Social and Advisory Group for Entrepreneurs is a program specifically designed to provide early stage companies with advisory and mentoring assistance as they prepare themselves to become a sustainable business. The successful program is made up of highly experienced advisors who are dedicated to helping startups refine business strategies, go-to-market plans and product definitions.
SAGE is not about raising capital, finding space, getting free labor, signing discount service providers or recruiting employees. SAGE is about matching experienced business talent with the region’s brightest innovators to address business challenges through organized mentorship and coaching.
We asked past and current Innosphere Clients what the SAGE progam meant to them:
Entrepreneurs at a variety of stages can participate. Companies referred to the program are often Innosphere clients or potential clients; however, the program also welcomes first-time entrepreneurs, such as those launching lifestyle businesses. SAGE leadership works with the entrepreneur prior to their presentation to ensure they are fully prepared with their research and opportunity assessment. In this initial mentorship, SAGE advisors help refine the entrepreneurs slides until they have a compelling 20 minute presentation that summarizes their company’s needs, plan and vision.
Each month, a promising company will give a presentation to SAGE executive advisors. Following the presentation, the group provides real time feedback to the presenter, after which an advisory team is created to provide the presenting company with additional advice on an ongoing basis.
THE SAGE ADVISOR                                                                                                                
If you are interested in becoming a SAGE advisor, we would love to meet you! Please submit your application here. SAGE advisors are asked to be available for at least 12 months, attend one third of the meetings, and contribute 48 hours of pro-bono service per team engagement.

Jon Thompson, founder of Blue Margin, talks about his relationship with his SAGE Advisor, Chris Christopher:
If you or your company are interested in presenting to the SAGE executive team, please send an e-mail to ben@innosphere.org.

Learn more about Innosphere's SAGE program with the SAGE executive director, Ben Walker:

Meet just a few SAGE Advisors:

Kevin McManus, SAGE Advisor

Why are you an advisor to startup companies? 

I've always been fascinated by the innovation process: going from a concept or idea to product or service that people can buy. It's not a straight line nor is it always moving in the same direction. And I find myself mesmerized by the entrepreneurs - their vision passion and commitment.  I want to do everything I can to help these guys succeed, and if they do, our community will be better for it.

What have been the memorable projects and companies you’ve recently worked with?
MAC Electric continues to be a lot of fun. Although a small entity (6 employees), MAC faces the many of the same challenges as much larger organizations.  So the challenge was implementing some sophisticated tracking reports yet keeping them simple enough so that they will be used weekly in their small-shop setting. And I  must say it was a great growth experience for me to gain a little expertise in the LED lighting market.

How have you used your background, passions and talents to contribute to startup companies?
I have deep analytic and process definition skills and I am passionate about presenting the right information at the right time. This fit well with MAC's need: MAC needed a sales process and weekly report to facilitate managing it.  The key now is to nurture and coach to ensure the process and report become part of MACs DNA.

What’s exciting to you about being a part of this entrepreneurial community?
Exposure to the variety of technologies, product concepts, markets and most of all, the entrepreneurs really turns me on.  I look forward to immersing myself in markets and technologies that today I have little knowledge about. 
We’ve all learned from our own mistakes – what’s yours?! 

1. ​​Shoulda signed up with this group about 5 years ago
2. Knowing what to do is not the same as knowing how to do it

Don Daniel, SAGE Advisor

Why are you an advisor to startup companies? 
I really enjoy working with smart people who think outside the box. I have worked with start-up companies constantly over my entire career. In nearly all of the companies I have been associated with I found the founders to be great salesmen and/or great technicians but on the financial side they needed some help. Whether it is setting up an appropriate reporting system, managing cash flow, securing appropriate loans, handling tax issues or finding the right banker I enjoy helping new companies.

