Twenty-twenty: the year we’ve all had to learn to take some punches, shake them off, and keep on fighting. It has been a hard year for business, for families, for our health – but we’re still standing, still innovating, still building. We may be tired, but we’re tough enough to keep battling onward. That’s why Boise Startup Week’s theme for 2020 is B. Resilient – and let us assure you, it’s far more than just a catchy tagline.
BSW Beginnings – Boise Bold
Boise’s growth has taken some folks by surprise. We’re a brave western community unafraid to build bigger than our mountain town britches, and these days, Boise is booming. That wasn’t always the case though. “Five years ago, Boise was struggling,” Nick Crabbs, co-chair of Boise Startup Week recalled in a comment to Inc. last year. So, in 2014, Crabbs and a group of business leaders came together with two primary goals: 1) To stimulate startups through a small business ecosystem, and 2) To broaden the talent pipeline by increasing access to capital.
To build capital, community members cultivated relationships with out of state firms and invited them to experience Boise. Turns out, Boise wasn’t too hard of a sell. The city’s low cost of living, affordable housing market, proximity to mountain wilderness, and short commute times were huge motivators for drawing talent from major cities across the US. By 2019, Boise companies had closed 15 deals with a value of over $70 million, an increase of $52 million from five years prior. This new surge attracted StageDotO, Boise’s first venture fund launched with $50 million to bring to the table.
With innovators and change-makers pouring into the valley, the Boise boom is building a tidal wave of incredible entrepreneurial opportunity. Boise Startup Week (BSW) sprung from that boom and works hard to maintain momentum for those with a passion for innovation in Boise’s business economy.
BSW’s Growing Momentum
BSW began with a handful of organizers, sponsors, and investors seeking to retain and attract the attention of talent coming from Idaho universities. It was a modest local event that burned with a passion for business innovation and collaboration, and its flame caught like a wildfire.
Crabbs recalls his first year at Boise Startup Week, 2016, drew 175 attendees, while 2017 pulled in 750 attendees, raised $57,000 in sponsorship, and Crabbs began his role as co-chair of the event. The escalation was inspiring, and momentum for the event continued to intensify.
BSW’s 2018 event was a milestone year for the organization. Attendance skyrocketed to 2,100 attendees, and $128,000 was raised in sponsorship, $25,000 of which was awarded Snacktivist and Lumineye, winners of the Pitch and Trailmix competitions. With a more diverse track range to showcase, and over 120 sessions held across the city, the event was a huge success.
BSW 2019 exceeded even the previous year’s trajectory, filling Boise’s streets and venues with 3,400 innovators, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople of all kinds. Sponsorships soared at $281,000 raised, and $51,000 in prize money was awarded to Free to Feed ($5K) and Washie ($20K) for winning the pitch competition, and Orchestra Provisions & Vagabond Bakery for winning the Trailmix competition.
“We are extremely proud of the BSW attendance and sponsorship numbers,” Crabbs says, “but most importantly we’ve stayed true to our core mission, which is to support the growth and interest in our ecosystem, its founders, and it’s talent. Boise Startup Week is a chance for all organizations to come together on neutral ground and celebrate each other.”
Each year, opportunities in Boise are fueled by the collaboration, innovation, and investments made during BSW. Organizations like StageDotO, Galena Capital, Sage Growth Capital and many more form critical parts of the incredible ecosystem available to early stage entrepreneurs. This rich ecosystem simply didn’t exist at the level of engagement and accessibility as it does now.
As Boise booms, trailblazers look to lay fresh foundations and spearhead innovative operations across our city. It’s BSW’s goal to spotlight that brilliance and provide a forum to share the lessons and insight gained through each success. Over 70 local businesses and organizations either sponsor, partner with, or are otherwise involved with BSW. That number continues to grow as the ecosystem here grows and flourishes with it.
When asked about what BSW means for businesses locally, co-chair Tiam Rastegar remarked, “BSW is the one community where every stakeholder in the ecosystem can find a way to engage and be a part of it, regardless of industry, size, age, etc… by celebrating our ecosystem and taking stock, we are also telling the story of Boise to the rest of the nation and world. So many businesses who have engaged in BSW are literally part of the narrative we are telling and take pride in living and operating here.”
In Boise, we have a community rooted in backing bold local business, and we’re now looking at how best to support that community this coming fall. Our sponsors believe in bringing BSW live despite this pandemic, but that means we need to change things up for 2020.
B. Resilient: More Than a Tagline
This year, we’re going online, digital and determined, for a virtual conference that will uphold all the convictions and resources from previous BSW iterations. BSW 2020 is bringing a special focus to networking and resource sharing for attendees and sponsors. Though a virus has kept us quarantined, 2020’s virtual event will empower attendees to digitally connect, form relationships, and fuel Boise’s business ecosystem. By building digital bridges, we’re reducing barriers inhibiting in-person membership and collaboration to connect thought-leaders, innovators, and pioneers like yourselves.
B. Resilient is more than just a tagline. The B. is the secret sauce, the recipe, the plan that leads to the payoff. We say be brave, be bold, be brilliant, and burn bright in your business ventures, in Boise, and in the face of 2020’s hardships. Join us in October as we continue our legacy of helping dreams and aspirations become actionable plans, innovative products, and meaningful connections for you, the inspired and driven among us.