Venvee and the Colorado School of Mines Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiatives

Why Venvee Has the Privilege and Advantage of Calling The Colorado School of Mines Home

February 10th, 2023

With the full support of the Colorado School of Mines, Venvee is advancing through 2023 with confidence! Learn about Venvee’s advantage through being one of the Colorado School of Mines’ first companies taking part in new programs and initiatives around entrepreneurship and innovation.

In December of 2021, James Bauer, a Spring ‘21 graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, found himself standing before two glass doors on the first floor of 1600 Jackson Street, a 3-story building on the Colorado School of Mines campus in Golden, Colorado. He was embarking on a new journey through opening these doors, and one which would forever change his life.

Since that day, Venvee has called the Colorado School of Mines Interim Venture Center, as well as the Venture Program, home. It has played a significant role in the current rapid growth of Venvee as a company, and has provided many advantageous resources including a space to develop, test, and show off the company’s unprecedented technology, expert business development resources and guidance, and a local co-working space. But what are the new Initiatives of entrepreneurship and innovation at Mines, and how have they been a key piece of Venvee’s current growth and success as a start-up?

The Recent History of Mines Entrepreneurship and Innovation

By 2024, the Colorado School of Mines’ 150th anniversary (Mines@150), the school aims to achieve seven challenging, transformative, and innovative goals. Six of these are directly supported by the development and growth of a new group of programs centered around entrepreneurship and innovation. The initial cornerstone of which was the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E and I). Founded in 2017, this center is where E and I based programs would bloom, and entrepreneurs would be born and supported from the faculty, students, staff, and alumni in the Mines family. Just like James Bauer and Venvee.

In 2021, Charlie and Judy McNeil donated a large sum to support the future education and facilities around entrepreneurship and innovation. Charlie is a Mines alum and successful entrepreneur himself, and as such wanted to increase future opportunity for entrepreneurial education in the Mines curriculum and ecosystem. This generous support created the foundation for the McNeil Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and well as McNeil Hall, a newly constructed building on campus.

Everyone involved in Venvee has been touched by this center, as it has provided significant support for the company in both guidance and testing facilities. Venvee’s VP of Operations, Torin Johnson, even worked for the program and its initiatives before joining Venvee full time, where he gained a deeper understanding of entrepreneurial foundations through the development and support of programs and curriculum through the center, all of which has been carried over into Venvee.

A few years later, Mike and Kelly Beck wanted to assist Mines in the effort of supporting a full start-up ecosystem for faculty, students, staff, and alumni, as Mike is also a Mines alum and successful entrepreneur. Their generous donation provided the foundation for another addition to the Mines campus infrastructure; The Beck Venture Center. In this new building (currently being constructed), start-ups in the Mines ecosystem would have the opportunity for physical working space while developing their companies, and receive education and guidance to increase the probability of future success. As part of the Beck Venture Center, a program would be needed specifically for this reason. This, is the Mines Venture Program.

By being one of the first companies in this initiative, Venvee has received on-campus office space, and invaluable mentorship from experts leading the Mines Venture Program, as well as other accomplished mentors and advisors from the Mines E and I network, including many past and current founders and CEOs, and professionals in spaces such as Law, Operations, Marketing, and Communications. Because the program is being developed at the same time as the new Beck Venture Center building, an interim venture center has been established in 1600 Jackson Street, where Venvee’s office is currently located.

How Does the Mines Venture Program Work?

Biweekly, the Mines Venture Program holds Start-up forums in 1600 Jackson Street, where education is provided, participating start-ups give updates, experts in start-up needs present relevant content, and networking occurs between mentors, advisors, community members, and the start-up teams. Many of Venvee’s best mentors and advisors have come from start-up forums, and the guidance has been invaluable for the growth of the company.

Outside of bi-weekly forums, frequent meetings occur between the start-up founders and program advisors, helping to navigate topics in finance, human resources, problem investigation, solution pretotyping, and many other topics start-ups commonly face. The advisement is catered specifically to the needs of the individual start-up (such as Venvee), sometimes bringing in external advisors to assist, like pitch deck specialists and advisors of related programs such as TechStars, NREL Westgate, and Innosphere.

The program also provides start-ups with technical resources, such as AWS credits, access to Microsoft tools, a subscription to Carta and Innovate Within, and other useful tools.

During the academic semester, the Venture Program prepares each start-up to present a company pitch to a panel of LPs and investors as part of the Mines Venture Fund, a $10 million dollar fund made specifically for Mines affiliated companies, which just opened to start-ups in October of 2022 with a bi-annual opportunity for pre-seed/seed investment.

Because this fund was not yet established in spring of 2022, the first of these Demo Day presentations was held for other awards. Venvee was awarded for being one of the top 3 teams to present, and received executive coaching from a pitch deck and communications specialist based out of Boulder, Colorado.

In fall of 2022, Venvee was able to apply for the full investment round of the Mines Venture Fund, and, after presenting, became one of two top companies, currently in due diligence for finishing the company’s pre-seed investment round through the very first Mines Venture Fund investment.

Beyond the Mines Venture Program

The benefits don’t end here. Through affiliation with the Mines E and I ecosystem, Venvee has been granted a demo and lab space in the Innov8x Studio, a space made specifically for the pretotype testing of innovative ideas.

This space is part of program development in the McNeil Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, where hands-on and real world education is of the highest importance, with emphasis on testing new solution concepts with real problem beneficiaries through running pretotype tests. This is done through new and innovative courses like Innov8x, challenges paired with industry and other departments, and the Innov8x Studio.

Venvee has had the privilege to use this space in the creation of an innovative human-behavior analytics lab and demo testing site, where a system of security cameras has been added, overlooking racks of clothing and tables of common retail objects, large and small. Through testing specific and randomized scenarios of human behavior and interaction, Venvee has been able to accelerate the growth, sophistication, and security of the company’s unprecedented technology, and continues to iterate with real beneficiaries, investors, and other partners through use of the Innov8x Studio space.

Overall, the current push and initiatives of entrepreneurship and innovation on the Colorado School of Mines campus have provided a truly solid foundation for Venvee, with valuable resources, expert mentorship, growth-accelerating space, and financial opportunities to accelerate the company’s learning, scaling, and chances at success. This, as well as the fact that the Venvee team has 4 MS degrees, 4 BS degrees, 1 prior PhD Candidate, and 5 in-progress BS degrees from the Colorado School of Mines, is why Venvee calls the Colorado School of Mines home.