While we were working on this issue of Inc., I took a couple of days out of the office to moderate a panel at a startup week in Fort Collins, Colorado. I was happy to do it. Some publications seem to think entrepreneurship is practiced only in California, New York City, and Boston. I like reminding people that Inc. knows better.
As it happens, when it comes to Fort Collins in particular, Inc. knows a lot better. One of my panelists was seven-time Inc. 5000 honoree Curt Richardson, founder of the Fort Collins-based smartphone-case maker OtterBox (2014 revenue: $1.03 billion), a speaker at Inc. conferences, and a contributor to Inc.com. Another was Kim Jordan, co-founder and CEO of Fort Collins’s own New Belgium Brewing, the country’s fourth-largest craft brewer and a two-time Inc. 5000 honoree (2014 revenue: about $200 million). In our June 2013 issue, we named New Belgium one of our Most Audacious Companies, because of Jordan’s embrace of employee ownership and open-book management. If ever you find yourself succumbing to the myth that innovation happens only on the coasts, google New Belgium or OtterBox. That should set you straight.
By sheer coincidence, one of the articles in this issue focuses on yet another Fort Collins company, Walker Manufacturing. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, Bob and Dean Walker are men of belief who run their company by scriptural principles. Editor-at-large David Whitford’s warm portrait suggests that even in an aggressively secular business world, owners like the Walkers haven’t lost the power to inspire.
Jeff Bercovici’s feature, “Life Hackers,” profiles a group of entrepreneurs guided by another powerful belief--namely, that biotech has barely begun to tap the good it can do. Funded by the visionary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel, they aim to dramatically extend life expectancy, vastly speed up biotech innovation, and cure the incurable, including Alzheimer’s. And talk about audacious companies: Thiel’s ultimate goal is to eliminate death--or at least to greatly delay it.
As you’ve probably noticed, Shark Tank star Daymond John headlines this year’s How I Did It package, our annual collection of wisdom and inspiration from great entrepreneurs. John’s own personal How I Did It story--rising from Queens, New York, by means of sheer grit and a brilliant gift for marketing--is well known. So we asked him instead to focus on how he chooses winners on Shark Tank. He tells us he invests in the people first. “If the company doesn’t work out,” he says, “we’re going to create something bigger and better in another space.”
That’s as it should be. The one thing that unites great entrepreneurs, whether in Fort Collins, Colorado; Fort Greene, Brooklyn; or Fort Mason, San Francisco, is strength of character. Building a company is hard. It’s lonely. It will make you doubt yourself. Success takes guts and no small amount of faith. At Inc., we get it.