50 Colorado Companies to Watch: From Redwing Electric to Zia Consulting
Redwing Electric Inc.
Snapshot: Trinidad-based Redwing is an electrical contractor and electrical material supplier for all aspects of the electrical trade: residential, commercial, industrial, highway construction, new construction, remodeling, repairs, service upgrades, solar and generator systems, transfer switches, custom electric design-build and value engineering.
Leadership: Samantha Quintana has been president since 2005. The company was founded in 1996.
Work force: Redwing ended 2011 with nine full-time-equivalent employees and expects to maintain that number through 2012. The firm is 100 percent woman- and minority-owned and operated.
Pivotal moments: Redwing was challenged by a lack of qualified employees and a depleted pool of potential candidates. Fortunately, office staffers had become familiar with the electrical trade and were willing to become trained electricians, including two women, and the company thrived. Secondly, the company had to restructure after an auto accident left the lead electrician paralyzed. Redwing recruited a new crew, and the lead electrician was moved into top management. The company had to restructure again when the founder retired. Finally, seeing that the residential market was going to bottom out, the company hired electricians with commercial experience and has thrived in
Growth curve: Redwing’s revenues grew 61 percent year-over-year in 2011, and the company is projecting a 93 percent increase this year.
Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co.
Snapshot: Centennial-based Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co. manufactures pre-packaged, ready-to-eat popcorn distributed through retail outlets, primarily convenience stores through out the U.S.
Leadership: Karen Bradley has been CEO and president since 2007. The company was founded in 1986.
Work force: Rocky Mountain Popcorn ended 2011 with six full-time-equivalent employees and expects to maintain that number through this year.
Pivotal moments: Early in the company’s history, it took a step back and concentrated on defining its brand. The result was a package design that stands out in a cluttered environment. Secondly, the company closed on a sale to a major chain of truck stops in 2009, after a yearlong effort. This led to national distribution, increased recognition and a tripling of sales in 12 months.
Growth curve: Rocky Mountain Popcorn’s revenues have more than tripled since 2008, and the company is projecting a 14 percent gain this year.
Innovation: Rocky Mountain Popcorn’s "caddies" ease the burden of distribution for distributors and reduce both labor and store-stock concerns for retailers.
Marketing approach: The Rocky Mountain Popcorn brand is primarily expressed through product and packaging, evoking the healthy aspects of life in the Rockies. Rocky Mountain Popcorn’s branding, the company says, is to salty snacks what Coors Light is to beer.
Rustic Log Furniture
Snapshot: Alamosa-based Rustic Log Furniture manufactures log furniture products using dead standing aspen from the Rocky Mountain forests and distributes them to retail stores across the country.
Leadership: Randy Jackson has been president since the company’s founding in 1996.
Work force: Rustic Log furniture ended 2011 with 35 full-time-equivalent employees, a 71 percent increase over the previous year. It expects to employ 45 this year.
Pivotal moment: When Rustic Log outgrew its manufacturing location, the company leased adjoining property that had more acreage and highway frontage. Walk-in traffic surged as a result.
Technological edge: Rustic Log Furniture is connected with most of its suppliers for virtual automation of the inventory-ordering processes. The invoice software is linked to the factory’s batch processing reports that export piece lists for the various work stations. Machinists used by Rustic Log have developed new equipment and modified existing equipment to optimize various processes.
Competitive Edge: Rustic Log Furniture has developed, streamlined and automated processes to deal with the irregular nature of log furniture. Its product line is the most extensive in the industry, according to the company. Competitive advantages it has realized from collaborating with suppliers and distribution networks have allowed it to price products 10 percent to 20 percent below the competition.
Growth curve: The company’s revenues soared 34 percent in 2011 over the previous year, and it is projecting a 20 percent gain this year.
Snapshot: The cloud-based service SendGrid developed solves the challenge of SMTP email delivery by delivering emails on behalf of companies. SendGrid currently sends more than 3 billion emails per month for nearly 40,000 customers in more than 150 countries. By taking care of their email, SendGrid allows companies to focus on their core business.
