The SAGE Process, Target Clients & Qualifications

Social and Advisory Group for Entrepreneurs (SAGE) is a program that provides promising early stage companies with advisory and mentoring assistance. SAGE opened its doors in 2007 in Fort Collins and added a Boulder group in 2017. SAGE has worked with over 135 early stage startups as they prepare themselves for incubators and accelerators such as Innosphere. Some go on to seek Angel funding or other non-dilutive funding options. Startups who apply to SAGE are carefully vetted for their progress in identifying customer needs, proposed solutions, and their focus on creating a successful business. Qualifying startups are matched with a team of advisors who assist the startup founders in overcoming their major business obstacles. Advisors work pro bono, as a service to Colorado’s most talented entrepreneurs.

SAGE’s role in the Entrepreneur Ecosystem
Today’s entrepreneurs have multiple options for seeking advisory services. SAGE fills a gap between startups in the “idea” stage and startups who are ready for accelerators and incubators. SAGE is a good option for academic researchers or students who believe that their inventions are commericalizable. SAGE is also a good option for startups who are “inventing” something new and trying to build a business around the invention. SAGE partners with local entrepreneurial groups like SBDC, Innosphere, accelerators, incubators, and Angel investor groups.

SAGE Process

SAGE recruits high potential early stage startups. At the same time, it recruits some of Colorado’s best mentors and advisors who have a high desire to help new startups. The magic of SAGE is how it connects entrepreneurs to its advisors. Every month a startup presenter pitches to a team of 25 to 35 advisors. There are two opportunities per month to present, one in Fort Collins and another in Boulder. Meetings in Fort Collins are held 8AM to 10AM on Wednesday mornings [usually the 1st or 2nd Wednesday] at the Innosphere. Meetings in Boulder are held 4:30PM to 6:30PM Wednesday afternoons [the 3rd Wednesday] at CU Boulder East Campus | 4001 Discovery Drive, Boulder, CO 80303 Bob Sievers Room S228, SEEC Building.

Following a 20 min presentation and 20 min Q&A session by the entrepreneur, initial group feedback is provided by the advisors in the audience. The advisors indicate their interest in volunteering to work with the entrepreneur on the evaluation feedback form. Following the meeting, a SAGE engagement team of 3 or 4 advisors is selected and matched to your specific business opportunity and needs. The factors that drive the selection of advisors is their interest level, and how their experience and skill sets match your specific business challenges.

Each advisor who is selected for the team, volunteers to work with the entrepreneur for an ongoing engagement [usually 3-18 month duration or 48 hours per Advisor]. Where else in Colorado can a Startup expose their business plan to 25 to 35 qualified executives willing to help? All SAGE advisors pledge confidentiality.

The team initially identifies goals and plans for the engagement, establishes a team structure and then meets periodically with the entrepreneur to assess progress, identify needs and to offer advice/training on how to proceed. The engagement continues until the goals are met, the team has expended its 48 hours per advisor limit or the entrepreneur or SAGE Team wish to end the engagement.

The advisors bring a friendly mix of financial, marketing, development, and general management backgrounds. While they do not know the details of your product, they do know general business principles. SAGE is about matching the region’s best and most experienced business talent with the region’s brightest innovators. SAGE is not about raising capital, finding space, getting free labor, signing discount service providers, recruiting employees, or other common challenges. Nevertheless, advisors bring a wealth of experience and may have solid suggestions for some of these common challenges. Indeed, many of the SAGE Advisors have raised capital for ventures earlier in their career. Their advice and networks could easily lead to better articulation of your business opportunity, reduced perception of risk, and a stronger team – all of which add up to better chances of funding with more favorable terms.

SAGE Target Clients

Startups who seek assistance from SAGE come from a variety of places, including Universities, both students and researchers, University Technology Transfer Offices, community meetups and of course the classical garage.

SAGE works with startups with the following characteristics:

  • Technology somewhere in the business model
  • Business to Business or Business to Customer type businesses
  • Bootstrapping or Venture Capital financing bound
  • Broad range of businesses and industries
  • Working on the business not just technology/product
  • Usually not ready for investment yet
  • Have a passion for the business and for making things happen
  • Startup has more than one team member(desired) , solos are tough

Qualifying for SAGE

You need to answer YES to all these questions to be ready for SAGE.

  1. You have completed the Innosphere Application.
  2. You have done some solid preliminary work in the following areas
    • Identifying a real customer need and validating that need with customers
    • Modeling how you are going to make money
    • Estimating you market size: (Total, Serviceable, Target)
    • Developed an MVP definition and articulating your benefits to the customer – Demonstrating that what you have is technically feasible
    • Surveys and internalization of the competition – direct and indirect – Estimates of how much it will cost to get to market
    • Timelines you are committed to following.
  3. You’ve devoted 300 to 1000 hours to your business when counting all founders, employees, contactors etc.
  4. You are moving forward on multiple dimensions – marketing, intellectual property, finance, operations, business model, partnerships, etc. You should be able to discuss the progress you’ve made in the past six months and predict the progress you will make in the next six months.
  5. You have a pitch deck 12-16 slides that describes 1-4 above. See pitch deck template for content we expect. You choose the best format to tell your story.
  6. You are willing to communicate and discuss the challenges you see and the difficulties you face as well as ideas and vision you have. SAGE only works when there is full disclosure and an atmosphere of total candor.
  7. You have a strong desire to obtain help/advice and are willing to listen to and accept things you may not wish to hear.
  8. You will disclose all current advisors/consultants and their role/relationship with your business.