TELLURIDE, Colo. – (May 25, 2016) – Now in its fourth year, the Telluride Foundation’s award winning Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA) is expanding its programs and hiring a new managing director to lead the initiative to a new level. TVA recently received two federal and state grant awards, which will fund its collaboration with other regional organizations to create a “Southwest Innovation Corridor.” As a result of these grants, TVA is increasing and re-organizing staff to facilitate TVA’s additional capacity and strategy of expanding high-tech innovation infrastructure in southwest Colorado.
Thea Chase, TVA’s current Director who has successfully guided the accelerator program for the last three years, will now lead efforts to develop a Southwest Innovation Corridor (SWIC). Using her extensive Western Slope relationships and experience creating and connecting college and entrepreneurship programs, Chase will help leverage and expand existing and disparate high-tech innovation infrastructure, including Fort Lewis College’s school of Engineering and regional Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE) and regional governments and co-working organizations into an intentional entrepreneurial and commercialization ecosystem. Chase was the Executive Director of the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction, CO from 1993-2006; led the creation of the Entrepreneurship concentration at Colorado Mesa University as a full time tenure tract professor; and was the founding Director at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where she led the establishment of the regional SBDC for Innovation and the HotHouse Accelerator, Incubator and co-working programs. Chase has also has extensive experience consulting internationally in entrepreneurial eco-system building, including recent projects in the Middle East.
Marc Nager, who currently works as the Chief Community Officer with Techstars, will assume the newly created position of VP Innovation at the Telluride Foundation and become the Managing Director of TVA in August. Since 2009, Nager has focused on building startup communities around the world through experiential programming, primarily Startup Weekend, which has reached over 300k individuals in over 130 countries to date. He and the community behind Startup Weekend helped create the world’s largest pre-accelerator, Startup Next, as well as helped encourage access to startup activities in over 400 communities around the world with Startup Digest. Last year, Nager and his team at UP Global, the umbrella organization for Startup Weekend, Startup Next, and Startup Digest, were acquired by Techstars, a global entrepreneur ecosystem based in Boulder. In addition to his role at TVA, Nager will serve as Entrepreneur in Residence of Community at Techstars.
“This is a major step forward for TVA. Thea has done a great job leading TVA and will bring unique experience and expertise to building out the regional network” said Jesse Johnson, Telluride Foundation board member and co-founder and Managing Partner of TVA. “We are also very excited for Marc to join the Telluride Foundation and become the MD of TVA. His global network, perspective and experience will help further establish Telluride as a true hub of innovation and global problem solving.
Early this year, TVA was awarded a $499,720 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies Program, for a three years Regional Innovation Strategies Program. This grant followed a $300,000 grant received at the end of 2015 from the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade (OEDIT) through its Advanced Industry Accelerator Grant Program. These grants will leverage millions in additional resources, including: a new $35 million Geoscience, Physics and Engineering Hall at Fort Lewis College; Telluride Venture Accelerator and Durango’s Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE); Region 9 and Region 10 Small Business Development Centers; and regional co-working centers. Through Fort Lewis College’s and TVA’s new partnership, physics and engineering students will have the opportunity to participate in a design and commercialization competition, advanced industry internships, and entrepreneurship training.
“These grant programs will complement and expand other regional business development organizations to support high growth start-ups that will start, stay and prosper in rural southwestern Colorado,” said Paul Major, President & CEO of the Telluride Foundation. “With Thea and Marc leading Foundation innovation efforts, TVA and the Southwest Innovation Corridor initiatives, Telluride and the region are poised to be a center of innovation.”
The Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA), a program of the Telluride Foundation (a 501(c)(3) community foundation), invests human and financial capital in innovative enterprises with the aim of building and strengthening the entrepreneurial community in the Telluride region to create a self-sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystem, bringing innovation, jobs, ideas and a renewed dynamism to the region. Along with the Telluride Foundation, the EDA and Colorado OEDIT, TVA is supported by individual donors, foundations, governments and corporate sponsors – notably the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Johnson Family Foundation, the Town of Mountain Village, Cooley LLP, Softlayer, ASAP Payroll, and the Colorado Impact Fund. For more information on TVA, visit www.tellurideva.com.
The Telluride Foundation exists to create a stronger Telluride community through the promotion and support of philanthropy. It is a nonprofit, apolitical community foundation that provides year-round support for local organizations involved in arts, education, athletics, charitable causes, land conservation and other community-based efforts through technical assistance, education and grant making. As a grant maker, the Foundation awards grants to qualified applicants that serve the people living and working in the Telluride area for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life within the region. For more information on the Telluride Foundation, visit www.telluridefoundation.org.