Delaney Keating

Managing Director

Startup Colorado

the full report

Greg Olson (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to GROWL Connex my name’s Greg Olson, and I’m the founder of grill agency and the host of growth connects today. We have Delaney Keating, the executive director of Startup Colorado on the show. Hi Delaney. Well, let’s get right into it. I have been fortunate to know startup, Colorado shortened a SUCO for many of us for many of us, all the various different events across Colorado. And really what’s exciting is the passion that the SUCO team has for rural Colorado. So maybe why don’t you give us a little introduction about Startup Colorado? So one our other listeners that may or may not know a little bit about it, and so I don’t take away any of your thunder or also get it incorrect.

Delaney Keating (00:58):

Gotcha. yes. So the acronym for startup Colorado is SUCO and you have to be careful with it because some people can read it as Succo and that’s a real problem. I know, but it happens on occasion. So but we always need a reason to laugh. So Startup Colorado is an interesting organization that was actually founded by Phil wiser. Who’s now our attorney general, and it was founded by Phil wiser when he was at the CU school of law still, and he has a pension and a passion for entrepreneurship. So it’s always pretty cool to know that entrepreneurs are in good hands at that level in the state. And when he originally founded Startup Colorado, it was in service to the front range, Denver and Boulder. And then as they saw so much robust activity happening along the front range versus sunset the organization at that time, they decided to refund it with a rural focus and that’s where Startup Colorado’s team comes in today. And the reason that we’re such a strong team with passion for rurals, that we all live in rural places cut across the state. Myself, I live in Gunnison, Colorado, and have been here for twenty-five years this year. So you have a lot of care and concern and a difference of community and business and our commitments and our understanding of economies when you live in smaller places with a greater sense of their dependency on all of the things.

Greg Olson (02:26):

So a little bit more about the rural, which I find I have a lot of passion in it as a lot of the listeners know I was a GROWL was born in the front range in Denver, Colorado. And then we moved to Grand Junction Western slope. There are limited resources when it comes to other founders, businesses is you know, finding everything from business or from funding to hiring to HR to the list goes on and on, right. And especially during this past year. But why, I mean, I kind of understand, but you know, why do you think it’s such a big deal? Why do you think that a resource like this is needed in these environments? We do have other things like business incubators, we have all these items, but so talk a little bit about that, how you see this, how you see SUCO being that resource?

Delaney Keating (03:19):

Yeah. The difference is in our rural approach, at Startup Colorado is we’re, we’re really tasked with the mission of fostering, a strong, healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem for rural entrepreneurs. And those words can often sound somewhat vacant. When we first hear them, like, what does that even mean?

Greg Olson (03:38):

You know, the word ecosystem always gets a lot of people like, Oh, I’m in an ecosystem. You know, I’m in a rural ecosystem now. And I don’t think people

Delaney Keating (03:47):

Do I even care? What does that even mean?

Greg Olson (03:49):

If I can’t explain it to my mom, then it probably is harder to understand, but

Delaney Keating (03:53):

Yes. Yes. and, and it’s already hard enough to explain to people what you do sometimes when you run a marketing business. So, so when I look at what we’re tasked with, if we were to give it a really clean analogy is, is when an entrepreneur, you know, there’s, there’s this massive resources out there, right? And if we looked at the game as a playing field, right, just like we’re playing football. So there’s this, there’s the field. And the field is a foundation. And then what lines, the field, or all the coaches and all the fans and every aspect that’s giving energy to that entrepreneur and the entrepreneur has their ball in a ball in their hands and that’s their right. That’s their baby, that’s their business. And what they want to do is they want to get that ball down the field. And when we come in and start up Colorado, what we see is there’s a lot of resources available and in rural communities, while I now feel like there’s a lot less, there’s actually a lot available across the network of Colorado if we bring awareness and communication to it, right? So that’s that threading that entrepreneurial ecosystem together. And how I look at it is what we’re trying to do initially is get all the coaches, which are the business support organizations, all those resources, SBDC’s accelerators, business advisors and mentors, get them all better aligned so that they’re giving cleaner information. So if they’re friends and they’re communicating first, then they can communicate better with the entrepreneur. And we’re driving more coherence on that playing field for the entrepreneur. And if we zoom out one layer deeper, and we look at this experience of the entrepreneur and we looked at what are all the layers of the ecosystem or the layers of this game that we’re playing the entrepreneurs at the top. And then there’s of course all their fans, right? People like us are their fans or their customers or their fans. And then there’s other coaches, those business supporters and mentors. And then there’s the funders, which we know are a critical part of the ecosystem. And then at the most base layer, there’s the foundation that they rest upon, which is the policymakers, right? So we have interest in all of those layers and we see how that helps the entrepreneur as they navigate. And, you know, if we look at entrepreneurs and the amount of moving parts in any business from, from startup to growth phases, to maturity, to exit, there’s always a lot of moving parts. And so there’s always a lot of headwinds, especially in small business in this country. And so, you know, we’re always rooting for the underdog. That’s a lot of where our passion comes from entrepreneurs in some ways are the underdog. That’s pretty incredible. They’re taking big risks and coming forth with something. And so in the easiest way to, to understand it right now today, two weeks from the super bowl is we want to see them all have their Brady Gronk moment bringing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back to life, right.