Leadership: Jim Franklin, formerly of Oracle, became CEO of SendGrid last year. The Boulder-based company was founded in 2009.
Work force: SendGrid has grown from four full-time-equivalent employees in 2009 to 19 in 2010 to 67 last year. The company is projecting further growth to 120 employees in 2012.
Pivotal moment: SendGrid began with three engineers who were frustrated when emails from their applications didn’t get delivered to their customers’ inbox. They built a cloud-based infrastructure that not only solved their own problem, but the same problem shared by engineers around the world. This team of visionaries, led by Isaac Saldana, understood that the transactional email space was under-served and ripe for the picking. SendGrid raised a $21 million series B round of funding in January, allowing it to bolster its team, expand internationally and continue to evolve its core service.
Competitive Edge: SendGrid offers a scalable email infrastructure, provides end-to-end metrics from delivery to response on outgoing email and handles the time-consuming tasks involved with implementing unsubscribe links, abiding by anti-spam regulations and maintaining corporate branding.
Snapshot: SkyFuel is a concentrating solar thermal technology provider, offering the highest performance, lowest cost utility-scale parabolic trough systems in the world.
Leadership: Richard LeBlanc has been president and CEO of SkyFuel since 2010. The Arvada-based company was founded in 2007.
Work force: SkyFuel ended 2011 with 34 full-time-equivalent employees and expects to grow to 42 employees through this year.
Pivotal moment: SkyFuel’s business evolved from early 1980 designs for parabolic trough concentrating solar power (CSP) installed at the Solar Energy Generating Stations (SEGS) in California. Older systems using glass mirrors required a heavy and costly support structure yet demonstrated marginal optical accuracy. To improve the mirrors, in 1992 NREL began to develop a high-performance, low-cost reflective film. This work was completed by ReflecTech Inc. (a SkyFuel subsidiary) in 2008.
Competitive Edge: The company’s ReflecTech mirror film, which forms the basis of the cost advantage for its SkyTrough (25-30 percent less than competing designs), is protected by two U.S. patents, as well as a variety of international patents (both issued and pending), all of which are held by NREL and exclusively licensed to SkyFuel’s subsidiary, ReflecTech Inc.
Snapshot: Boulder-based SolidFire delivers high-performance and high-efficiency primary storage systems for cloud service providers. The company believes traditional storage is way too slow, far too complex and much too expensive to deliver the services large-scale cloud computing environments demand.
Leadership: Dave Wright founded SolidFire in 2009 and has been CEO from the outset.
Pivotal moment: In the spring of 2011, Wright made the decision to relocate SolidFire from Atlanta to Boulder. He knew Colorado’s Front Range has a deep storage history and would provide the key talent needed to grow the company. In November 2011, SolidFire received $25 million in B round funding, bringing total company funding to $37 million. Besides serving as a great endorsement of SolidFire’s business model, the funding has allowed the company to bolster its team and secure the resources needed to change the way the world uses the cloud.
Technological edge: SolidFire’s exclusive use of flash memory combined with revolutionary efficiencies drastically reduces the power and cooling footprint within the data center.
Innovation: Traditional data storage technologies are unable to support the growing demand to operate business-critical applications in the cloud. One of the primary limiters of this migration is the lack of predictable performance. SolidFire provides a patented, all-solid-state storage system designed specifically for cloud providers that enable it to guarantee performance to thousands of customers within a shared infrastructure – something it says no other storage company is capable of today.
Snapshot: Boulder-based Sophono produces bone-anchored hearing devices for adults and children who suffer from single-sided hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss.
Leadership: James Kasic has been CEO and president since the company’s founding in 2010.
Work force: Sophono ended 2011 with 16 employees and expects to expand to 24 through this year.
