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  • The Next Big Things

    Telluride angles to become Colorado’s hottest new startup hub. 


    Telluride has long been known for two things: music festivals in the summer and steep, untracked lines in the winter. Now, the mountain town hopes to add “innovation hot spot” to its identity with the Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA). Launched in 2012, the TVA is the country’s first startup incubator based (loosely) on outdoor industries such as tourism, recreation, the environment, water, health, and wellness. The nonprofit reviews applicants from around the country annually and then invests $25,000 in a handful of selected companies in return for a four percent equity stake. Three of the four companies from last year’s program have gone on to raise at least $300,000 in financing, and this month, the six groups that won 2014’s TVA investments will present their business plans to other potential investors. Here’s a look at some of the ideas Telluride’s new incubator is helping bring to the market.
    Based: Denver
    Year Founded: 2013
    Co-Founders: Sarah Fazendin and Maisa Fernandez
    The idea: allows boutique hotels and tour operators to manage reservations, room availability, and online bookings through its cloud-based service. The initial market focus is on Africa and Latin America, where reservations are still predominantly booked offline. “It sounds crazy,” Fazendin says, “but more than one-third of all hotels are not bookable online—mostly small, high-end properties where the average night is $400 to $500.”
    TVA Class: 2013
    Investment Raised: $600,000

    High Desert Farms
    Based: Grand Junction
    Year Founded: 2013
    Founder: Bill Manning
    The idea: Most of 6350 Natural Foods’ (a division of High Desert Farms) fruit snacks come from organic fruits that are tree-ripened and grown on the Colorado Plateau. What’s more, they’re doing it with fruit that might otherwise be tossed. “A significant amount of fruit can’t be sold because it’s visually blemished,” Manning says. “But it’s still fabulously tasty.”
    TVA Class: 2013
    Investment Raised: $350,000
    Find It: Marczyk Fine Foods and other specialty stores in Colorado

    Hyperlite Mountain Gear
    Based: Biddeford, Maine
    Year Founded: 2009
    Co-Founders: Brothers Mike and Dan St. Pierre
    The idea: The St. Pierre siblings design ultralightweight backpacking and climbing gear using Cuben Fiber, a waterproof composite material developed by a nuclear weapons physicist and an aerospace engineer. Since the fabric is not typically used for outdoor gear, the brothers put their products through 20,000 miles of research testing before sending a piece of gear into production.
    TVA Class: 2013
    Investment Raised: $450,000
    Buy It: Boulder’s Neptune Mountaineering, Telluride’s Jagged Edge, or through the company’s website

    Based: Boulder
    Year Founded: 2012
    Founder: Karen Frame
    The idea: As founder Frame puts it, the idea behind Makeena is “abundance for the brands and for the shopper.” In this case, that means a mobile app that provides consumers with deals on natural food products. Eventually, Makeena wants to offer nutritional information as well as recipes and shopping lists with store-specific aisle information.
    TVA Class: 2014
    Investment Raised: $160,000
    The latest: Makeena plans to launch a Web version and free iOS app this summer. (An Android version should be available later this year.)

    The Year That Changed Everything


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