Greg Olson (06:51):

I love that you brought Brady and Gronk into a conversation. All right. So yeah, I agree with you a hundred percent. I don’t know which one you are, the Brady or the grok or a suit goes a little bit about a little bit, all of it. But I do agree that you help put game plans in the place you do help with connections and your whole team. So why don’t we take a moment and tell me where are the teams located? Like because I think that’s very fascinating for you know, for, because they do have a deep understanding of rural Colorado, which is very different and I’ve gotten more and more a sense of that, of like relocating my business for the past four years of how much there is a different need. And there’s a, there is a different, almost a different language that’s spoken about. And I think your team helps, helps translate that. So maybe just a little bit description of where these teams are located.

Delaney Keating (07:43):

Yeah. I mean, we definitely look at the work as its cultural work, right? So if you’ve been to one rural community, you’ve been to one rural community, they’re all slightly different and you can’t rural is a very big bucket to even talk about, right? Because we’re talking about communities that range from 60 to 6,000 to 60,000. So there’s a lot of variables inside of that. And our team was really able to build trusted relationships across the state, in our rural communities because we’re placed there. And so startup, Colorado has been founded with agents from Sterling to Durango, to Gunnison tell you ride there’s been a breadth of people that have participated in currently. We’re mostly located on the Western slope, but our work, whereas it was very beneficial to be able to be really face-to-face. And in the previous years before the pandemic, we were putting an average of about 40,000 miles a year on cars, putting across the state driving all those connections with one of our biggest goals, to be creative, to create density where density doesn’t exist in overcoming one of those hurdles that a rural entrepreneur might feel more so than an urban world.

Greg Olson (08:59):

Yeah. I completely agree. And, you know, just across the state at the time that I’ve got to spend on different I guess committees and different people I’ve met all the way down in one of my favorites is Trinidad, Colorado about what’s happening down there and that, so it’s been exciting to see and meet people in that community. I mean, we have Steamboat of course Lake city we have, you know, just been, you know, fascinating these locals, these entrepreneurs that are in these different communities, really making things happen where you might not think a success is happening. So thank you for your team for, you know, all the hard work and trying to make those connections. So I’d like to do is jump to kind of what’s happening in the SUCO network. We have, I’m going to call it a platform. But you know, you’ve done, your team has done a fantastic job, a lot of work. There’s a lot of work ahead, but now you’ve actually created this kind of like online community. That’s going to continue to grow depending on what you want. What’s your interest is what your question is, and probably more than ever needed now because there’s no events happening. Right. so why don’t you talk a little bit about that and maybe that’s what we’d always like to do is get that out to as many people as all, to get involved in this network.

Delaney Keating (10:21):

