Colorado Companies to Watch 2020: The Helpers
Giving back manifests itself in many ways for these organizations
Atlas Real Estate understands the life-changing power of owning real estate, so it’s built its business on a model that encourages clients to purchase investment properties it will manage for them.
It’s a model born of necessity. In 2012, Colony American Homes, which was at the forefront of the single-family for-rent industry, hired Atlas to serve as its property management company. Three years later, Atlas lost that contract and went from a company that was managing 1,500 single-family homes in metro Denver to zero.
“It was a sobering moment,” Atlas CEO Tony Julianelle says. “The foundation we had laid over the prior three years amounted to nothing more than a memory.”
But knowing that it had something special with its property management business, Atlas persevered and decided to offer its services to the general public. In just five years, the company has grown the business line from zero homes under management to more than 3,200 today.
The company’s property management team provides both investors and residents with a single point of contact. It works well for residents because it limits the hassle of contacting multiple people for various billing issues, leasing questions and maintenance issues. It benefits owners because giving a single person responsibility for a property helps to ensure they care for it as if it were their own property.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to watch our team help people grow from being one of our residents to becoming a homeowner themselves,” Julianelle says.
Boulder Engineering Studio strives to make its designs innovative, simple and elegant.
The full-scale engineering design and product development firm helps create products it believes can change the world. The company encourages the use of more sustainable materials in products, packaging and logistics. It even helps some of its vendors pilot polylactic acid (PLA) injection molding for certain classes of products.
The Boulder Engineering Studio (BES) team is diverse in terms of gender, orientation, hobbies, backgrounds.
“We’ve accomplished this by building a recruiting process that focuses on skill, passion and talent and ignores many of the traditional pitfalls in tech recruiting,” BES Chief Operating Officer Daniel Bodenstein says. “We stopped using external recruiters several years ago because, besides being poor ambassadors of our culture and vision, the candidates we saw all seemed to look the same.”
While the uncertainty that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to Boulder Engineering Studio and the economy as a whole makes it difficult to predict the company’s future growth, it has managed to keep its employees working despite slowdowns in work from several of its harder-hit clients. That’s prompted management to advance some of the company’s longer-term initiatives.
Three innovation tenants have helped online payment platform Cheddar Up to gain a competitive advantage: focus, constant improvement and user feedback.
Cheddar Up has solved the group payments problem both online and in person. If a group organizer is promoting something in advance, the group can pay online. The organizer can also collect via Cheddar Up’s mobile apps and via Bluetooth card readers, keeping all payments and tracking in one spot.
While the PayPals of the world focus on small and midsize businesses and companies like Venmo concentrate on peer-to-peer payments, Cheddar Up focuses on filling the gap in the middle to help group organizers easily collect payments and information.
“While other players have attempted to solve group payments in the past, they have been unsuccessful due to a lack of commitment to constant improvement,” Cheddar Up CEO Nichole Montoya says. “Most have taken a ‘Build it and they will come’ approach, which does not work in group payments.”
Cheddar Up continues to improve its products based on user feedback. Through the company’s customer support interactions with users, it’s been able to gather almost constant feedback that allows it to fix what isn’t working and add desired new features.
HeartHero is making the first Automated External Defibrillator (AED) that is designed to be a consumer electronic.
Known as Elliot, HeartHero’s AED is a third of the size and half the weight of what is currently on the market. The dustproof and waterproof device easily fits into a purse or backpack and incorporates important capabilities including cellular, Bluetooth, Cloud and app integration, which notify emergency services when it’s used. Elliot also will be able to provide data to a physician at the time of the incident, enhancing patient treatment.
“Not only is HeartHero innovating the AED and how SCA (sudden cardiac arrest) is addressed, but by our main principal ‘Life before profits,’ HeartHero will never value a dollar over a life,” CEO Gary Montague says. “While the rest of the AED industry creates pricing models from the top down, our business model has been created from the bottom up. By doing so, we are able to keep our lifesaving device as low of cost as possible to the end consumer, getting AEDs in more places and thus saving more lives.”
The number of employees at the company increased by 400% last year and it expects to increase its Colorado-based staff when it receives regulatory approval for the Elliot.
Integrity Fire Safety Services believes that innovation is the key to its success, so each week, the company meets with its various teams to discuss how it can improve.
The company provides fire sprinkler and fire alarm installation, inspection, service, maintenance, repair and testing to commercial, industrial, retail and multifamily residential buildings. Integrity Fire Safety uses web-based interactive software to make its processes faster than the competition.
“We understand the customers’ desire for speed, accuracy and communication, and we continue to expand our use of the software to reach the differentiating timelines we set,” CEO Eric Williams says.
Since it was founded in 2018, the company has expanded into Colorado Springs and northern Colorado. It’s also added services such as kitchen hood suppression systems and bidirectional amplification to better serve its expanding customer base.
“We are always looking for talented, motivated team members and not only encourage but assist our team members in achieving various next levels of certification in order to grow their skill sets and opportunities,” Williams says.
Defense contractor Jaxon Engineering and Maintenance performs national defense infrastructure services for all military branches.
