3 budding businesses form 1st session at Storm Peak Innovations | SteamboatToday.com

3 budding businesses form 1st session at Storm Peak Innovations

Mike Lawrence

— Jason Ryer and Joel Lenorovitz are trying to expand mobileXware LLC, which formats content — such as flash cards listing fitness techniques — into applications for mobile phones and devices.

Ryan Manley is trying to reach more customers for his technology consulting service, Ryan Manley Enterprises.

And Alan Ward is working to bring graphic-driving software to more companies through LunarG Inc.

The four men and their three budding businesses form the first 10-week session of Storm Peak Innovations, a technology incubator housed in The Victoria building on 10th Street in downtown Steamboat Springs. Jens Owen and Lars Anderson are co-founders of the incubator, which invests in the entrepreneurs by providing mentoring, business resources, housing and more during the session, in return for a share of the business's future equity. Anderson said that share is between 5 and 10 percent, a potential return that makes him view the process as "placing strategic bets."

The incubator model has grown in recent years. TechStars began in Boulder, had its first session in 2007 and now offers programs in Boston and Seattle, providing as much as $18,000 in seed capital for entrepreneurs in its three-month program. Y Combinator, named after a calculus term, began in the San Francisco area in 2005 and has funded at least 118 companies, including the cell-phone-based GPS sharing system Loopt.

Anderson said Storm Peak Innovations, in its infancy, has "no way of accommodating" an incubator model on the scale of TechStars or Y Combinator. But he and Owen are promoting an approach uncommon to incubators of any size: avid use of nearby, world-class recreation. Storm

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Peak advertising touts access to "the best powder and tree skiing in the west," mountain biking and water sports. Participants in the incubator receive passes to Steamboat Ski Area.

"One of the best ways to solve a problem is to get away from it — completely," Anderson said. "I don't think TechStar has ski passes."

But the incubator's focus is squarely on the other half of the "work hard, play hard" model. Manley, 28, learned about Storm Peak Innovations after meeting Owen at a wedding and drove from Columbus, Ohio, to participate in the incubator. Manley applied for Y Combinator earlier this year, but was not selected out of the flood of applicants.

His business seeks to provide small businesses with technology, such as new servers and phone systems, that they might not realize is affordable.

"My goal is to create a scalable model that I can continue to grow," Manley said. "I knew that coming here would give me my best chance of success."

Anderson said his mentoring strength lies in the business and marketing side, while Owen focuses his assistance on technology development. Both men are former Hewlett-Packard employees who branched into diverse opportunities and ventures. Anderson worked for Mentor Graphics in Portland, Ore., and Munich, Germany, and Owen said he sold a software development company called Precision Insight before moving to Tungsten Graphics, which sold in late 2008 to the software company VMware.

Owen and Anderson hope to see similar success with people they bring to Steamboat.

"We have skin in the game with the startups, so we're very keen to give them a good experience while they're here," Anderson said. "If we pick right and do a good job with the mentoring process, (Storm Peak Innovations) can be a very good business."

Owen is partnering with Ward, a 30-year Hewlett-Packard veteran, in LunarG. Ward, 54, said the incubator model is somewhat of "a numbers game" for Storm Peak Innovations.

"At least one of the three of us should be wildly successful," Ward said with a grin.


Learn more about local technology incubator Storm Peak Innovations at http://www.stormpeakinnovations.com.

The incubator’s first participants are: mobile software developers mobileXware LLC, at http://www.mobilexware.com; technology consultant Ryan Manley, who can be e-mailed at email@ryanmanley.com; and graphics driver developers LunarG at http://www.lunarg.com.