Prosperent, Colo. Springs, gaining VC attention

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Prosperent co-founder Mike Christensen and his staff have developed their own pros-and-cons list for several locations.

The high–tech startup Prosperent has gotten a lot of attention lately.

Last week the Colorado Springs Business Journal reported that the online advertising company, with clients such as REI, QVC and Zappos, planned to move outside the Springs market to Boulder or Austin in order to find the PHP programmers it needs to grow its company.

That got their phone ringing.

Some of the calls were from technology industry employers courting them to their cities. Some of the calls were just sales calls or pitches from attorneys.

But, two phone calls in particular were ones Prosperent co-founders Mike Christensen and Brian Lovett welcomed.

One was a call from Kirk Holland, managing director at Westminster, Colo.-based Access Venture Partners and another from Nick Lee, founder of Startup Colorado Springs and member of Peak Venture Group, both entrepreneurial networking groups.

Access has invested more than $100 million in 50 Colorado tech startups over its 13-year history, Holland said.

“We’ve also gone out and helped them raise another $1 billion, mostly from Silicon Valley and places like that outside of the state,” he said. “We provide a nice bridge to the outside world of big money.”

A lack of capital for startups is a Colorado issue, Holland said. There just isn’t a whole lot of it for early stage venture companies.

He felt compelled to reach out to Prosperent after reading the CSBJ story last week and saw they were considering a move to Austin.

“I’ve spent the last 11 years trying to recruit people and companies to come to Colorado and it really upsets me when I hear of companies considering leaving,” Holland said.

He knows of venture capitalists that come to Colorado to poach high-tech startups.

“And I don’t like that,” he said. “Many of us in the entrepreneurial ecosystem are working hard here to bring in and retain talent and I will do everything in my power to help stop this phenomenon.”

Holland said Access works with companies up and down the Front Range from Casper, Wyo. to Colorado Springs, and has helped a lot of businesses in Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver. But, he said, the investment firm hasn’t dealt much with Colorado Springs companies.

“That’s one of the things we’d like to work on,” he said.

He’d like to do more work with Colorado Springs firms and get a better idea about what’s happening in the southern part of the state in order to strengthen the whole state’s reputation for startups.

Holland said part of the effort is building Colorado’s tech startup reputation.

Lee said that’s also the mission of Startup Colorado Springs and the Peak Venture Group.

“There are all kinds of companies in the city like Prosperent,” he said. “But they’re not connected and they don’t know about each other.”

He said the groups didn’t know about Prosperent and Prosperent didn’t know about PVG or Startup Colorado Springs. Christensen said he planned to attend the PVG Pitch Night this month and will likely make a five-minute pitch at the December event.

“It will be great to get feedback from other entrepreneurs,” Christensen said.

The idea behind the groups is to create a community and culture that celebrates startups and gives them a place to learn from each other.

“We have this idea of startups working in isolation, programming away in a basement somewhere and never lifting their heads up for air,” Lee said. “We’re trying to change that culture.”