Running Start – Reaching New Heights in Aspen

Running Start – Reaching New Heights in Aspen

Last summer I took part in Neal’s Running Start, an eye-opening mentorship program in the Silicon Valley with the prolific and plugged-in Neal Dempsey of Bay Partners. (You can hear more about that here.) This weekend he generously invited me and fellow tech founder mentees back for a Neal’s Running Start reunion at his lovely home on Smugglers Cove, nestled in the mountains of Aspen.

Neal’s Running Start Reunion

I was very excited at the opportunity to reconnect with our global crew of rock-star companies: Antti Rikkinen, COO of Zero Keyboard; Mario Aguilera, CEO of Tespack; and Neal Oddens, CEO of  Banden Concurrent. Sometimes the entrepreneur lifestyle can be a lonely road, so it was great to catch up with people who are experiencing the same ups and downs as me. We’ve really grown together since our mentorships began in the Valley and have created life-long friendships.

This Neal’s Running Start Reunion felt as if no time had passed since we last saw each other. We laughed so hard we cried, enjoyed some new mountain experiences, and had a picture perfect trip from start to finish where everyone  and everything became just a little bit better.

Facing My Fears

I also had to face a few of my personal fears on this trip. I’m not going to talk about all of them now, but I will tell you that my biggest fear is skiing. You’re probably thinking, “You went to Aspen and you’re afraid of skiing. Are you kidding me?” No, it’s not a joke. I’m from Saskatchewan. You’ve probably heard that our landscape is so flat that we can watch our dog run away for three days. I’m used to moving quickly through the snow on a sled, but setting myself up to barrel down a mountain at 100 miles per hour is a different thing entirely.

It doesn’t help that I had a fairly traumatic skiing accident at Table Mountain Regional Park when I was younger. (Yes, Saskatchewan’s a mountain.) The short story is that I bruised my rib after falling pretty badly.

Ski Lessons are Business Lessons

I had the privilege of being invited to one of the best places in the world to go skiing.  I wasn’t going to get out of skiing at least for a little while, so I took a deep breath and got ready to tackle the mountains.

Everyone in the Neal’s Running Start Reunion group encouraged me to work up the will to give it another shot. Plus, it was a huge bonus to have an amazing ski instructor gifted to me for the day. Kim understood how much of a scare it can be for the first time skier, so she was an amazing coach on the slopes. This goes back to my advice to business owners: get a coach! You’ll do better, be better, and have someone to help you up when you fall down.

Thank you to the NRS (Neal’s Running Start Team) for the experience of a lifetime.


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