Pivotal moments: With the purchase of the product’s German manufacturer, Otomag GmbH, in 2010, the company went from distributor to manufacturer of the products. It also was decided Sophono could produce more product at a higher quality in Colorado. Putting together sufficient funding was another pivotal point, as it enabled Sophono to make key hires, expand international business, and submit and receive marketing clearance from the FDA in the U.S.
Competitive Edge: The company’s bone-anchored hearing device has tremendous appeal because the external audio processor is affixed to an internal implant magnetically. Rival products connect by attaching the processor to a permanent, protruding abutment. This requires a more complicated surgery, is cosmetically unattractive, and has post-surgical issues resulting in abnormally high complication and implant removal rates – drawbacks that are eliminated by the Sophono Alpha 1 System.
Growth curve: Sophono’s revenues skyrocketed 3,108 percent in 2011, and the company expects sales to triple this year.
Marketing: Demand for the Sophono Alpha 1 has been so brisk that the company has only been able to service the clients who have contacted the company directly about the system. Sophono has added new sales reps to keep up with demand and to mine new business territories.
Snapshot: Durango-based SoundTraxx (legal name Throttle Up! Corp.) designs, manufactures and sells innovative consumer electronics for the model railroader.
Leadership: Steven Dominguez has been SoundTraxx’s president and owner since its inception in 1990.
Work force: The company ended 2011 with 29 full-time-equivalent employees and expects to expand to 34 employees this year.
Pivotal moment: In 1998, the company purchased its first robotic assembly line, giving it control over the manufacturing process, providing regular product at needed intervals and improving quality control. In 2006, SoundTraxx released its Tsunami sound system, whose features and performance eclipsed the competition and remains an industry benchmark.
Competitive Edge: As a designer and manufacturer of electronic sound-effect systems for model trains, SoundTraxx has gained its competitive advantage by focusing on three key strengths: innovation, customer service and quality manufacturing.
Growth curve: SoundTraxx has enjoyed steady, double-digit sales growth over the last decade, including 65 percent last year.
Innovation: While most competitors outsource their production offshore, SoundTraxx manufactures its products in-house, enabling the company to maintain tight control of quality. It invests regularly in automated manufacturing technology using computers and sophisticated robotics. Cost efficiency and quality is such that several SoundTraxx clients are bringing the company work formerly done in China.
Snapshot: Symplified is a cloud security company that enables organizations to centrally control and audit their employees’ use of cloud applications like salesforce.com and Google Apps, etc. The company’s identity and access management technology is delivered as a cloud service on a per-user subscription basis. It works with PCs/Macs, smartphones and tablets.
Leadership: CEO and Chairman Eric Olden founded the Boulder-based company in 2006.
Pivotal moments: In late 2006, Olden envisioned the day when companies would use multiple cloud or SaaS (Software as a Service) applications but have no centralized way to manage security for them. This led to the creation of Symplified. In 2010 the Symplified Trust Cloud was introduced. In place of an on-premise appliance, companies could run the Symplified service hosted on the global, massively scalable Amazon Web Services infrastructure. The Trust Cloud enables companies to comply with regulatory mandates that stipulate privacy data must remain within a country’s borders or a trading bloc. In 2011, Symplified extended its service to mobile devices.
Competitive Edge: Symplified provides the same identity and access management functionality that software-based companies offer for traditional applications, but also for applications from the cloud.
Innovation: Symplified’s identity and access management technologies are patent-pending. Founder Eric Olden also holds a U.S. patent for designs in Web application security systems
Snapshot: Tensentric’s engineers provide design, development and prototyping services for the medical device, in-vitro diagnostic and life sciences industries.
Leadership: Wade Lukianow is president and CEO. He and COO Jeff Gentry founded Tensentric in 2009.
Work force: Tensentric has grown from 10 employees in 2009 to 32 at the end of last year. It is projecting an increase to 38 employees this year.
Pivotal moment: Lukianow and Gentry founded the company after watching how, in this highly regulated environment, product development took too long and was prone to costly redesign. This problem plagued OEMs and contract designers alike. The two sought to provide a more satisfying client experience by implementing several novel "Phase Zero" techniques and refining processes. They sought to build a team comprised only of world-class, experienced people. Subsequently, Tensentric was awarded contracts with Top 20 medical device companies.
