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Five 'Gazelles' Added to Roster of Growing Denver Firms

The Denver Office of Economic Development adds wildly successful companies in concert with Denver Startup Week


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With Denver Startup Week officially kicking off Monday, September 25, the Denver Office of Economic Development announced the new class of Gazelles – five rapidly growing firms that show potential for raising money and creating jobs in the city.

The 2017 class – Evolve Vacation Rental Network Inc., GoSpotCheck, SyncHR, CyberGRX and PaySimple – collectively raising almost $177 million in the last year, and $227 million overall. The five companies employ roughly more than 500 employees, each growing between 25 and 30 percent year-over-year.

"We view Evolve as a cornerstone member of the startup community in Denver and we're excited to help our civic and business leaders tell the story of why Denver is such a great place to build a company," says Brian Egan, CEO of Evolve Vacation Rental Network Inc.

Each year since 2012, the city has named companies to its list of Gazelles, based on job creation numbers, attraction of capital investment and commitment to entrepreneurial engagement in the city and beyond. The 30 Gazelles accumulated over the last five years have raised $1.35 billion overall. 

What's their competitive edge?

"SyncHR is doing for HR technology what Tesla did for automobiles," says Charles Var, chief marketing officer with SyncHR. "We're rethinking the entire approach to how companies manage HR, payroll and benefit functions, delivering a radically different and better solution by leveraging cutting-edge technology. To be recognized as a Denver Gazelle is an enormous honor, particularly given the growing and thriving entrepreneurial community."

This year, Denver's OED announced a new partnership with Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network Colorado (BEN Colorado) to manage the Denver Gazelles recognition program for fast-growing, second-stage companies, including other winners such as Ping Identity, SendGrid and Ibotta. The two organizations worked together to select this year's winners and identify opportunities. 

In the spirit of celebrating the 2017 Gazelles, read on to get to know the companies, their missions and why you should keep an eye on what's to come:


EVOLVE VACATION RENTAL NETWORK INC.

Evolve Vacation Rental Network is a next-generation vacation rental management service providing homeowners more rental income and flexibility for a 10 percent per booking fee. The company currently services more than 5,000 vacation rental properties in nearly 500 markets across the continent. 

FOUNDED: 2011

EMPLOYEES: 222

CEO: Brian Egan

GROWTH: Evolve Vacation Rental Network has been at well more than 100 percent annually on both sides of its market – inventory acquisition and bookings – for several years. The company intends to hire more than 100 new employees in the next year, and recently announced an $11 million financing round led by T. Rowe Price, bringing its total investment to $23 million.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: Initially, Evolve Vacation Rental Network focused its business on serving property managers, rather than individual homeowners; however, upon switching that emphasis, the organization began growing at triple-digit rates annually.

CULTURE: Right from the beginning, Evolve Vacation Rental Network wrote down its 10 core values. The company culture has helped the team overcome challenges.

DENVER: "Hospitality and tourism have deep roots in Colorado, which makes Denver an ideal location for starting a travel business," Egan says. "It's a place that allows us to recruit and retain amazing people who are excited about our industry. But above and beyond all that, it's where we are raising our families, and it's home."

FUTURE: "The second home market in the U.S. is enormous and we are only scratching the surface," Egan says. "There's a big world beyond our borders. You should expect that we continue to establish ourselves as the global leader in management services for vacation rentals."


GOSPOTCHECK

GoSpotCheck is a SaaS-based field execution management platform that provides a simple, uniform way to collect, analyze and share retail intelligence. GoSpotCheck's web and mobile apps automate the structuring and reporting of field data, enabling companies to make better-informed decision, faster.

​FOUNDED: 2011

EMPLOYEES: 100

CEO: Matt Talbot

GROWTH: Year-over-year growth: 100 percent; total funding to date: $26 million; last round of funding: $16.5 million

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: GoSpotCheck's Series B funding was extremely validating, as it came on the heels of a major expansion and allowed the company to continue to increase headcount, expand offices, and put money into the product. Moreover, working alongside industry leading customers, including PepsiCo, Under Armour, Panera Bread and more has been a major source of pride for the company.

CULTURE: GoSpotCheck thrives on being part of the fast-paced, ever-changing technology industry. 

DENVER: "Denver is a special place for tech – specifically startups," Talbot says. "While Denver hasn't always been known as a hub of technological innovation, over the past decade the city has experienced incredible growth among startups and tech companies alike. For us, there is no other place we'd want to start and grow our business."

