A Super-Connector for successful futures

Michael Bevis, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, City and County of Denver, Denver, Colorado

Feature | Denver, Colorado | 20 April 2023
Michael Bevis was born to be an entrepreneur and his passion and energy to help others be successful is his driving force in life. ILO Photo/ Michael Bevis
“I have more college degrees than I’d like to admit in public,” says Michael Bevis with a smile. “But for me personally, if I can see entrepreneurs thrive and be successful, that’s way better than any compliment I’m going to get from a boss or colleague.”

Michael Bevis is the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the City and County Office of Denver in Colorado. He finds his energy comes from helping people move their ideas forward. “There are many success stories of entrepreneurs that I’ve had the experience of knowing and seeing them be successful is very rewarding,” Michael Bevis shares proudly.

Bevis move to Denver a little over seven years ago from southern California and has been in his current role for a little over four years. “I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life. I started my first business when I was 12 because I wanted to buy a bicycle,” explains Bevis.

It all started when his father dared him to figure out how to earn enough money to buy the bike himself. Within a week, Bevis made about fourteen hundred dollars selling mistletoe in front of a Toys-R-Us in the bitter cold. He used that money to buy a best bicycle he could and invest the rest in his next entrepreneurial undertaking.

Early in his professional career, Michael achieved success in the banking and finance sector. It was there he realized that what he loved best was teaching his clients to run their businesses better. This would help those businesses qualify for the loans they were requesting from his company.

From there he transitioned into higher education, first as the Dean of a business college and then, moving to Denver, he opened a campus for a trade’s community college. There he created an entrepreneurship program to support individuals working in the trades sector. That lead him to be the first person serving in his current role in the City and County of Denver.

“I spend the majority of my time here in Denver working with companies to help them grow and scale. But more importantly, we spend an entire hour every single month focused on the mental health and well-being of the founders. This helps them build the resilience and tools they need to thrive,” says Bevis.

When asked to speak about some of the challenges entrepreneurs and management face today, Bevis points out that marketing, legal, human resources, and accounting finance are the key issues businesses mostly struggle with. “Most entrepreneurs just don’t have a strong background in basic business skills,” he highlights.
Through the entrepreneurship programs Michael has created, he helps leaders build the resilience and tools they need to thrive in highly competitive sectors. ILO Photo/ Michael Bevis
Bevins explains that in the ScaleUp Network program developed by the Denver Office of Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO), entrepreneurs carry a deep amount of anxiety and stress about the overall well-being of their employees.

“I’m very fortunate that the majority of companies I work with are very employee focused. They want to make sure their employees can thrive, independently of the business itself, and provide for their own families,” Bevis states firmly.

DEDO’s entire Workforce Division engages directly with the industry to create programs that meet their hiring needs and technical skills requirements. One example of that is the construction industry “where we can’t hire people fast enough,” says Bevis. “We created a program that can be completed in 48 hours with a one-month education plus hands-on training and an OSHA-10 certification,” Bevis adds proudly.

The industry helped support that program financially because it ensured that new hires had the skills they needed. And when companies offered the opportunity for career paths they saw that employees stayed longer.

In discussing what employers are looking for, Bevis stated there is a shift towards skills and a move away from asking about their pedigree. Employers are saying “show me what you can do versus focusing on their college degree.”

The challenge currently is that hiring managers are not changing the job descriptions to reflect this new reality in the world of work. He said that “the current requirement for an entry-level position is a master’s degree and a minimum of 10 years of experience. That’s a really difficult candidate to find,” Bevis affirms.

The greatest motivation behind Bevis’ work revolves around lifting up business owners that have been traditionally underserved and underrepresented. “I have several initiatives right now that are working to support founders of color. This group has one of the highest success rates for early business and entrepreneurial growth,” explains Bevis.

“The return on investment for equity capital investment is significantly higher with women founders of color and we want to promote that,” he adds. The Herman Malone Fund, an investment fund dedicated to helping support founders of color, and Tech-up, an initiative designed to bolster minority founders are important initiatives, according to Bevis.
Michael Bevis is helping Denver attract the talent needed for economic growth. His deep commitment is to supporting founders of color. This group regularly achieves the highest success rates for early business and entrepreneurial growth. ILO Photo/ Michael Bevis
“Entrepreneurs are vital to a strong economic system, and they create 40% of new jobs across Colorado,” adds Bevis.

According to Bevis, Denver has the largest concentration of Federal agencies outside of Washington, DC. This is why the National Resource Energy Lab (NREL) is based here because “they do a ton of programming and entrepreneurship support to help with clean technology.

He adds that Denver is also home to an agency called the Smart Cities Alliance, an organization that works with cities all across the United States to help with clean technologies.

Denver has the second-highest educated population in the United States, according to Bevis. Over the last four to five years, Colorado has seen a significant influx of outside capital going towards business and business growth than other major metro cities in the United States.

Looking over the horizon, Michael says that Denver will not only be a thriving metropolis, from a city perspective, but an industry leader in the U.S. in agriculture, aerospace, healthcare, and financial technology sectors.

For Bevis, the biggest lesson he has learned is “you really have to listen to your constituents.” He takes this to heart himself and spends a significant amount of time communicating with entrepreneurs. “I feel like one of my strengths just happens to be creating new things that will be beneficial to the community that I serve and making sure that it's going to be used. I'm passionate about creating resources that solve problems for entrepreneurs and see them become successful,” he emphasizes.

“I'm really blessed to be in the role that I'm in. Every day, I have the opportunity to connect with and work with these people, and not only within the city. It's impressive to see the growth of an entrepreneurial culture in the City of Denver and what my colleagues can do,” Michael states fervently.

“It is incredible to be in a work environment where every single person that works there is desperately passionate about the work that they do and the support they provide to the community, it’s very unique,” proudly shares Bevis.