Yeah, absolutely. You know, if it wasn’t for the year that we spent driving everywhere, making friends really supporting communities where they’re at, I mean, we certainly believe we get to work with some of the most amazing people in all of these communities from the entrepreneurs to the people who stand behind them to help them do the work locally. And if it wasn’t for that, I don’t think we’d be having the success that we have in the platform today in the short time that we’re having it. So it really is a Testament to the importance of building offline before you build online. Which, you know, we, we do our best as a, as a startup for startups to live by our principles and to test and experiment. And the platform itself is a giant experiment. But we know that in order to create that greater cohesion on the playing field for entrepreneurs and to really scale our work and to break down those geopolitical boundaries and to quickly bridge across those, you know, many miles from town to town online is the best way to do it. And words like platform. I mean, nobody in their life thinks they need another online platform. So we certainly hope that this thing either fails all the way or wins all the way, no gray area in between. And that’s a big bite to chew for a small team like SUCO, and we’re giving it everything we’ve got, but we’re only able to do so because of the partners we have. And so, what makes the SUCO platform unique is that where we see a lot of dilution and, and sort of we’re becoming quite lackadaisical around and global networks that aren’t serving us as much anymore. We will leave the principles that originally founded those global networks. If we create more niche based networks that really serve our interests and our needs, then we can return to that value for networks. And especially online networks, networks are always beneficial. I’m speaking about the online networks. And so we’ve launched our online platform, this online community or network four months ago, right about today, actually it’s exactly four months today. And we did it with all of those partners from across the state. So it took about 50 people from across the state, helped us select the platform and build it out. And what’s great about the way we’re building this platform is it’s not just an online community. There’s a lot of resources available. There are a lot of dynamic content, the way to connect to the broader state from the state level, all the way down to the local level, but it also really allows people to be part of their local community network at the same time. So it’s kind of two tiers of participation. You can’t really understand it until you just get on it and check it out. So, you know, there’s the plug you know, startup.

Greg Olson (13:09):

Yeah. I’m going to jump in and say you’re right. It’s like another platform, but you know, the thing I’ve learned about being kind of in the SUCO network, let’s say or ecosystem I think it is that rural ecosystem, but also many of us as rural entrepreneurs or rural businesspeople and a guy on, we might talk about the people can tune in more on growl radio to learn more about what kind of talk more about policy and things like that. That a lot of these businesses are 20 and under in their manufacturers, we have people making ski poles. We have all different things I’ve met. And we did a lot of us don’t have time to go like drive across the state, go to a conference. And that, so what I think this does is it does allow to have like this network of people that you would love to have the opportunity to meet and mid previous jobs before I was a business owner, I got to go to all these trade shows and conferences because, you know, but it’s hard to do that now as a business owner and even take away that it’s COVID that there isn’t any opportunity. It makes it even more beneficial. If I want to meet somebody, even from a, if it’s something legal HR, or I’m looking for equipment or help, I think this is the platform, the network, the ecosystem that allows these business owners and people that have expertise in certain things to connect. So I it just, it goes, it’s a new, it’s a new way. I think that you’re a startup, Colorado is thinking of how they communicate. And I get, and that will be very beneficial, especially as we get more and more people involved in using it. So I I’m, I mean, I’m really excited about it. I know your team is, and it’s just you know, it’s another thing that’s added to their lists for a small team, but you know,

Delaney Keating (14:57):

Well, we’re not traveling. So in a grateful way, it’s become our organization and it’s shifted our work significantly because of the, the, the sort of dimension of the platform we chose. It’s not just a, it’s not just a live feed that that’s hugely beneficial. And there’s a lot of benefits to just getting on there and asking questions and sharing resources, but there’s a lot of agents for any entrepreneur to know joining the platform. There are a lot of agents sitting there who are from business support or funders or mentors, and they’re participating and they’re watching and listening. So when you’re initially getting responses, it’s from somebody whose job is to serve you in their community or at the state level. And so you’re really getting qualified people who are watching, and then there’s of course all the benefit of a peer to peer network as well, but that the amount of people, our network has always been at SUCO since we started about 50, 50 entrepreneurs and business support agents. So there’s a like literal army out there built to support these entrepreneurs. And it’s just making sure they have access to them. And you never know because of the platform, your local SBDC director may have missed your question and didn’t get you to the, you know, to the right resource. But you put the question on the platform and the SBDC director from the neighboring town saw the question differently and got you the right answer. Right. So just kind of pops the top on being able to organically get to the things you want and need. And part of where we see that value to, to your point of entrepreneurs being so incredibly busy is you need something you could log into at one in the morning when you wake up and just pop that.

Greg Olson (16:35):

Well, there’s been so much I know that, and I think we’ll get to the point and we’ll talk about successes and all the people we’ve, you’ve helped in a fact that there’s been people connecting to a funding they needed right away or different policy makers that there’s connections there. So fantastic job looking forward to keep it, keeping it going getting more and more people involved in the, in the platform slash ecosystem plat form plateau system. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a plateau system and

Delaney Keating (17:14):

I’ll take any new words if anybody wants to come up with new words.

