Fort Collins Innovation Community Initiative: Encouraging Entrepreneurship
“If anyone knows about City of Fort Collins grants, let me know.”
And so it began.
Aari Lotfipour is the Founder and CEO of Jalapeno Inventive, an advertising company that specializes in converting in-app purchases. He’s also an engineer, a community organizer... and I think I heard him say he was in nuclear medicine at one time.
That sounds about right.
Aari is an outstanding advocate for the startup and entrepreneurship community in Fort Collins. He’s like the fun uncle for many of the nascent companies in the area.
When Galvanize closed its doors in 2016, Aari made it his personal mission to make sure entrepreneurs still had a place to gather, learn, network, and succeed. This mission led him to the City of Fort Collins Cluster Fund opportunity. The week before the grant was due, Aari and I happened to be at 1 Million Cups on the same day when he announced that he needed help writing the proposal. If you know me, you know I can write a grant in my sleep - almost literally - and I love finding ways to support our small business community. I was happy to volunteer my time to help this pink-blazer-wearing dude.
Somewhere in there is a lesson in asking for what you want.
That was just a few weeks ago, and we recently learned that the City has awarded the first funding to launch this initiative. Aari whispered the news to me during the 1 Million Cups session hosted during Fort Collins Startup Week.
A group of other Fort Collins-based companies - including Jalapeno Inventive - have kicked in money to match the award (which was a condition of the grant contract); and FVC - the owner of Mesh Fort Collins - is contributing a generous in-kind sponsorship. With this funding, Aari will be helping a group of entrepreneurship-related groups host Meet Ups free of charge at Mesh Fort Collins.
Because he never sleeps, Aari will also be working with Rob Phillips, attorney and founder of the Rocky Mountain Business Advocate Group (RMBA Group), LLC - a Fort Collins-based legal consulting firm that guides and represents the interests of entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Rob is helping to formally organize the initiative as a nonprofit entity and will serve as general counsel. If you were at Fort Collins Startup Week, you likely heard Rob's name more than once. His company was the angel sponsor; and, beyond that he, too, has had a noticeable, positive impact on this slice of the Fort Collins economy.
The labor of love that is FCICI aims to lower barriers to entrepreneurship for underrepresented groups; minimize overhead and professional development costs for solopreneurs and freelancers; and, ultimately, create more high-paying jobs with companies that will pay local taxes to support our vibrant community.
The name will most likely change. FCICI doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue - hey, we had less than a week create the plan, purpose, goals, and write the proposal; the money was more important than the name. Worry not; I’ll be sure to keep you posted as the initiative evolves. In the meantime, you can thank your lucky stars that you have built your company in a community that rewards bold business decisions and invests in local economic development.
…and where you can see this guy hanging out at Mesh.