FUTURE: "We're constantly looking for new ways to streamline operations for our customers by equipping field reps with the tools they need to derive valuable insights that can be seamlessly shared organization-wide," Talbot says. "We will be rolling out a robust new addition to our platform in October that will save field reps valuable time."


SYNCHR

​The company provides enterprise-level HR, payaroll and benefit capabilities to growing companies without the complexity or cost of high-end systems. SyncHR's next-gen Human Capital Management system delivers advanced analytics and automation to help exectuives and HR leaders make better decisions with more accurate data and streamline their daily.

FOUNDED: 2010

EMPLOYEES: 130

CEO: Pam Glick

GROWTH: SyncHR has doubled annual revenue in each of the last three years, and grown from approximately 50 employees in 2016 to more than 130 today. In September, the company announced outside investment of $17.5 million from Boulder Ventures, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Grayhawk Capital and EPIC Ventures. More recently, the company raised an additional $16 million from existing investors.

PIVOTAL MOMENT: In 2016, SyncHR formally moved its company HQ to Denver.

CULTURE: SyncHR summarizes its culture in one word: Empowerment. Whereas most companies treat employees like children, setting unnecessary rules and complex approval matrices, SyncHR aims to create a culture that empowers employees to be independent thinkers and doers.

DENVER: "Frankly, as a technology company headquartered in Denver, we have a bit of a chip on our shoulder," says Charles Var, chief marketing officer at SyncHR. "We simply don't subscribe to the idea that the best technology innovation is limited to Silicon Valley. We are passionate about our state, the wonderful government support and thriving business community.

FUTURE: "Our goal is to be among the first multi-billion dollar global technology companies headquartered in downtown Denver," Var says.


CYBERGRX

CyberGRX provides enterprises and their third parties with effective, scalable cyber risk management. Built on the market's first third-party cyber risk exchange, the CyberGRX platform applies advanced analytics to eliminate waste and streamlinethe assessment process. CyberGRX was designed with partners including ADP, Aetna, Blackstone and Mass Mutual, and is backed by Allegis Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Blackstone, ClearSky, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and more.

FOUNDED: 2016

EMPLOYEES: 55

CEO: Fred Kneip

GROWTH: CyberGRX received its series B funding in early 2016 and has been ramping up growth on its team ever since. The organization is also continuing to work on strategic partnerships to support the exponential growth and adoption of the platform.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: When the team first brought its design partners together. This was the first time many of them had openly collaborated to solve an industry problem. With commitment, the idea got off the ground. 

CULTURE: CyberGRX believes in working hard and is committed to evolving third-party cyber risk management for the better, but tries not to take itself too seriously. What does that look like? Last month, the executive team hosted an all-hands meeting while impersonating a rock band.

DENVER: "It's hard to think of any major cons," says Liesl Geier, senior director of marketing at CyberGRX. " There is a lot of talent here, and if we are speaking to a prospect that doesn't live here, we have never encountered a challenging in asking them to move. That said, we do want to help Denver to become a cyber hub, and therefore we are dedicated to building the talent pool to support that.

FUTURE: CyberGRX will continue to build its team and enhance its product, meanwhile working on strategic sponsorships that will roll out looking ahead.


PAYSIMPLE

PaySimple has created a cloud-based point of sale system that is designed especially for small businesses to simplify the lives of business owners. Easy-to-setup ad easy-to-use, our products will help them spend less time chasing, sorting and monitoring payments – so they do more of what they want to do.

FOUNDED: 2006

EMPLOYEES: 95

CEO: Eric Remer

GROWTH: PaySimple has expanded its customer base, recently broadening its appeal and shifting its target to any business with a recurring client base.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: Four years ago, PaySimple went from distributing its product through partnerships with organizations including Western Union and American Express, and had an epiphany to shift its sales funnel, ever since selling its software through its own channels and internal team.

CULTURE: PaySimple's founders and executive team aim to create an environment that fosters growth and opportunity. The team's mission statement is: Passion, Teamwork, Happiness and Service.

DENVER: While there once were clusters around coastal cities, Denver has found its place on the map thanks to its casual vibe and do what you love mantra. As it relates to talent in this environment, PaySimple demands it rise to the occasion to attract the best talent.

FUTURE: PaySimple will up its game on building local awareness. As a growth-oriented business, more time will be dedicated to building brand awareness. "We've always said we were all fire and no smoke," says Sarah Jordan, PaySimple's VP of marketing. However, "We appreciate the acknowledgment based on the economic growth we're providing to the community wiht the Denver Gazelles.

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Gigi Sukin

Gigi Sukin is digital editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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