Business model: Tensentric develops products for clients on an outsourcing basis. Its competitive advantages, the company says, lie in the quality of its engineering and project-management staff.
Market: Tensentric’s clients are typically large multinational companies that directly market products to the life science market and for diagnosing, treating and monitoring patients. Tensentric also assists well-capitalized startup companies in their goals to rapidly introduce their products while meeting the industry’s significant regulatory constraints.
Growth curve: Tensentric’s revenues skyrocketed 297 percent in 2010 and rose another 31 percent last year. The company is projecting a 30 percent revenue increase this year.
Versi-Panel Enclosures/Companion Habitats
Snapshot: Based in Colorado Springs, Versi-Panel Enclosures is a manufacturer that focuses on two key product lines: SnapCrate, a reusable crating system, and Compassion Shelters, which provide disaster-relief solutions for animals and people.
Leadership: Kevin Kvols has been president since the company’s founding in 1986.
Work force: Versi-Panel Enclosures ended 2011 with 39 employees and expects to maintain that number this year.
Pivotal moment: The loss of a pet-industry customer that represented 40 percent of the company’s business forced it to diversify. Thus, Versi-Panel Enclosures was born, featuring the SnapCrate, a green solution to the crating industry.
Growth curve: Versi-Panel Enclosure’s revenues jumped 133 percent last year and are projected to grow another 20 percent in 2012.
Innovation: The SnapCrate system uses a unique clip and rabbit function to secure reusable, green crates. Multiple patents are pending for the design and for the insert that protects the slots from deterioration seen in competitive products. Compassion Shelters elaborate on the SnapCrate design and incorporate composite materials to create a structurally sound building system. These buildings can be erected in a short time using no tools and can be disassembled and reused repeatedly. The units are weather-tight and can withstand winds of 125 mph and snow loads of 85 pounds per square foot. Multiple patents are pending.
Snapshot: Lakewood-based Vforge manufactures aluminum alloy parts using proprietary technology. Parts are formed, machined and finished in various styles including painting, plating and polishing for a wide range of industries, including motorcycles and snowmobiles, firearms, medical equipment, aircraft seat parts and industrial valves and fittings.
Leadership: Ken Young has been president since the company’s founding in 1999.
Work force: Vforge’s work force has nearly doubled since 2008, growing from 50 employees to 90 at the end of last year.
Pivotal moment: Vforge incorporated in August 1999 after contracting with Cannondale Corp. to supply parts for its bicycles and motorsport divisions. By December 2002, Cannondale accounted for 92 percent of Vforge’s revenue. Cannondale’s bankruptcy in February 2003 forced Vforge to rapidly diversify and hone its banking and financial management. Now no one customer exceeds 25 percent of Vforge’s revenue.
Competitive Edge: In 2007, Vforge invested $750,000 to develop an independent material preparation and recycling system. This freed up cash flow, eliminated dependence on a sole-source foreign supplier and dramatically reduced product costs, eliminating the need to sell scrap at discounted prices. In 2010, Vforge acquired the assets of a tool and die shop to vertically integrate tool-making, which was the company’s last required core competency for manufacturing independence.
Growth curve: Vforge’s revenues grew 19 percent last year and are projected to increase another 10 percent in 2012.
Snapshot: WellTok is the developer of CafeWell, the social health network that makes getting better connected to your health and fitness more fun and more rewarding. Clients include health-insurance companies, hospital systems and large physician practice groups.
Leadership: Scott Rotermund has been president of Denver-based WellTok since the company’s founding in 2009.
Work force: Since 2010, WellTok’s work force has more than doubled. It ended last year with 20 employees and expects to add another 14 this year.
Pivotal moment: In 2010, in conjunction with the company securing $3 million in A-series venture funding, Denver was chosen for the company’s headquarters over California and East Coast locations. The better business cost and lifestyle advantages have helped WellTok grow from four employees to 20 in 2011.
