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July 2014 Issue

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Colorado Companies to Watch 2013

By Lisa Ryckman

Maybe you know them, and maybe you don’t. But if you don’t – you definitely should. In the last five years, Colorado Companies to Watch has showcased 250 of the state’s business movers and shakers, the up-and-comers, the growers, the builders, the job-creators. From the program’s inception in 2009 through today, these best and brightest second-stage companies have fanned the flames of Colorado’s economic fire in every industry and every corner of the state. “Colorado Companies to Watch represents a unique partnership between government, private

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Articles

Colorado Companies to Watch Class of 2009: Colorado Yurt Co.

The tipi that became a business

By Lisa Ryckman

Dan and Emma Kigar’s first home evolved to become their first business. A tipi set up at 11,000 feet in Breckenridge in 1976 grew into Earthworks Tipis, which morphed into Colorado Yurt Co. What started as a home-grown, two-person venture has grown into a 30-person operation with production facilities in Montrose that create everything from 12-foot diameter tipis, tents up to 700 square feet and yurts 30 feet in diameter, all of which meet stringent structural parameters. Since its inclusion in the inaugural Colorado Companies to Watch class in 2009, Colorado Yurt Co. has posted 10 percent per annum growth and increased its payroll by 23 percent, founder Dan Kigar says. And that’s not all. “Our company culture has become. . .

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High rises and high hopes

Highlands redevelopment marked by apartments, restaurants and a little controversy

By Nora Caley

The Highlands neighborhood might be a real estate hot spot, but in its early days, residents couldn’t give their land away. According to Rebecca Hunt, president of Highland United Neighbors Inc. (HUNI) and a senior instructor at the University of Colorado Denver, in 1859 one of the earliest Highlands settlers tried to trade 136 lots for a horse, saddle and bridle, but the deal was rejected because the horse was more valuable than the land. Oh, how things have changed. Today the Highlands neighborhood, bordered by West 38th Avenue, Interstate 25, the South Platte River, Speer Boulevard, West 29th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, is experiencing tremendous real estate activity, from single family homes to apartments to retail and. . .

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Executive edge: John Ikard

FirstBank’s CEO braved the banking storm and now sees opportunity for growth

By Lynn Bronikowski

Thirty-two years ago – fresh out of Colorado State University with a degree in psychology – John Ikard answered a newspaper ad for a job in banking. “I thought I’d do it for a year or so,” said Ikard, who would never leave his first employer and in 1999 would be named president and CEO of Lakewood-based FirstBank Holding Co. “After awhile I decided I really liked banking – liked the math of it; liked dealing with customers, putting deals together and interacting with people.” A native of Las Cruces, N.M., Ikard was one of six children. His father owned a furniture store and had part ownership in a bank. “My parents were very big on all six of us going to college,” said Ikard, who earned. . .

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COCTW 2013: Precise Cast Prototypes to Zen Planner

By Gigi Sukin

Precise Cast Prototypes & Engineering www.precisecast.com Snapshot: PreciseCast is a manufacturing and engineering company out of Adams County that provides prototype and low-volume castings and machined parts to companies including John Deere, Lockheed-Martin, Bose and L3 Communication. Revenues for the 9-year-old company are projected to increase by 28 percent in 2013. Leadership: Brett Peak, the president of PreciseCast, assumed the position in 2011. Big Break: When three guys, Peak, Patrick Peterson and Craig Reeves, took a leap of faith and mortgaged their homes and assets to form a company in 2004, PreciseCast became more than just talk. Two years thereafter, they realized only a small portion of their customers drove the vast majority of profit. As a result they opted to diversify their audience, capitalizing on the niche prototype development market. Tech Edge:. . .

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Sports biz: Kroenke’s duck call

Stan's a man with a plan

By Stewart Schley

A delicious bidding war last month pitted Denver’s Kroenke Sports Enterprises against a media industry rival for control of a TV channel devoted to … ducks. Well, ducks and people who like to shoot them, that is. Along with: fishing, hunting, close encounters with elk, more fishing, the work lives of federal conservation officers, white tail deer and how best to kill, gut and eat them, and more fishing. The TV network is Outdoor Channel, a once-sleepy cable channel that has risen to prominence thanks to a laser-like focus on its outdoor-enthusiast audience and the subjects that are meaningful to them. Based in Temecula, Calif., Outdoor Channel is one of only a handful of well-established, broadly distributed television networks that is independently owned, which is to say, not controlled by one of the Big Five companies that pretty much own cable television in the U.S.. . .

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Colorado cool stuff: Biz game, dance duds, hot sauce and organicwear

By Eric Peterson

DISRUPTUS Julien Sharp launched Funnybone Toys in 2012 after relocating from New York to Denver. The company started with a trio of color-oriented games – Cubu, Array and Spectrix – that all sold equally well in the museum market. Now Sharp is looking at a new target with this year’s Disruptus game: businesses. “It’s our most exciting product,” says Sharp. “Everybody is talking about disruption.” Players try to create out-of-the-box concepts from the images on a pair of cards, and the judge “picks the wackiest or most innovative,” Sharp says. Expect plenty more from Funnybone in the future. “We have 35 games in the pipeline,” she adds. About $25 retail. Made by Funnybone Toys Denver. . .

