Last Wednesday at 3 p.m., Boise State University (BSU) hosted this year’s Boise Entrepreneur Week Ecosystem Summit in the Stueckle Sky Center, overlooking the mountain and cityscape below. Anticipation sparked as speakers praised impressive efforts and shared upcoming event details while entrepreneurs recounted their journeys with a look ahead.
BSU President Marlene Tromp kicked off the event with a keynote where she praised the impressive entrepreneur innovation in Boise. She said, “I’m excited about the incredible synergy between Boise State and the (entrepreneurial) trailblazers who are seeking to go beyond what others have done before.”
Trailhead Executive Director Tiam Rastegar took the stage next and described the entrepreneur ecosystem, which included everyone in the room, all with a shared purpose to help entrepreneurs succeed and plant seeds to help the next generation. He shared a slide showing the many actors of the ecosystem — mentors, investors, universities and support organizations such as Trailhead, among various others.
“We are not the same communities; one community serves the other,” Rastegar said. “The entrepreneur ecosystem serves the startup community. We are working inside of a system that works within other systems, which is the opposite of how most of our organizations are actually structured…There is no hierarchy here. This is an ecosystem, and ecosystems operate in networks of trust.”
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean also addressed the room and talked about the importance of building communities. “Our city and community is made up of entrepreneurs,” she said. “Early settlers were very intentional about choosing Boise. From the beginning, they figured out how to build a city through the connections people made with each other.”
Up next was Alison Johnson, a lawyer who works specifically helping propel startups to the next level (formerly of Holland & Hart, now a corporate partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati). She showed results from the Deal Flow Report that Alturas Capital Partners publishes each year, which shows every self-reported capital investment, merger and acquisition in Idaho.
Johnson gave a peek at the currently unreleased Idaho Deal Flow Report for 2021, which will be distributed on Apr. 26 at Idaho Technology Council’s Capital Connect. She shared there were 37 deals reported in 2021 that totaled $700 million in capital, stating “Technology and software led the way, (which) is an area that is really taking off here, (and) what’s exciting (is) a lot of those companies do a lot of hiring here.”
So the audience could hear straight from the mouths of the entrepreneurs themselves, the summit included a panel of three company founders to share their stories, moderated by Don Day of BoiseDev.
Adam Stock of Cargo Made-EZ discussed his startup, newest to the scene, which manufactures a motorized tie-down strap system. He proudly shared with the audience that he just received a patent for his product. “My dream came true this year,” he said.
Megan Lacy of Lumineye also explained her company, which builds radar devices to help first responders see through walls. When asked why Boise as opposed to say a Silicon Valley, Lacy said, “I love that life can feel a little bit slow here, but you can still build a great startup.”
The third panelist was Monte Keleher, whose startup company Fitted Inc. helps athletic retailers bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar and digital retail. When asked why his tech invention was so important to him, he said: “Consumers are now trained to expect different things or next day (delivery) and it’s gotten us away from supporting our local communities.”
At the conclusion of the summit, Boise Entrepreneur Week co-chairs Nick Crabbs and Rastegar showed a recap video of the 2021 event and shared that it provided $142,000 in prize money, which is “the most we’ve ever given out,” according to Crabbs.
Addressing an often-asked question, might the event name change to include “Idaho” rather than “Boise” to better reflect the event is open to any entrepreneurs in the state, Crabbs said the name will remain. “Most of our all-time winners are not from Boise,” he said. “Boise is the economic hub of our state, and it will continue to be. It can be a statewide event without having Idaho in the name.”
It was announced that Boise Entrepreneur Week 2022 will be held in person. The week has not been disclosed yet, but much of the ideation and planning is already well underway. Some changes for this year’s event to look forward to are a return to the track system with track chairs, high-powered keynote speakers from beyond the bounds of Idaho, and using professional marketing services this year for the first time.
Another new addition is involving members of the Idaho entrepreneur ecosystem as “executive leadership partners” — where their duties must include helping fundraise for the event, finding keynotes and accelerating startups past their current state.
Boise Entrepreneur Week is looking for additional executive leaders as well as volunteers. Those interested in participating should go to the website.
Trailhead will also be bringing back its Boise Pitch Night as an in-person event on March 17 at 4:30 p.m. See here for details and tickets.l