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Boulder: My New Home

I should have seen this coming.
My Chinese name means "Little Mountain."

It’s been a wild 12 weeks.

March 3rd, I received a call from CEO Andrew Yang that I made it into the ranks of Venture for America’s 2015 class, a national non-profit that partners young college graduates with early-stage high-growth startups in developing cities. That congratulatory call set in motion a three-month journey where I interviewed with nearly 20 different VFA-partner companies; I stayed up late working on projects for potential employers, and missed school a couple times to fly around the country. Despite the guarantee of employment, there were days I certainly didn’t feel the quiet calm of the employed college senior.

After flying to New York City for the VFA selection interview and then to Miami and Charlotte for partner company interviews, I can now say I have a home. Grab your bike, running shoes, and maybe an oxygen mask; I’m going to Boulder.

Boulder, Colorado. The ‘treps call it Silicon Mountain for the insane quantity of creative talent and startup companies that are on the ground, and also for local incubators like Techstars who crank out national acquisition targets. The work-out fanatics and granolas call it heaven for the high-fitness culture and local laws that protect the natural scenery around the city. This is now where I get to call home.

I’m going to be working with The Indigo Project, an early-stage education technology startup that is looking to radically transform secondary and post-secondary education at the national level by breaking down the dominant design. Education today is designed similar to textile factories during the Industrial Revolution—quantity and standardization are emphasized over customization and creativity. Indigo wants to change that.

I spent two days in Boulder with the CEO and COO of the company observing how they present data, learning about their challenges in establishing scalable business models, and asking as many questions as humanly possible to get a crash course introduction to the business. Off hours, they showed me downtown Pearl Street’s array of street performers and shops (everything from Patagonia outlets to locally produced chocolate) and talked to me about what the city’s culture is like, how young people get involved, and I asked as many questions as humanly possible to get a crash course introduction to life in Boulder.

The city has two very different populations living under the shadows of the Flatirons. The hyper-fit community stands in one camp with participants ranging from young attractive 20-somethings and their mountain bikes to 60-year-old grizzled men who run 100 mile marathons. The dominant conversations among them deal with where the best organic ingredients can be bought, the best hiking trails found, and the best trainers hired. The second camp holds the Boulder hipsters—these tatted, creative and young denizens lounge across grass, benches, and sometimes a stretch of concrete to converse with friends about artists and trends. In between these two camps are the thousands of students attending Colorado University Boulder, and these four-year nomads just want to enjoy the outdoors as much as they can between classes.

The best part of the trip? 6:30am hike at the edge of the Flatirons. As I sat there writing morning prayers and watch the occasional deer graze within 15 yards of me, I knew that I would love life in Boulder. I’ve always wanted to live in Colorado, but the desire was normally contained within the dangling modifier “when I’m retired” or “after I’ve worked for a couple decades.” I would rather not wait. The big cities will always be there, but I want the mountains while I’m young.

I move to Boulder in August. I’m coming in as the Director of Sales to make magic happen in business development, customer relationships, and to connect schools, district and policymakers everywhere with The Indigo Project’s mission to change how we educate students. The job will be challenging and intimidating in the same way jumping off a cliff with a hang glider is. The fear either paralyzes you or it pushes you to jump and experience the rush of a lifetime—I’m confident that it will be the latter.

Two years ago I was for certain I was going to work for an industry-leading public relations firm in New York City when I graduated. One year ago I was for certain I was NOT going to work for any PR firm, but that was about all I knew. Today I’m a 2015 Venture for America Fellow. After five weeks of intensive training this June and July in Providence, RI, I am moving to Boulder to join a startup team that is out to change the world via education innovation.

Corporate America and society expectations: eat your heart out.

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