Creating Silicon Mountain
I am still reeling from the energy and passion conjured up at this past fall’s Denver Startup Week — the first annual celebration of all-things entrepreneurial happening in the Mile High City — and the spirit I witnessed related to establishing the region’s reputation and resources as a new start-up capital in the U.S. with heightened expectations for 2013.
The event was intended to enhance the sense of community among Denver entrepreneurs, highlight the Denver Metro Area as an entrepreneurial center on the local, regional, and national stage, and provide education and networking events for the entrepreneurial community. The event offered more than 70 free events and sessions over six days covering topics such as “How to Hire Developers in a Competitive Market” and “10 Lessons from a Boot-Strapped Start Up.” The event attracted three times the crowd that organizers expected.
I was thrilled to see Denver host this type of an event since we’ve realized such impressive growth as a major hotbed for high growth companies. While Boulder has long been a mecca for startups, there is now a strong sense that the entire Metro Area is a leading entrepreneurial community with new and important resources directed at competing for high tech and emerging entrepreneurial companies. The combined communities along the 1-25 corridor continue to work together to promote Colorado and the Metro Area as a prime locale for these companies.
Mayor Michael Hancock’s comments at the kick-off event were a declaration of the innovation and infrastructure being put in place. “Denver wants to be the startup capital of the nation…We’re going knock out Silicon Valley,” Hancock said. “We’re going to become Silicon Mountain.”
I do believe we are competing with the likes of Silicon Valley, Austin and other talent pools with our lifestyle offering and local leadership as one of the key differentiators.
Focusing on expanding our human capital will be one of the necessities for cementing ourselves among the greatest cities for entrepreneurs and innovators. The concept of human capital recognizes that not all labor is equal and that the quality of employees can be improved by investing in them through education, experience and abilities of an employee have a profitable value for employers and for the economy as a whole. I have had many entrepreneurial friends who have lamented about the void of talent in Colorado, but I believe we have a dynamic workforce in place with an abundant opportunity to recruit the very best of the tech world to our backyard. One way in which we can expand our talent pool is retaining graduates of local higher education and program universities within the state and creating workplaces where employees have no reason to flee for better opportunities elsewhere. Creating an internal corporate culture that employs local talent, celebrates employees’ accomplishments, provides opportunities for growth and involves them in all aspects of the business will result in strong bonds and innovative ideas.
The ongoing success of Boulder’s TechStars program — the think-tank of some of Colorado’s brightest entrepreneurs; the emergence of Galvanize and Innovation Pavilion as communities for start-ups to gather, collaborate and incubate; and the launch of Denver Capital Matrix — a new resource directory of funding sources for Denver small businesses and entrepreneurs – are all helping to fuel the fire.
Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, which last year trained 317 professionals in its leadership programs and had another 750 emerging student leaders through the Colorado Leadership Alliance (CLA), is helping to maintain the pipeline of leaders who are integral to Colorado’s future in every business and community sector. Along with the CLA, the Leadership Foundation hosts the Colorado Competitive Council, Small Business Development Center, Economic Development Corporation and Leadership Denver.
I was selected to join the 39th class of Leadership Denver, a program that develops community leaders and enhances the civic infrastructure of the Denver Metro region by bringing together leaders from non-profit, for-profit and government sectors. I believe these program extensions and events such as Denver Startup Week, focused on entrepreneurs and local business leaders, are key to bringing human capital into the Denver Metro Area. At the same time, they will help expand our reputation as a hub for all things entrepreneurial and foster a new sense of creativity and ingenuity for the existing companies that have helped make the area the tremendous place it is today to do business.
I can’t sum it up much better than our client Andre Durand of Ping Identity talking about his involvement in Denver Startup Week and the people behind great companies. He said the key to successful business are the employees. “At the end of the day it takes great people to build a great company and Denver has great people.”