50 Colorado Companies to Watch: From 34 Degrees to Boulder Ice Cream
Snapshot: Denver-based 34 Degrees produces a crispbread cracker using all-natural ingredients in savory flavors (natural, sesame, rosemary, black pepper and whole grain) and sweet flavors (caramel, chocolate, cinnamon and graham). They are sold at Whole Foods Market, King Soopers, Costco, Walmart and specialty stores. Revenues grew 28 percent last year. The company projects 58 percent growth this year.
Leadership: President Craig Lieberman founded the company in 2003.
Work force: 34 Degrees employs six people and expects to expand to nine this year.
Pivotal moment: In 2007, 34 Degrees began manufacturing its crispbread crackers in Colorado rather than importing them from Australia. The decision involved buying an expensive oven but gave the company the ability to develop new products.
Technological edge: Three ovens manufactured in Germany produce 34 Degrees’ unique, wafer-thin cracker.
Company culture: The six-member corporate team "has ultimate control over product development, marketing strategy and sales." Its charity work includes in-kind donations and volunteer hours at the Food Bank of the Rockies and cash donations to Cooking Matters of Colorado.
Snapshot: Agloves invented and commercialized winter touchscreen gloves, which allow people to use an iPhone, Android phone or tablet while wearing gloves. The precision and accuracy of the gloves have won raves from Inc. magazine and other industry sources. Revenues grew 200 percent in 2011; the company projects 67 percent growth this year.
Leadership: Agloves is led by the mother-daughter team of Jennifer Spencer (owner/president) and Jean Spencer. It was founded in 2010.
Work force: The company employed seven full-time and one part-time worker in 2011. It expects to add two full-time and one part-time worker this year.
Pivotal moment: When the company secured space in Verizon Wireless stores, its product became the first touchscreen glove to be sold as an accessory through a major U.S. carrier.
Technological edge: Agloves has filed a patent for technology on the bulk resistance of gloves as they relate to touchscreen devices, which respond to the natural bio-electricity of the body (not heat, contrary to popular belief).
Company culture: The company provides a flexible work schedule so employees can spend time with their families and enjoy the outdoors. Charitable efforts include donating Agloves to silent auctions across the U.S. and Canada.
Air Comm Corp.
Snapshot: Air Comm engineers, designs and manufactures heating and air conditioning systems and components for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
Leadership: Keith Steiner became CEO
Work force: The Boulder-based company had 79 full-time-equivalent workers in 2011 and expects to reach 87 this year.
Pivotal moment: Air Comm developed a lightweight, high-performance cabin heater for the Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. This system has been extensively used for combat and medevac operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Subsequent achievement of AS-9100 certification has facilitated the company’s selection as an OEM supplier for major airplane and helicopter manufacturers, and the U.S. Army.
Technological edge: Air Comm’s Torq-Lok air conditioner fitting and mini-ejector heater technology has differentiated the company from its competition.
Company culture: Norm Steiner, executive vice president of engineering, started Air Comm in the basement of his home in 1987. He and his son, Keith, try to treat employees like an extended family. Charitable activities include the Crayons-to-Calculators school supply campaign, the United Way, the American Red Cross, Blue Sky Bridge, and numerous local youth sports team sponsorships.
Altitude Digital Partners
Snapshot: Altitude Digital Partners provides advertising, public relations and related services.
Leadership: Jeremy Ostermiller has been CEO since 2009, when the Denver company was founded.
Work force: ADS employs 15 full-time workers and expects to expand to 25 this year. Revenues doubled in 2011 and are projected to grow 112 percent this year.
Pivotal moment: The company expanded its product line to include video advertising, which opened up the marketplace, added new lines of revenue and created a competitive advantage. ADP also created a user interface that automates most data entry.
Technological edge: The company built proprietary technology to optimize customers’ traffic by algorithmic, historical data and real-time user information.
