3 1/2 questions for Tom Higley

Serial entrepreneur, mentor and musician Tom Higley heartily accepted the challenge to distill his decades of startup experience into three-and-a-half questions. His latest venture? Vokl is an iPhone photo sharing app to help business better engage with their customers over social media. See Higley at Denver Startup Week‘s CEO Office Hours.

1. What question about startups do you get asked most often by founders?

What is TechStars like? Do you think I should apply? Can I use you as a reference?

2. What question do you actually wish founders would ask?

Do you think the total addressable market for my business makes sense? Or what is market risk, and how could I address it?

3. What’s missing from the Denver startup scene to support founders? Why?

In reality, very little is missing from Denver these days that founders might need. Denver now has the real deal, a rapidly growing startup scene that is generating significant buzz here in Colorado (and even nationally) – as Denver Startup Week will attest. Nonetheless, Denver could benefit from these three things: (1) a Denver-based national firm that becomes a local sources of capital for seed and early stage companies; (2) geographic concentration / focus; and (3) a strong Denver-grown company that becomes a success in the public markets.

3.5 Why?

Capital. We went from a period in which Denver was the center of the Rocky Mountain VC universe, to a period of uncertainty that saw the rise of numerous (too many) regionally focused VC firms at perhaps the most inopportune time. Today, only one firm based in Colorado has a truly national profile. (And that firm is not in Denver.) Starting a national fund that will have its headquarters here in Denver is a nontrivial thing to pull together.

Geography. We can’t afford to pretend that geographic “focus” means multiple centers of gravity. Density is critically important. Denver can support the kind of density that a startup community needs by supporting the organically grown (and growing) startups that have tended to spring up in a particular part of the city.

Public Success. This, too, is hard. When investors see $150+ million on the table, it’s hard to maintain the perspective that it might be better to let it ride, take the risk, and let the opportunity (and the company) mature.