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 November 19, 1999

Former CU Dean Sorenson a mentor, friend to entrepreneurs

BOULDER – Ralph “Bud” Sorenson is an angel investor in more than just the financial sense. He not only contributes ground-floor venture capital to start-up companies but also acts as a guide, mentor and friend to entrepreneurs on their sometimes perilous journeys.

Sorenson currently serves on the boards of directors of 15 different companies, 10 of which are in Boulder County. For most of the local companies he also has provided what he refers to as “a modest amount” of start-up funding.

His unique combination of business savvy, educational experience, integrity and people skills have earned him high praise.

“Bud is an absolutely marvelous guy,´ said Jerry Donahue, president of the Boulder Technology Incubator. “He has tremendous insight into an individual’s staying power and mettle to run a start-up company. What he does very effectively is to marry the investment capital — his own and that of his great network of other investors — with his coaching and mentoring expertise. And he’s having a huge impact on these companies.”

The entrepreneurs heading the firms with which Sorenson is involved greatly value his wise counsel and warm encouragement.

“He’s real supportive — so quick with a smile and an assurance that we’re going to be able to do what we want to do,´ said Terry Gold, president of Gold Systems, a Boulder company that produces customer call-center software. “I know that he cares as much about me as an individual as he does (about) the performance of my company, and that’s really nice.”

Eric Kloor, president of Draco Systems, a Boulder developer of digital video editing systems, feels he has learned much from Sorenson.

“He has pushed me to think larger, especially on marketing issues. Who are our customers, and why are they our customers? And the man is a walking Rolodex. He got the president of Sony on the phone for me one day. His network of contacts is phenomenal.”

Sorenson already had a distinguished background in business education and leadership before coming to Boulder from the Boston area in 1992 to assume the position of dean of the University of Colorado’s College of Business, a position he held for just one year.

He was president of Babson College for seven years and helped to found its prestigious program in entrepreneurship. He also taught business at Harvard and was chairman and chief executive of the Barry Wright Corp., a diversified industrial company in Massachusetts.

As dean of CU’s business school, he observed the entrepreneurial nature of most of the businesses thriving along the Front Range and wanted to forge stronger links between those companies and the university’s business education efforts. He initiated these with the formation of the college’s Center for Entrepreneurship, a program which has grown in size and influence ever since.

Sorenson soon found, however, he preferred more direct involvement with the local business community to the demands of academia.

“The college seemed to need someone with more of an academic orientation as dean,” he explained. “And I decided to see if I couldn’t have some fun working on a more direct basis with some of these little companies that were starting up. In the last four or five years I have gotten involved with eight of them, and I’m loving what I’m doing.”

The various companies with which Sorenson is involved run the gamut from high-tech to high-concept. He is chairman of the board for netLibrary.com, an Internet company that “lends” books online. The company is marketing its service to publishers, libraries and individuals.

Sorenson is also associated with Audio Adventures, a company that rents books on tape at travel plazas and truck stops along the interstate highway system, allowing the convenience of return at another location, similar to what is done with rental cars.

While starting a new company is always an inherently risky venture, Sorenson believes entrepreneurs can greatly increase their chances with the right preparation.

“Some people say entrepreneurs are born, not made. But I think by studying the successes and failures of others, through schools or at the feet of people who have been there, they can learn so much.”

Sorenson speaks modestly of his abilities and far-reaching influence. “I invest in people,” he says simply.

Those who have been touched by his guiding influence would say his investments in them have been more than monetary.

“He’s been my cheerleader, my mentor … he’s guided me,” remarked Eric Kloor. “He really is kind of a father figure to me — someone I look up to with immense respect.”

BOULDER – Ralph “Bud” Sorenson is an angel investor in more than just the financial sense. He not only contributes ground-floor venture capital to start-up companies but also acts as a guide, mentor and friend to entrepreneurs on their sometimes perilous journeys.

Sorenson currently serves on the boards of directors of 15 different companies, 10 of which are in Boulder County. For most of the local companies he also has provided what he refers to as “a modest amount” of start-up funding.

His unique combination of business savvy, educational experience, integrity and people skills have earned him high praise.

“Bud is…

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