The "Rocky Mountain Way:" A guide to Denver’s tech startup scene

July 11, 2019

When I moved from the Big Apple to the Mile High City, I already knew Denver had a lot going for it - incredible breweries and restaurants, nearby hiking, concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater and a great fitness scene are just a few of its many attributes. In fact, the list was so long I was confident that moving far from home was well worth the risk.

More than three years later, Denver has yet to disappoint, that is, with the exception of pizza and bagels - nothing compares to New York. Furthermore, although I worked for years in consumer public relations (PR) while living on the East Coast, a move to Denver had me finding inspiration in technology startups.

Why? Read the following and you might find the “Rocky Mountain Way” better for your tech startup and career as well.

People and places

Colorado’s tech ecosystem is one of the strongest between the coasts. According to the Denver Post, at least 22 tech firms either moved their headquarters or opened field offices along Colorado’s Front Range between July 2017 and June 2019.

One of the primary drivers for this has been a pool of tech talent that grew 23% from 2013 to 2018. Today, tech employees make up 9.7% of the workforce in the state, one of the highest concentrations in the country. According to Cyberstates™ 2018 - CompTIA’s annual analysis of the nation’s tech industry - the sector represents 14% of Colorado’s economy and generated $43.4 billion in 2017 alone.

Not only does it have the people, Denver has the place to put them all. Real estate services firm CBRE has reported that office space in the city is a bargain compared to coastal markets.

In good company

Colorado was recently ranked eighth for growth entrepreneurship and fifth for startup activity according to the Kauffman Institute. What’s more, the 2018 State of Downtown Denver Report noted 265 tech startups had formed in core neighborhoods over the prior three years.

Colorado offers a thriving network of accelerators, incubators and venture funds, too. With a mantra to #GiveFirst, local funds tend to support early-stage companies, creating a gap for scale-up funding. The community is collaborative, open and willing to give without expecting much in return.

Jacqui Dietrich, strategic manager for downtown incubator and accelerator space the Commons on Champa, shared a recent example of that support. A proprietor of a local bar partnered with a graduate of the Common’s business accelerator program to help another alumna launch a vegetarian soul food business. Though not tech, it’s good to see such equally essential businesses supported.

Being fortunate to live in a state where people within the tech community are truly motivated to help each other is extremely special. Some events and groups dedicated to this purpose include:

  • Denver Startup Week - A full week focused on innovation for founders, developers, product managers, designers, marketers, sales teams and makers. The largest free event of its kind, it includes sessions, presentations, workshops, social activities, job fairs and more.
  • Colorado Technology Association (CTA) - A group comprised of leaders from across the state aimed at cultivating tech success, agility and innovation. CTA “is creating meaningful connections, establishing a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline, advocating for smart policy and fostering growth.”
  • Women Who Startup - A dynamic learning platform and network of female entrepreneurs and innovators committed to building successful companies.

Learn and level up

Given that Colorado is so supportive of tech, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of opportunities to learn and either start or strengthen your tech career. Here are just a few examples:

  • Galvanize - A collection of campuses where people can access the skills and network they need in-person or online to level up in tech. The ecosystem’s culture is shaped by first-time entrepreneurs, growing startups and Fortune 1000 companies.
  • General Assembly - If you read my previous post, you already know I’m a fan of this organization. They offer convenient programs in a variety of tech sectors both online and in-person.
  • Turing School - This non-profit organization strives to unlock human potential by training a diverse and inclusive student body to succeed in high-fulfillment tech careers.
  • DaVinci Coders - This was not just the first micro college in Colorado, it was one of the first in the country. They offer a variety of courses in coding. 
If this information has piqued your attention, and you’d like to dig deeper into Denver’s startup scene, look into Built In Colorado. This community of more than 106,000 local techies is a hub for area tech startups. For pros in many leading U.S. tech markets, Built In offers local industry insight, an opportunity to make connections at events and pursue careers with top companies.

Want to chat about how we help support startups? Let’s talk!

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