Greg Olson (17:17):

Yeah. And then people are like, Oh my gosh, they’re in a plateau system. So, okay. Couple of questions, a couple of last closing points. I mean any, any big challenge that biggest challenge at SUCO is working on right now? I know there’s I mean, we can distill it down to one on the top of your brain and others, probably a million. I don’t usually, sometimes I’ve been on conversations with you and there’s a bunch of white paper behind you with a lot of things on it. So I know you have a lot of things on your plate that you’re helping solve, but what’s a big challenge at SUCO is working on right now?

Delaney Keating (17:50):

You know, the main challenge for us is making sure that the platform delivers as much value as it can, as quick as it, and from that first interaction. Right. we know it’s a dare to be great woman and entrepreneurs are, you know, what’s great about entrepreneurs is how honest they are. They’re not worried about public backlash and they’re not buying for votes. Right. So they’ll tell you straight up, like, I don’t need a platform, but if there’s going to be one, it better work. And you’re like, all right, you know, so, so challenge us and, and we’re doing everything to rise to that occasion. And I think the other challenge right now is just a lot of business supporters. We’re all just trying to move as fast as we can and keeping pace with the need of the demand for where we see small business needs us right now is, is really intense. So we all, we’re all just running as fast as we can.

Greg Olson (18:39):

Yeah. I say it has been a more intense year than I’ve ever seen it with. COVID and the speed of business and the speed of the length of hours people are working and how quickly they need answers. And I think that issue a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners, I mean, they’re like deliver die moment many times that we’re trying to connect them to resources, support, funding, whatever it is. And I think that’s what I’m seeing more than I have. And any other year is that they’re just quick responses are required. And I think this plant system platform ecosystem does that. Okay. So how should people get involved? How should they sign up? What does it take? I’m sure it’s, I know it’s pretty easy, but I would like to hear it from you.

Delaney Keating (19:32):

Yeah. It’s, it’s about as easy as it gets. You just go to and click request to join. It’s always helpful if you fill out your profile completely because there’s lots of benefit to the search analytics. The more complete your profile is. And also introducing yourself on the live feed is something we’re seeing people start to do on their own, which is really lovely because it helps us get to know them too. We used to have the benefit of getting to know people more face-to-face and now it just takes that little extra push. So I was just a, don’t be shy. It’s built for you. And, and if there’s anything we really learned in this last year while it’s true to the, the quote that, you know, progress can only happen at the speed of the relationships that guide it. And that’s certainly true in Colorado. And this work is, is what a close knit community is, is showing up to support all the progress.

Greg Olson (20:26):

I liked that last thing as I close out with you on the show, we have I was looking, we have, you have some, you have SUCO has a lot of amazing relationships with people putting on different events. You’re putting on events. I saw bringing the black magic to entrepreneurship. I think I love that title. And also you’re partnering with SBDC on classes, they’re doing items. So I guess I anything you want to add to that, but I think that your team’s coming up with really great titles and interesting concepts and helping connect people together, especially in times of maybe stress and bringing some levity to things with their education.

Delaney Keating (21:07):

Yeah. Yeah. I don’t even know who, who put who’s putting on bringing, bringing the black magic to entrepreneurship. Is that what it’s called? I don’t know. That’s a great, that’s great. So a lot of the events that you’ll see while some are SUCO, the majority of it is us getting behind the events that are already being done. So we do a lot of work to support the lift of all those support works. It takes a lot of work to put on any little events. And so we go to the table to help promote those because we know we can help mobilize the network, whether it was pre pandemic or today just in the zoom environment and getting people to attend an event in their neighboring town or even across the state, because they can now that’s of course not an issue, but they can, they can make good use of the resources that are out there because not every community can have all the things.

Greg Olson (21:58):

Yeah, no, they can’t. And I think that it’s great to have resources that you’re aligning to different events happening. Everybody’s going, ah, obviously I had to go online. So I love that there’s so resources available about how to get help running your business, marketing your business funding your business all those items. Well, we’ll close out. We’ve been sitting here on a, another ground connect show with Delaney Keating, the executive director of Startup Colorado, also known as SUCO. You can check them out at and learn more about their platform slash ecosystem. And I ask that anybody’s listening, get involved, take a look. There’s many ways that you can be, if you’re an entrepreneur get involved, if you’re a business support organization, you can get involved. So reach out to their team and make an impact with that. Delaney. I thank you very much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to be on the Connex.

Delaney Keating (22:59):

Yeah. Thank you.

Don’t forget to share!