Company culture: "From a vast amount of plant life to a stunning private collection of music memorabilia, (the ADP) office feels less like a workspace and more like a rock ’n’ roll hall of fame that took up shop in the Denver Botanic Gardens," says the company, which provides an in-office gym and free yoga classes.
Snapshot: AppliedTrust provides information technology infrastructure, security and open-source consulting services to health-care, financial services, hospitality, recreation and government clients. Revenues increased 17 percent in 2011 and are projected to increase 16 percent this year.
Leadership: Trent Hein has been CEO since 2001, when the Boulder company
Work force: AppliedTrust had 26 full-time workers at year’s end in 2011 and expects to reach 29 this year.
Pivotal moment: "There is no other company exactly like us, and we don’t have any direct competitors," AppliedTrust says. "Taking the bold step to not fit into the existing mold has been a giant key to our success today."
Technological edge: AppliedTrust has consistently promoted and supported open-source software, such as the UNIX/Linux operating system. This has allowed clients to take advantage of new technologies more quickly and at lower cost than traditional proprietary-only software solutions.
Community: The company donates 2 percent or more of its pre-tax profits to nonprofits and also donates consulting time to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley and other organizations.
Snapshot: Aventura improves the workflow of doctors and nurses by giving them information they need, when and where they need it. Its context- and location-aware computing intelligence coordinates technologies already in place, making them responsive to the user. Revenues increased 178 percent in 2011 and are projected to increase 20 percent this year.
Leadership: Howard Diamond became CEO in 2010. The Denver company was founded in 2008.
Work force: The company employs 33 full-time workers and expects to increase to 56 this year.
Pivotal moment: In 2010, the company switched from a hardware to a software model and changed much of its management to support the new business model. It tripled the customer base in about nine months.
Technological edge: With 21 patents pending, Aventura solves an age-old problem: access to the right medical information at the point at which it makes the biggest impact – when treating a patient.
Company culture: Aventura has purposefully built a team environment with employees motivated by collaboration rather than individual contributions. Executive team members volunteer with TechStars and the Innovative Pavilion to mentor companies and individuals.
Snapshot: Backflip Studios creates games for mobile devices. Revenues increased more than 200 percent in 2011 and are projected to reach 350 percent this year.
Leadership: Julian Farrior has been CEO since 2009, when the Boulder company was founded.
Work force: Backflip expects to grow from 50 employees to 80 this year.
Pivotal moment: Backflip was one of the first mobile gaming companies to leverage free games as a way of creating a powerful active user base and distribution network.
Technological edge: Backflip built its gaming engine from the ground up, which allows it more flexibility than third-party solutions. "It is smaller and more efficient, resulting in a smaller download size for the end user. This has been crucial in our successful distribution strategy."
Company culture: Some of Backflip’s top games (NinJump, Paper Toss, DragonVale, Strike Knight) originated at its monthly idea meetings. The company donates to local food banks, shelters, educational institutions, health facilities and enrichment programs for underprivileged youth.
BAIR Analytics Inc.
Snapshot: The analytical software and service company provides tools and subject-matter expertise needed to identify, analyze and resolve problems. Its customers are public safety, national security and defense entities.
Leadership: Sean Bair has been president of the Highlands Ranch company since 1997, when it was founded. Revenues reached 68 percent in 2011 and are projected to rise 14 percent this year.
Work force: The company had 25 workers at the end of 2011 and expects to reach 35 this year.
Pivotal moment: As BAIR Analytics focused more on regional data sharing, mapping and analysis of crime data, it developed partnerships with the records database providers that house the data.
Technological edge: BAIR’s technologies automatically aggregate data from hundreds of data sources to improve communication between law enforcement, defense and the public.
Company culture: More than 60 percent of BAIR employees are former law enforcement officers, military personnel or crime analysts. Its philanthropic work includes a free service that helps law enforcement provide crime alerts, crime maps, and anonymous tips for the public. RAIDS Online serves millions of community members throughout the U.S.
