Colorado Companies to Watch 2016: On the cutting edge
Innovative technology and strategy drive these businesses
What the company does: Makes smart sprinkler controllers
So why are the lawn sprinklers running while it’s raining? That was the “Aha!” moment that led to the Iro, Rachio’s wi-fi enabled controller and mobile app that allows users to set it and forget it, making water conservation painless. To date, Rachio estimates it has helped users save more than 500 million gallons of water.
Defining innovation: Rachio recently released the second generation of its sprinkler controller, allowing users to manage their sprinkler system from any smart mobile device. The launch, which comes on the heels of a $7.1 million round of funding in November 2015, furthers Rachio’s mission of transforming the smart home into the smart yard, saving users up to 50 percent off their monthly water bill.
Disruption factor: Rachio was the first company to truly make a smart sprinkler controller with mobile access, customized water schedules based on plant and soil types, and a system that would adapt watering to the weather. Rachio was the first to leverage the Internet in this industry to make controllers easier to use and intelligent.
Culture connection: Rachio prides itself on a nimble organization with only two levels beyond CEO. Transparency ― financial, strategic and sales-related ― is key, and every manager is both a coach and a player. Even the CEO will roll up his sleeves – from coding a website to running user tests to handling mundane administrative tasks.
Base: Fort Collins
What the company does: CPP provides wind tunnel testing and wind consulting services for architects, engineers, and developers of buildings and structures.
Disruption factor: As the first company to offer commercial wind tunnel modeling and testing for tall buildings, CPP and its founders, Colorado State University professors Jack Cermak and Jon Peterka, established a service that has become standard for skyscrapers and uniquely-shaped buildings worldwide. CPP’s work in the solar industry has changed the way solar companies think about the effects of wind on their products and how to more effectively account for those effects in their designs and installations.
Defining innovation: CPP has originated entire sub-disciplines addressing the effects of wind on building exhaust and on solar power installations. The CPP Probe, used in its wind tunnels to more accurately measure wind behavior in pedestrian and lounging areas around buildings, produces more consistent readings and is more versatile than its competitor’s. CPP’s WindLab®-Solar, a web-based software tool, allows solar companies to layout solar arrays on rooftops and get detailed wind loads for their specific product, based on where they place the panels on the roof.
What the company does: Liqid delivers a fluid, dynamic system to deploy bare-metal compute, network, and storage elements on-demand to meet business resource needs.
“Innovation is in Liqid’s DNA,” CEO Jay Breakstone says. “Every day, the team at Liqid challenges each other to focus on what is most important, where we are adding value, and how we can be the best at what we do. From little things like how we can drive cost out of the equation and iterate on our design, to larger items like filing a provisional patent per month.”
Secret sauce: Liqid solves the fundamental industry issues of data center under-utilization with its powerful software, Liqid OS, enables native, on-demand bare-metal resource orchestration. It yields significant improvements in operational efficiency, maximizes resource utilization and eliminates wasted resources – empowering IT to meet today’s challenging application requirements.
“Liqid is redefining how resources are used and managed within the data center by offering its customers an innovative solution to keep pace with the rapidly-changing IT landscape in real-time,” Breakstone says.
SSB Consulting Group LLC
Base: Greenwood Village
What the company does: Designs, develops and deploys data-driven management systems.
Early on, SSB nabbed the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) as a client, a relationship that served as a springboard into sports and entertainment consulting. The SSB team manages complex data related initiatives in health care, sports and entertainment, manufacturing, retail and other industries. “Central Intelligence” manages enterprise data for NFL, NBA, NHL, health care, retail and other industries.
Disruption factor: Central Intelligence for Sports and Entertainment allows SSB to rapidly add ticketing data into its cloud-based solution so that customers have an analysis of ticket sales data within weeks. Central Intelligence Master Data Management (MDM) creates a ‘Customer Golden Record’ and persistent key for all the customer data within clients’ organizations. This allows clients to target market to their audience with a much higher degree of confidence and accuracy about their ultimate customer.
