Thursday, November 09, 2017

Colorado's rural startup fund could be a model for the nation

Colorado is trying a promising new program to help rural entrepreneurs succeed; they hope it will be a model for the rest of the country.

Job growth in rural areas lags significantly behind urban areas (and hasn't yet reached pre-recession levels), so more successful small businesses could give those areas an economic boost. And the entrepreneurs are there: research shows that "communities with fewer than 20,000 people have a far larger percentage of entrepreneurs. Those entrepreneurs are also more resilient, with their businesses having higher five-year survival rates," Dustin McKissen reports for VentureBeat.

But rural entrepreneurs face significant barriers to success, including access to early-stage investment capital. So Colorado's Office of Economic Development and International Trade is allocating $9 million (with an option for another $3 million) to fund startups in rural Colorado counties.

"The fund will primarily focus on agriculture, advanced manufacturing, education, health and wellness, tourism and outdoor recreation, energy natural resources, clean tech and technology, and information," McKissen reports. "While several states have offices or programs dedicated to rural economic development or state-backed venture funds, directly combining the two is rare — and needed. The fund provides real capital to a segment of the population that’s already demonstrated entrepreneurial talent and the grit to handle the ups and downs of owning their own business."

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