Snapshot: BCOR serves the fitness industry by leveraging Web and mobile technology. The Louisville company is nationally accredited to certify instructors both by the American Council on Exercise and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
Leadership: Tim Bergman has been CEO since 2001, when the company was founded. Revenues grew 917 percent in 2011 and are projected to double this year.
Pivotal moment: When the economy turned downward, BCOR was forced to shift to a cash basis: "It was do or die time. We did!"
Technological edge: BCOR is strictly an Internet-based business and has built a platform for both customers and small businesses to find each other.
Company culture: "First and foremost we are not just a team, we are family. Some of us live together; some have sacrificed larger paychecks at other companies; and we’ve even traveled all over the U.S. and beyond as friends on vacation and to weddings together." BCOR’s philanthropic work includes funding about 20 small businesses through Kiva.org’s micro-loan program.
Beacon Communications LLC
Snapshot: Beacon Communications is a systems integrator specializing in communication systems for institutions such as K-12 schools, health care and government facilities.
Leadership: Michael Hester has been managing partner of the Denver company since 1998, the year it was founded. The company grew 7 percent in 2011 and is projected to grow 36 percent this year.
Work force: The company employed 48 full-time and four part-time employees at the end of 2011. It expects to expand to 65 full-time and six part-time workers this year.
Pivotal moment: After the death of a salesman who accounted for 95 percent of sales, Beacon needed to reinvent itself. It now generates 70 percent of its business from health-care sales.
Technological edge: Beacon has funded and supported the research and development efforts of a separate company owned by its technical-services manager in exchange for exclusive marketing rights of the health-care related technology.
Company culture: Beacon’s core values – customer service, communication, teamwork and integrity – were chosen by everyone in the company. Charitable work includes donating money and services to Project Angel Heart.
Snapshot: Birko provides food safety solutions to the meat processing, food and beverage industries, including specialty chemical formulations, harvest and processing equipment, and information technology.
Leadership: Owner Kelly Green has been chairman since 2008. Birko, part of a three-generation family-owned company, was founded in 1953. Revenues increased 16 percent in 2011 and are projected to grow 26 percent this year.
Work force: The company employed 63 full-time and two part-time workers in 2011. It expects to add five full-time workers this year.
Pivotal moment: In 2011, Birko acquired Chad Equipment LLC, a Kansas-based manufacturer specializing in automated washing and pasteurizing systems for meat harvesting and processing operations.
Technological edge: Birko’s concentrated chemical formulations include green, sustainable and environmentally responsible products. It also provides dispensing systems, antimicrobial mixing and spray conveyors and energy management systems.
Company culture: The company had no layoffs during the economic downturn. Many employees have spent their entire careers at Birko. The company’s philanthropic work includes supporting Colorado State University, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Cal Poly and Fresno State by volunteering and collaborating on research for the betterment of food safety.
Boulder Ice Cream
Snapshot: Boulder Ice Cream manufactures ice cream and other frozen desserts.
Leadership: Scott Roy has been president since 1997. Revenues increased 88 percent in 2011 and are projected to reach 34 percent this year.
Work force: The Boulder company, founded in 1994, employed nine full-time and two part-time workers in 2011. It plans to consolidate its work force with a Colorado-based food manufacturer this year.
Pivotal moments: In 2010, the company entered into a partnership with Whole Foods Markets to create an organic gelato line, which became the first such product to have national distribution. In December, the company moved manufacturing operations to a co-packer in Louisville, a change that allows the company to focus on sales and marketing.
Technological edge: Product innovation – such as developing nondairy options, novelties and pet products – is a big part of the artisan ice cream maker’s business.
Company culture: Cross training and exposure to numerous facets of the business is common for all employees. The company donates products to schools and charitable organizations, including $10,000 to $15,000 worth of product each year to metro Denver food share programs. The company is 100 percent wind-powered and maintains a zero-waste program.