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State of the state: eSports arena goes big

By Eric Peterson

A blue glow emanates from 50 well-oiled computers, each loaded with 70 of the latest and greatest games and fronted by a flat screen display and ergonomic mouse and chair. There’s a big screen TV streaming professional gamers on one wall and big beanbag chairs in the center of the room. Then there’s the energy drink bar, with a stupefying menu that includes 125 flavors and varieties. This is not your older brother’s video arcade. Clutch Gaming Arena in Arvada is not only one of the best such facilities on the Front Range; it is also among the nation’s top gaming arenas. Justin Moskowitz and Jake Dahlman co-founded Clutch with Luis Moreno and Luisa Molina in January. “The games are getting more. . .

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Colorado’s Top 100 Public Companies

Dish Network tops Colorado list for third straight year

By Kyle Ringo

Englewood-based Dish Network sits atop the Top 100 Public Companies ranking for the third straight year with revenues of $14.3 billion in 2012, but a much smaller Colorado public company not even on the list has generated just as much buzz on Wall Street of late. You won’t find Rally Software on this year’s ranking because the company’s Initial Public Offering didn’t occur until early 2013, but the Boulder-based firm is viewed as a sign of the future for growth-minded tech enterprises seeking capital. Rally was already a rising star among Colorado businesses before it went public in April, trading under the ticker symbol RALY. Rally’s IPO was originally priced at $11 to $13 per share and surged to more than $18 per share on its first day on the market. It exceeded expectations by nearly 30 percent and generated an estimated $84 million for the company. . .

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Tech startup: Card Gnome Inc.

By Eric Peterson

company: Card Gnome Inc. INITIAL LIGHT BULB A few years ago, Joel Wishkovsky and Chad McGimpsey worked together at General Electric. “We always talked about startup ideas,” says Wishkovsky. “He was based in Philadelphia and I traveled the whole time.” In March 2010 the pair decided to leave their corporate gigs, as well as the Northeast, quitting GE and relocating to Colorado in one fell swoop. “We quit without knowing what we were going to do,” says Wishkovsky. They liked the concept of crowdsourcing, and worked on a website that allowed people to make custom artwork. “It was kind of a failure,” Wishkovsky says. The foray led them to greeting cards. When they realized the market had yet to move. . .

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Rundles wrap up: Following the (online) money

By Jeff Rundles

It was only a matter of time until the government got around to forcing Internet merchants to collect and distribute sales tax to states and smaller jurisdictions for online purchases – and even if the Tea Partiers in the U.S. House won’t go along with what the Senate did last month with the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, it is, once again, only a matter of time. Too much money is at stake – some say as much as $23 billion per year and rising – and Republican and Democratic governors alike (not to mention mayors, county commissioners, transit authorities, etc.) generally drop political expediency when there is so much free money so tantalizingly close at hand.  They don’t even have to go to the voters! Duh. No. . .

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COCTW 2013: Icelantic Skis to Populus

By Gigi Sukin

Icelantic Skis www.icelanticskis.com Snapshot: Icelantic Skis manufactures and sells Alpine skis and boots. The company was founded in 2005 and is Denver-based. Revenues increased 69 percent in 2012 and are projected to increase 61 percent this year. Leadership: Benjamin Anderson is CEO and co-founder with Annelise Loevlie, Travis Parr and Travis Cook. Work Force: The company expects to have 10 full-time and 14 part-time employees this year. Pivotal Moment: Icelantic Skis won the Best Brand New Hardgood of the year award in 2006 at ISPO, a sporting goods tradeshow in Munich, Germany. Also, the company partnered with the snowboard manufacturer Never Summer Industries to make Icelantic Skis in Denver. Community Involvement: Employees of Icelantic Skis volunteer with University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, Rocky Mountain Micro Finance Institute, GALS (Girls. . .

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The Economist: Austerians?

There's a new team in town

By Tucker Hart Adams

A new word crept into the economics vocabulary when I wasn’t paying attention – austerianism (the red line Spell Check appearing beneath it suggests Bill Gates doesn’t approve.) It seems to describe proponents of the Austrian School of Economics, like Keynesian is used to describe devotees of John Maynard Keynes. For decades the battle was between the Keynesians and the Monetarists, adherents of Milton Friedman’s system of thinking. Keynesians said economic problems must be dealt with using fiscal policy, the government’s ability to tax, spend and run deficits.  Monetarists said if we kept the money supply growing at a steady rate with no attempt to fine-tune it to economic growth, then inflation would stay low and the economy would get along just fine. Those are vast oversimplifications, of course, but are the heart of the debate. Today the. . .

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COCTW 2013: Circle Fresh Farms to Green Garage

By Gigi Sukin

Circle Fresh Farms LLC www.circlefreshfarms.com Snapshot: Denver’s own Circle Fresh Farms is a marketing group that assists a network of local farms to distribute fresh organic produce across the Front Range. Leadership: Richard Naha is CEO. Revenues increased 194 percent in 2012 and are projected to increase 286 this year. Work Force: After its founding in 2011, the company had 16 full-time employees in 2012 and expects to have 20 this year. Pivotal Moment: Since the demand for organic produce is high, Circle Fresh opted to retrofit abandoned greenhouses instead of building new roofs, fixing up interiors and planting new seeds within two months. Tech Edge: The farms maintain proprietary growing methods and hydroponic technology that use less water than conventional agriculture. Circle Fresh developed a Track and Trace System that allows the retailer and the consumer. . .

