innovative ways to deploy capital to those who have been historically underserved. To best meet our mission of “creating a resilient and equitable small business ecosystem,” we decided that the organization should seek to become a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Energize Colorado will make this transition over the next two years.
To best support this direction, I recommended to our Board that we seek a new CEO to guide the organization through the process of becoming a CDFI. In the meantime, Scott Romano, Energize Colorado’s Chief Operating Officer and the organization’s first employee (hired in September of 2020), will serve as interim CEO. Current Board Chair and co-founder Brad Feld will stay active on the board as Chair Emeritus, actively participating in selecting the next CEO.
As Chair, I will be focused on fundraising, leading the search committee for a new CEO, and supporting the team on a successful path as the organization seeks to achieve CDFI status.
Contributing to National Policy and Regional Innovation Hub Strategy
In my new role as Board Chair, I will support Energize Colorado’s mission by enhancing my involvement with other state and regional initiatives and federal programs supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Colorado.
In the next phase of my work, I look forward to taking an active role in Colorado’s pursuit of the CHIPS Act Regional Innovation Hub strategy and continuing to serve on Governor Polis’ Revenue Estimation Advisory Council (GREAC). It is my continued goal to provide input to national policy and programs that will benefit Colorado entrepreneurs and beyond.
I’m delighted to announce that I have accepted two new opportunities to share my expertise in entrepreneurship and innovation at the national level.
This month, I begin a two-year appointment to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), a federal advisory committee managed by the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, has reestablished NACIE with the primary goal of developing a National Entrepreneurship Strategy that “strengthens America’s ability to compete and win as the world’s leading startup nation and as the world’s leading innovator in critical emerging technologies.”
NACIE is charged with identifying and recommending solutions to drive the innovation economy, including growing a skilled STEM workforce and removing barriers for entrepreneurs ushering innovative technologies into the market. The council also facilitates federal dialogue with the innovation, entrepreneurship, and workforce development communities. I’m thrilled to be working again with co-chairs Steve Case (Chairman/CEO of Revolution, Chairman of the Case Foundation, and Chairman, Startup American Partnership) and Kristina Johnson, President of The Ohio State University.
I’m also thrilled to be joining the Advisory Board of the Center for American Entrepreneurship, a nonpartisan Washington, DC–based research, policy, and advocacy organization that “works with policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels across the country to build a policy environment that promotes new business formation, survival, and growth.” I have been following John Dearie’s policy work for the last 5 years. Through Ian Hathaway, who is a CAE Fellow, John and I were formally introduced. John and his team do great work on behalf of entrepreneurs across the U.S. It will be an honor to work with Joni Cobb (Chair of CAE), John and fellow Advisory and BOD members.
As excited as I am to impart learnings from my ecosystem building work in Colorado and the Midwest in Ohio, I am eager to learn from others serving CAE and NACIE, including corporate innovators, entrepreneurs, ecosystem builders, venture capitalists, university leaders (presidents and PhDs focused on commercialization) and other leading technology innovators and advocates.
As Abigail Adams said, “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” The continuous cycle of learning and contributing, along with the opportunity to build new relationships with like-minded professionals across the U.S., are my primary motivators for these two new engagements.