Innovative to the Core: Esprit Entrepreneur 2019
Caleb Polley, Founder of Better Sleep Designs/Boogaloo Beds (left) accepting the $10,000 grand prize from John Tayer, President & CEO of the Boulder Chamber (right) as the 2019 Esprit Venture Challenge winner.
Spirits were high on November 14, 2019 for the Boulder Chamber's 35th Annual Esprit Entrepreneur event at the Embassy Suites Boulder. Throughout the night, Boulder's innovative character was celebrated through repeated recognition of the unique businesses and startup environment that thrive here.
The evening began with a preview of the Boulder Innovation Venture 2.0 report, provided by Clif Harald, Executive Director of the Boulder Economic Council, and Brian Lewandowski, Associate Director of the Business Research Division at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder. The preview included highlights of data in the report that illustrate Boulder's creativity and ingenuity when compared to other centers of innovation, such as San Francisco, and peer cities, such as Ann Arbor.
While the preview was only a small snapshot of the forthcoming Boulder Innovation Venture 2.0 report, it successfully set the celebratory tone for the evening as attendees gained insight into the qualities that make Boulder unique. The full Boulder Innovation Venture 2.0 report, a refresh of the original Boulder Innovation Venture publication, will be launched in full at the 2020 Boulder Economic Forecast.
Asa and Tamar McKee, co-founders of Boulder company Khala & Co. and winners of the 2017 Esprit Venture Challenge, provided the evening's keynote speech. The duo recalled Khala & Co.'s humble beginnings in a homey kitchen as Khala Cloths, the company's journey to the Boulder Chamber's 2017 Esprit Venture Challenge, and continued success since then.
The final round of the 2019 Esprit Venture Challenge followed Asa and Tamar's nostalgic and poignant speech. Local startups RoGo Fire, ShineOn, and Better Sleep Designs/Boogaloo Beds participated in the live pitch competition for their chance at the $10,000 grand prize. Each startup was given five minutes to pitch their product to the audience, after which a panel of judges facilitated a Q&A period with each of the ventures. This year's judges included Sharon Matusik, Dean and Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder; Asa McKee, co-founder and CEO of Khala & Co.; and Matt Zwiebel, Director of Pledge 1% Colorado.
After superb pitches from all three ventures and a round of live voting involving the Esprit audience, Better Sleep Designs/Boogaloo Beds ultimately took home the top prize of $10,000, closing out the evening's celebrations.
The Boulder Chamber would like to thank everyone who attended Esprit Entrepreneur, all of the ventures that applied to and competed in the 2019 Esprit Venture Challenge, and the evening's sponsors for supporting Boulder's entrepreneurs. You are instrumental in helping Boulder's innovation economy thrive. It was our privilege to celebrate Boulder's entrepreneurial spirit with you, and we'll see you next year!
2019 Esprit Entrepreneur Event Photos
Photos courtesy of David Harwi Photography