Competitive Edge: WellTok is unique in pioneering Social Health Management (SHM), the first integrated solution that connects consumers’ social health network activity and success to the health-care system. That integration ultimately enables rewards and lower premiums for consumers. It also facilitates care provider knowledge and health planning with patients. WellTok does this by getting consumers meaningfully engaged with their health, improving communications and brand affinity with consumers, and aligning member incentives to drive changes in health behaviors.
Growth curve: WellTok’s revenues jumped 1,700 percent last year and are projected to increase another 122 percent in 2012.
Zia Consulting Inc.
Snapshot: Zia Consulting focuses on dramatically improving business results through proven technical expertise in content management, social content and collaboration, and enterprise mobile apps.
Leadership: Michael Mahon has been president and CEO of Zia Consulting since its founding in 2003.
Work force: Since 2008, Zia’s workforce has grown from 10 full-time-equivalent employees to 19.5 at the end of last year. The company expects to expand to 32.5 full-time-equivalent employees
Competitive Edge: Zia helps customers more effectively manage contracts, HR records, financial records, etc., in innovative ways. It empowers salespeople, doctors, executives and other professionals to easily collect information and send it to different business systems that manage these processes. This makes critical information available to people when they need it, where they want to consume it.
Growth curve: In the past two years, Zia’s revenues have grown 52 percent and 66 percent. The company is projecting growth of 101 percent this year.
Marketing: Zia’s Fresh Docs mobile application was the first open source, mobile content browser on the market. This evolved into a formal campaign that Zia has been running since October of 2011.
Colorado Companies to Watch • 2012 Finalists
It is the innovation and growth of second stage companies that Fuel the Economic Fire for Colorado. In addition to the 50 Winners, we Congratulate these 2012 Finalists!
FINALIST CITY COUNTY
Accurence Inc. Westminster Jefferson
Agility Solutions Denver Denver
Aspen Systems Inc. Wheat Ridge Jefferson
Bold Technologies Colorado Springs El Paso
Bombay Bowl Denver Denver
Boulder Electric Vehicle Inc. Lafayette Boulder
Boulder Ionics Corporation Arvada Jefferson
BusinessGenetics Centennial Arapahoe
CLVR Denver Denver
CompassData Inc. Centennial Arapahoe
Custom Environmental Services Inc. Arvada Jefferson
DBAK Englewood Douglas
Discovery Outsourcing LLC Greenwood Village Arapahoe
DSoft Technology Company Colorado Springs El Paso
Ecosphere Environmental Services Inc. Durango La Plata
GBprotect Inc. Englewood Arapahoe
Graham’s Carpet Network Loveland Larimer
Icelantic Skis Denver Denver
Impossible Denver Denver
Ingather Research & Innovation Resorts Lakewood Jefferson
Integrity Electrical Solutions Englewood Arapahoe
Intrex Aerospace Louisville Boulder
Isotec Security Inc. Westminster Adams
Jiberish Denver Denver
Jviation Inc. Denver Denver
KAHUNA Ventures Westminster Jefferson
Mountain Media Boulder Boulder
Mountain Shades Inc. Wheat Ridge Jefferson
National Corporate Housing Greenwood Village Arapahoe
One World Labs LLC Denver Denver
Orbotix Boulder Boulder
Pawngo Centennial Arapahoe
Precision Pipe & Vessel Denver Adams
Redland Littleton Arapahoe
RMB Products Fountain El Paso
RPC Manufacturing Solutions LLC Denver Adams
S&S Innovations Corp. Grand Junction Mesa
Safe Systems Inc. Louisville Boulder
SpenDifference LLC Denver Denver
Sturman Industries Woodland Park Teller
TeamSnap Inc. Boulder Boulder
The Egg & I Restaurants Lone Tree Douglas
TrackVia Denver Denver
Two leaves and a bud tea company Basalt Pitkin
VintageView Wine Storage Denver Denver