I have always had the blood of an entrepreneur in my veins. Since I was a child, I have questioned everything and have constantly thought of different ways of improving any task that I happened to come across. My father started his company when I was about 11 years old and he was the biggest encouragement for me to start my own. After a handful of short stints bussing tables in middle-school and high-school left a bad taste in my mouth, my dad helped me start and grow JK Enterprises – a full service deck refurbishment business. I had some experience building and fixing decks as I had helped my parents and several neighbors with theirs, but my father was the one who gave me the push to use my talents and form a company. Soon, I began to be so backed up with clients, I had to hire a second employee to help me. Then I hired another. And another. In total, my team of four built or fixed over 50 decks in a span of just a couple of summers during high-school. It taught me skills on how to be innovative, how do deal with customers, how to manage people, and, most importantly, how to own up to your mistakes.
Fast forward two years later when I had the opportunity through the University of Denver to study abroad in Milan, Italy. I chose this program because of the entrepreneurial classes that the university offered. Upon arriving, I was injected into a community of people from across the world, with different backgrounds and values, but all who shared a common interest: creation. Everybody I met in the program thought similarly to me in terms of wanting to create a better world, build a new company, and challenge the status quo. On top of this, because of our different backgrounds, they challenged me to view the world in different ways and expanded my critical thinking knowledge. Overall, the experience was wonderful.
Upon returning to DU in January of 2015, I noticed that the community of innovators I had found in Italy was lacking in a place considered by Forbes and many other business journals to be one of the best places in the world to start a business. Denver and the rest of the Front Range was growing rapidly as a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation – but unfortunately I noticed that DU was falling behind. “With one of the best business schools in the country, how could this be?” I asked myself. So, like a true entrepreneur, I set out to solve a problem. I discovered that there already existed a student organization known as Daniels Entrepreneurship Society. It would have made sense that I had not heard of them as I am a biology major and was rarely involved with the business school. However, upon attending one of the DES meetings, which were supposed to happen every Wednesday night, I was one of two people who actually showed up. The president and vice president were not even present. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the only other person at the meeting that night was a girl who had the same passion for entrepreneurship that I did: Rachel Feeken – who turned out to be my partner in crime. We made an agreement right then and there that we would shape the climate of entrepreneurship on campus and in the greater Denver area. We wanted to bridge the gap between the innovative community of Denver and our university. So in March, 2015, we created Dynamize to do just that.
Dynamize is building itself to be the hub for entrepreneurship on the DU campus. Last quarter, we held many events and built a loyal group of students who shared the same passions that Rachel and I have. Some of the highlights of the quarter included the “Leanest Startup Competition,” in which teams received $20 and four hours to create a business – the team with the most gross revenue at the end of the four hours won a cash prize. We also co-sponsored a Hack-a-Thon with the computer science department in order to try to get more STEM students involved with our cause. We plan to build and promote more Hack-a-Thons, Pitch battles, and other competitions in the future.
Dynamize has made a big splash in the Denver community, being listed on the Startup Roadmap during Startup Week, forming partnerships with sponsors and investors, and even had a separate organization show some interest in a merger. We are currently building a network of mentors and business veterans to help the students who are part of our network.
The main goal of Dynamize is not only to be a resource for student-run businesses by providing strategy help, networking opportunities, and even some potential funding options, but we are also working to create the first business incubator in the history of the DU. We feel that this is a very important value in order to grow and prosper entrepreneurship on campus and off. By providing students with a means to scale their the businesses or transform their ideas into realities, we believe that we can foster innovation and train students in a much more practical form of business outside of the classroom. While we were hoping to launch the inaugural cohort of our incubator beginning in January, 2016, several barriers prevented us from doing so. Therefore, our incubator should launch in March, 2016, launching during the spring quarter.
Additionally, we would like to assist the newly established Entrepreneurship Department on campus with many of their initiatives. A large startup competition, hack-a-thon, an angel investment summit, and a Startup Weekend will all occur by the end of the school year, and Dynamize will be there to help run and support these events. Lastly, we are trying to determine if it would be possible for us to put together a small seed fund for Dynamize to invest directly into student-run businesses in order to provide even greater benefit to these companies. For example, one of the first DU companies we have identified, known as Cruze, drives students around in a Tuk-Tuk for a flat fee, competing with the likes of Uber and Lyft. They require a loan in order to purchase a second car and thus double their revenues. Dynamize would like to continue to grow in order to be able to provide this service.
The future is wide open for us and we have been slowly moving mountains. We are extremely grateful for your choosing us to be a part of this fund. Your contribution is not just going to leaders today, but is being invested back into other leaders on campus. If you have any other questions or comments, please feel free to email me at JakeKerr25@gmail.com and make sure to stop by our website, Dynamize.org, for more information about who we are and what we do. Thank you again for your investment in our exciting organization!
Jake Kerr, current PLPer