What have been the memorable projects and companies you’ve recently worked with?
I have worked with or am working with several companies. All of them have been special. Seeing Brennan Zelener birth Newaya and manage it on full-time basis has been exciting. Teal Campers is an example where an entrepreneur saw a need for something practical and affordable and Larry Drake went about creating a wonderful product. Most recently it has been working with Twila Henry. Her company, Grouse Malting, has really become established in an incredibly short period of time. Being part of her excitement and witnessing her can-do attitude is what being a Sage advisor is all about. Brennan, Larry, Twila and Michelle of MAC Electric are so appreciative of all the help their Sage Teams have offered. They take their passion, energy and commitment and incorporate the experience and insights of the Sage advisors into actions that move the company forward. It motivates me to see this and to know I have played a part in their development.

How have you used your background, passions and talents to contribute to startup companies?
There are so many dimensions to managing the finances of a company. I have worked both as a professional CPA in public accounting, as a consultant and as in inside CFO during my business career. I have started and grown four companies myself and I know how much hard work it takes to be successful. If I can help others be successful through my experience and skills I am all in. I sometimesfeel like I have to bring the entrepreneur back down to earth. They want to do what they want and sometimes my role is to slow them down so that the financial decisions get made right along with the marketing and operations decisions. When all three areas are being tended to the company has the best chance to be highly successful.

What’s exciting to you about being a part of this entrepreneurial community?
I have always believed it is the entrepreneurs who make our country and communities great. To see smart people who recognize the need and want to seize the opportunity is what we need more of. Successful small businesses bring jobs and stability to our communities. Seeing the cooperation between CSU and Rocky Mountain Innosphere and the difference this alliance is making already is exciting to me. The companies that come through the various programs being offered give each new company a significant advantage and will most certainly help many more companies achieve success.

We’ve all learned from our own mistakes – what’s yours?!
I am a true optimist and the mistake I have made is over committing myself to companies I believe in. It just is too hard to say no to working with an entrepreneur who wants to do it correctly from the start. Working with other professionals who have the same passions for start-ups is another bonus for me. The relationships that are built are special and long lasting.


David Bohling, SAGE Advisor

Why are you an advisor to startup companies? 

I'm a serial innovator who has been in both very large and very small companies, seeing both "best" and "worst" practices in both.  Additionally, I've had multiple roles, everything from fundamental R&D to business operations and product life cycle management to entrepreneurial fund raising.  With all that, I've also built my own experience through numerous people teaching and mentoring me, so I feel it's incumbent upon me to try to pass along that collective wisdom.  The Innosphere, and more specifically, SAGE, provides what I've found to be a rather unique forum for manifesting that exchange in a fairly intimate, non-judgmental, and non-threatening way.  I particularly like the fact that I've found virtually no hidden agendas amongst the SAGE adviser network, just benevolent people who really just want to help - a refreshing revelation.
What have been the memorable projects and companies you’ve recently worked with?

It's really interesting to watch the rapid evolution of startups, how they adapt to thrive, modifying the advice/counsel provided and molding it to fit with their own goals, which they should do; there are no absolute answers.  In that context, I'd probably have to say that E-Flux probably was the most enjoyable client I've worked with recently, with an extremely receptive principal and fun and, I should add, extremely knowledgeable SAGE team from whom I also personally learned a lot. 

How have you used your background, passions and talents to contribute to startup companies?

Collective experience, which is part of the greatness of SAGE teams involved with entrepreneurs, is to me one of the best ways to contribute to startups.  So I see my background and talents fitting within a broader experiential knowledge base.  Selfishly, I get to learn from that base (AND the startups!) at the same time as sharing my own.

 What’s exciting to you about being a part of this entrepreneurial community?

I am continuously energized by the ideas presented by the entrepreneurs in Fort Collins and Colorado.  It's my opinion that we have an almost ideal mix of technical and business diversity, while retaining a (comparably) intimate and networked community; it's a great culture.  People in the Innosphere community like living here and have a vision to see it continue to grow economically.
We’ve all learned from our own mistakes – what’s yours?! 

This forum is not lengthy enough for me to detail my mistakes, but I think most people would agree that mistakes are often one of the keys to learning and embracing that new knowledge.  So I consider myself a life-long student, and hopefully all future mistakes I might make will be tempered by my previous experience, with a desire to pass along that perspective to others willing to listen.