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Lights! Camera! Inaction!

Sides drawn over state-funded film incentives

By Gigi Sukin

In 1974, author Stephen King found a change of scenery for his next book project by opening an atlas and randomly pointing to Boulder. King and his wife, Tabitha, took the advice of some helpful locals and stayed at the imposing Stanley Hotel at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park – a setting that ultimately inspired his horror novel, The Shining. It’s no wonder many people believe the hotel is haunted. The 1997 television mini-series version of The Shining was filmed there, and reports of supernatural activity brought in the Syfy Channel’s hit show Ghost Hunters. About 80,000 of the Stanley’s 350,000 annual visitors pay for ghost tours. “It would be fair to say that the publicity, the movies, the mini-series. . .

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Colorado Companies to Watch Class of 2012: Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co.

For this snack success story, it's all about location

By Lisa Ryckman

For Karen Bradley, it’s all about the popcorn: The flavor. The quality. And especially – the location, location, location. When she bought the 20-year-old Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co. (RMPC) in 2007, Bradley wanted to take popcorn where no one had gone before: convenience store shelves. Move over, pork rinds. “Consumers were looking for healthier snacks, and in convenience stores, there were no popcorns at all. There were chips and a lot of things that are really bad for you,” Bradley says. “We saw an opportunity to take a great product, rebrand it, and put it in a class of trade that was missing a healthy, salty snack.” Now, RMPC fans can find the brand in convenience stores, truck stops and airports nationwide, and sales have exploded – from about $500,000 to more than $4.5 million, Bradley says. Innovation drives the. . .

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COCTW 2013: Able Planet to Chinook Medical Gear

By Gigi Sukin

Able Planet www.ableplanet.com Snapshot: Able Planet designs and manufactures audio and communication devices for individuals with all levels of hearing. The products range from consumer headphones to devices for hearing health. The company was founded in 2005 and is based in Wheat Ridge. Leadership: Kevin Semcken has been CEO since 2005. Work Force: Able Planet had 21 full-time employees and eight part-time in 2012, and expects to have 25 full-time and two part-time employees this year. Pivotal Moment: At the International Consumer Electronics Show in 2006, Able Planet won an Innovations Design and Engineering Award in the Embedded Technology Category for its LINX AUDIO technology. This led to the development of the company’s first consumer headphone, Clear Harmony. Tech Edge: Able Planet LINX AUDIO alters audio signals creating high frequency harmonics off every. . .

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State of the state: Up in arms

Gun manufacturers and others threaten to pull out of Colorado

By Nora Caley

Colorado passed new gun control measures this legislative session, largely in response to the mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, Conn. In March, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three laws limiting the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines, limiting ammo magazines to 15 rounds and requiring universal buyer background checks. But the regulations are more than some businesses can bear, having since announced plans to relocate their operations. •      Firearms accessories manufacturer HiViz Shooting Systems was the first to make good on threats of exiting the state, with its announcement of plans to uproot its Fort Collins factory and set up shop an hour away in Laramie, Wyo. “Colorado is a beautiful state with great people, but we cannot in clear conscience support with our taxes a state that has proven through recent legislation a willingness. . .

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Colorado Companies to Watch Class of 2011: Moots Cycles

Sweet dreams are made of Moots

By Lisa Ryckman

For the serious cyclist, sweet dreams are made of Moots: light-as-air, tough-as-nails, titanium beauties, lovingly designed, mitered, welded, finished and machined by Butch, Nate, Bryce, Willy, Caleb, Amy and the rest of the gang up in Steamboat Springs. They’re not cheap – a Moots can easily set you back $5,000 – but for those in the know who have got the dough, nothing less will do. “Even during the tough economic times, consumers were willing to ‘pay up’ for high-end products, but they demanded more value in those products,” says Moots President/CEO Rob Mitchell, who joined the 32-year-old company in 2007. “So it dovetailed nicely into the value we offer cyclists in our Moots bikes and components – lifetime bikes, handcrafted in the U.S.” In 2009, Moots wowed the cycling community with its leading-edge road bike, the. . .

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Colorado Companies to Watch Class of 2010: Funovation

Creating a smile a second

By Lisa Ryckman

Erick Mueller measures his company’s growth in grins: 16 million and counting, a 350 percent increase since Funovation was named a Colorado Company to Watch in 2010. One play of its patented Laser Maze Challenge equals one smile, Mueller explains. A smile counter on the company website tracks its global happiness impact – which is, of course, directly related to its bottom line. “We’re successful when our customers are successful,” says Mueller, who founded the Longmont-based company in 2007 and now serves as chairman and vice president of sales and marketing. “Our team is available to make sure our customer’s maze is up and running, creating smiles and making money at all times. We’ll even help our. . .

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