Stoneside Blinds & Shades
What the company does: A technology-based company changing how consumers buy “Do It For Me” home improvement projects.
Stoneside used to let consumers do it themselves, but after one year in business, the company switched to the “Do It for Me” (DIFM) market. Its proprietary technology platform combines the economies and efficiencies of the internet with the hand’s-on support of local designers and installers to deliver a “cool” experience from start to finish.
Just as Amazon transformed the way consumers buy products you can ship in a box and Netflix transformed the way people rent movies, Stoneside is transforming the way consumers purchase custom “Do It For Me” home improvements.
Defining innovation: Stoneside uses a seamless, cloud-based platform that includes local search marketing, lead management, product configuration, product visualization, order entry, bill of material generation, manufacturing management, shipping, installation and customer follow-up.
What the company does: Land surveying and construction: equipment, software, and supplies sales, repair, rental, training and consulting.
In its early days, Vectors consisted of President Matt Nawrocki; handling each and every aspect of the business from his home. As of 2016, Vectors now employs nine field associates and has had 100 percent employee retention. The focus of the company has drastically grown to meet the ever-changing needs of the highly technological precision-measurement industry. A company that was once only equipment sales-oriented, now sells, rents, repairs, supports, consults, warranties, and trains on equipment, supplies and software.
When Nawrocki started Vectors, Inc., the perception throughout the land surveying industry was that the equipment companies provided a commodity and nothing more.
“I entered the sales industry with a Land Surveying and Engineering degree in hand, became a leading GPS expert and provided training, education, and proper procedures to all our clients,” he says. “The paradigm change was drastic. Our clients now saw Vectors, Inc. as a partner who was maximizing their performance in the field and allowing them to be more effective and efficient thus increases their profits.”
Giving back: In 2014, Nawrocki hired a Marine veteran, Michael Van Duren, as a way to thank the military, despite Van Duren’s relative lack of sales experience.
“Michael indicated that he was closely affiliated with an organization called Focus Marine Foundation which helped save his life after coming back and dealing with TBI and PTSD,” Nawrocki says. “He also indicted that he was one of a few Marines who were brought back a couple of times of year to act as a counselor to other returning vets. He asked if he could still leave for two weeks a year without pay to help the returning vets.”
The company not only paid Van Duren while he continued his volunteer work but has donated $40,000 to Focus Marine Foundation and Semper Fi Fund.
What the company does: Created advertising software used by independent ad agencies, brands and publishers.
Co-founders Jeff Finch and Andrew Fischer met in the summer of 2010. Jeff knew product and development. Andrew knew strategy and operations; both were keen on business development. Not sure at that point how they would work together, Choozle came into focus about 18 months later, and they hit the ground running. Their yin/yang style continues as the foundation for Choozle.
Disruption factor: The sheer simplicity of Choozle’s design-focused platform sets it apart. It combines both a robust Data Management Platform (DMP) and a Demand Side Platform (DSP), along with the ability to run campaigns across 20 different ad exchanges and networks. Other features include audience targeting via third-party data feeds and an integrated HTML5 Ad Builder suite, which enables creatives to run concurrently on mobile and desktop.
The culture connection: Choozle currently provides: $100 monthly stipend for any health/wellness activity; a $250 quarterly stipend to be applied toward any educational pursuit (professional or personal); a flexible/remote work environment; and many offsite activities including multiple ski days, volunteer activities, brewery tours, and of course, happy hours. Management is most proud that are employees spontaneously hang out together and organize their group activities on a regular basis.
Giving back: As a member of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO), Choozle set aside 1 percent of its founding equity to support Colorado nonprofits – thus upon a successful exit, Choozle will be in the position to allocate millions in philanthropic donations to local charities.
Down the road: Early this year, Choozle hired a country manager in the United Kingdom who is spearheading its growth across Europe and eventually into the African and Middle-East markets. Early results have set the stage for incremental international growth in other markets, including Asia Pacific and Latin America.