Gary Trauner thinks part of what makes Jackson, Jackson, is its incredible ecosystem. Not just the natural ecosystem — the public lands and wildlife for which the Tetons are famous — but also its ecosystem of talented and accomplished people. These people, he believes, are the ones who can help Jackson become more ecologically, economically, and culturally sustainable.
Gary helps foster such individuals through his work as the executive director of Silicon Couloir, a nonprofit business incubator that provides programs that support entrepreneurs in the Tetons.
“Most people who move here have a high risk tolerance,” Gary says. “A lot of the people we work with had gotten to the point where they are getting older, or they want a less extreme lifestyle and more stability in their lives so are looking to move into a new career. They are willing to transfer that risk tolerance into building something. What a lot of them don’t have is a background in business. That’s where we come in.”
Silicon Couloir offers several programs for entrepreneurs that range from a boot camp on business fundamentals and mentorships to networking events and help securing financing. They’re also well known for their signature event, Pitch Day, which Gary says is “like the show ‘Shark Tank,’ Teton style.” All these programs are great, but what excites Gary the most is Silicon Couloir’s values and how they affect the businesses they foster.
“I’m a do-gooder,” he says. “I really want to make a difference. Silicon Couloir is committed to its values. They matter. I have no interest in supporting people who don’t hold those values.”
These values are centered around Silicon Couloir’s three guiding principles: Access-for-All to provide everyone with resources and support; Founding-to-Funding programming for entrepreneurs wherever they are in their journey; and, most importantly, the triple bottom line of Profit. People. Planet. They work with businesses that are committed to being a positive part of the Teton region and provide well-paying, meaningful jobs.
“Every business wants to be financially successful,” Gary says. “But we’re not just about helping people get wealthy. We also want to give back to the community.”
Gary says he grew up in a family where the dinner table conversation flowed around current events and politics, so he’s always been engaged in what’s going on in the world. But it took a family tragedy for him to step out of his business-oriented path. After losing a brother to brain cancer, Gary decided to run for political office — his “macro” attempt to make a difference. In 2006, he lost the race for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House of Representatives seat to seven-time incumbent Barbara Cubin by just over 1,000 votes or less than a percentage point. It was Cubin’s closest call ever.
After two more unsuccessful runs, Gary shifted his focus closer to home. He started two successful businesses in Teton County (after starting other businesses elsewhere), served as the chair of his local water and sewer district, acted as the chief operating officer for St. John’s Health, served as the chair of the school district, and was the first paid executive director of Jackson Hole Lacrosse.
When Silicon Couloir decided to hire its first full-time executive director, Gary was the perfect fit — a businessman and entrepreneur with a long and storied career. Many of the people he works with are not much different than Gary himself; people who dream of following their passion and making their mark on the economic and cultural ecosystem of Jackson.