The company’s Colorado Springs location is ideal for serving the state’s six military bases, including Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
“The density of DoD (Department of Defense) contracting activity fuels one of the most active customer bases that our industry has to offer,” Jaxon CEO Scott White says.
Jaxon has invested significant capital into the development of its people and research and development budgets so it can provide top talent and equipment to its customers. The company is pursuing multiple patents to protect its team members’ inventions, which are redefining the standard industry approach.
Jaxon has developed an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) portfolio that sees a facility through the entire EMP protection development process, including design, construction, testing, maintenance and documentation.
Jaxon’s growth is being driven by the increase in reliance on electronics; President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses; and the advancing threat of our national adversaries’ military technology.
“Most of the developed world is building infrastructure and communication systems that are heavily dependent on technology,” White says. “From bank servers to gas pumps, these systems will be heavily disrupted in the event of an Electromagnetic Pulse.
The specialized design/build firm Make West designs and fabricates completely custom features that almost always include a new detail, material or approach. “We often joke internally that our specialty is coming up with unique solutions that we will probably never have to use again,” says co-owner Travis Percival. “While most of the industry has a more standardized, off-the-shelf business model, we have built our reputation on being the group that can solve the trickiest problems and build the most unusual stuff.”
Make West focuses on branded environments, architectural signage and creative art consulting, and has worked for clients ranging from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies. The firm recently completed a number of projects throughout Denver, including a multi-faceted, three-story Environmental Graphic Design (EGD) package for Amazon and two large art consultation packages for multifamily properties. Make West was a lead sponsor for the CultureHaus Gala at the Denver Art Museum in January.
The firm hopes to finish rounding out its team, dial in attention to quality work and to show the rest of the world Make West’s capabilities. “We recognize that we have really only scratched the surface and believe that, as awareness of our company grows, we will break into new sectors, build new relationships, and continue our path to bigger and better things,” Percival says.
For decades, the lab testing business has focused on sending out tubes of blood or other samples to centralized facilities. This model has long been driven by the cost-effectiveness of the batched, automated process, but no one likes waiting for test results. To solve this, MBio Diagnostics provides rapid, on-the-spot testing solutions.
MBio Diagnostics is the innovator of the proprietary point-of care LightDeck platform that delivers highly sensitive, lab-quality results in minutes. The LightDeck platform consists of a robust, portable fluorescence analyzer and disposable, multiplex test cartridges. The test procedure is simple, enabling untrained users to perform testing on-the-spot. Brava Diagnostics, the in-vitro diagnostic division of MBio, is developing a portfolio of multiplex tests including panels for COVID-19, host-response panels for acute infections and sepsis and panels of cardiac markers for heart attack and heart failure. The LightDeck platform is also commercialized for veterinary diagnostics and for environmental testing through corporate partners.
Instrument and test manufacturing are done in-house in the Boulder facility, which promotes communication between teams and fosters collaboration. “There is a sense of purpose in diagnostics, and that fuels pride and loyalty,” says CEO Chris Myatt. “Especially now as we work on COVID-19 projects. We’re proud of our technology and its application in the current crisis.”
MFB Fertility developed Proov, the only FDA-cleared at-home test to confirm successful ovulation. Proov measures progesterone metabolites, the hormone critical for ovulation, conception and pregnancy, so the presence of it in urine allows women to confirm that ovulation has occurred. The product, which MFB Fertility launched in 2018, is different from products that focus on finding a fertility window of time when couples can conceive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12% of U.S. women age 15 to 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
“Before Proov, there was not a good way to diagnose problems with ovulation, either at the fertility clinic or at home,” says Amy Beckley, founder and CEO. “We not only developed a product that allows us to measure ovulation quality, but also made this technology available directly to women to empower them to take control of their reproductive health.”
In 2018 MFB Fertility received an Advanced Industries grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). The grant provided funding, and also helped MFB Fertility get attention from angel investors. This year the company developed an app that digitizes the Proov results and puts all the information in one chart that can be shared with doctors.
A lot goes into building and designing wireless towers. RKS Design & Engineering handles all design, engineering, site acquisition, construction, integration and maintenance. The firm, founded in 2014, works on a wide variety of towers, including rooftop, civil, electrical, line and antenna, power, large professional and enterprise venue, and small cell. The services include everything from sending tiger teams, or personnel who take precise measurements at a site, to site acquisition services such as getting approvals, to drafting with 3D drawings.
The associates at RKS are constantly developing in-house tools to reduce errors and help in quality assurance/quality control processes and efficiency. The company uses cloud platforms to enable collaboration and achieve efficiency, helping the firm deliver in a quick turnaround time. RKS has an open-door policy that encourages workers to provide ideas and feedback.
The wireless industry, and the 5G infrastructure, is ever-changing and RKS is keeping up by innovating. The firm is looking at adding new services such as installation to drive growth. The company is currently researching the possibility of working with the renewable energy industry, such for solar power farms.
This article is part of the 2020 Colorado Companies to Watch. Read more about the other winners:
THE FIXERS | THE MAKERS & SUPPLIERS | THE TECHIES | THE COMMUNICATORS & EDUCATORS | THE FOODIES | THE ORGANIZERS