Digital disruptors imagining a new economic paradigm
Colorado's digital revolution imagined by these nine companies
Dizzion Inc. is a global provider of end-user computing services, including cloud-delivered Desktops as a Service (DaaS), paired with complementary offerings such as secure endpoints, application delivery and storage.
DEFINING INNOVATION: The company’s virtual storage appliance with a proprietary storage tier design improves end user performance, and its Cloud Orchestration Service Management Operations Management System (COSMOS) allows automated and efficient provisioning of desktops. Together, these innovations make technology more convenient while creating a high-performing user experience.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: Dizzion was one of the early providers to truly offer Desktop as a Service (DaaS) vs. selling the infrastructure that companies then have to implement and manage themselves. The company also offers application streaming, security and storage.
GIVING BACK: Dizzion employees contribute to causes such as Dress for Success, KidsTek and We Don’t Waste. Dizzion has a self-managed PTO policy that also encourages staff to use time away from the office toward community activities.
The Epiphany Publishing Platform is enterprise-grade software designed to create, manage and monetize live and on-demand audio and video content for newspapers, podcasters, live streamers, independent journalists and media companies.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: In 2016, the company launched the Epiphany Publishing Platform in an effort to democratize journalism world-wide by crowd-sourcing hyper-local news in real time. This year, it launched one of the industry’s most advanced fraud detection and filtering tools to disrupt those trying to defraud the advertising ecosystem.
COMPANY CULTURE: Its motto, “Ethics before revenue,” means everyone is operating from the same strong moral compass. The company pays 100 percent of medical, dental and vision insurance costs and provides relaxed work hours, work from home options and half-day Fridays through its "family first" policies.
GIVING BACK: The company offers its platform services at no cost to nonprofits, students and education partners and is a technology partner for the Urban League of Metro Denver and the NAACP Denver chapter. It also launched ADVocate, a community to foster ADtech innovation in Colorado in partnership with The Trade Desk and the Innovation Pavilion.
AdCellerant is a digital advertising, marketing and technology company.
PIVOTAL MOMENTS: In summer 2015, AdCellerant started developing UI.Marketing, an award-winning software suite that streamlines the planning, buying, reporting and execution of all major digital platforms. This marked the moment AdCellerant went from a service provider to a software company.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: AdCellerant’s technology platform allows marketers to plan, buy and report Programmatic, Native, Video, YouTube, email, SEO and SEM all with a single login and password, while saving 50-75 percent on media costs. This gives marketers more time to analyze the results and more money to spend on what works.
COMPANY CULTURE: The company provides snacks, food, drinks, beer, stand/sit desks, on-site gym and pool facility, free parking and free lunches. The office almost always has a ping-pong or basketball game going.
ON THE HORIZON: AdCellerant’s planned growth in 2017 of more than 45 percent is tied to the introduction of new software application features. Increased sales are expected to come from up-selling 100 current partners and adding an average seven new partners every month, nearly doubling the number of companies it works with around the world by year’s end.
GoSpotCheck is a real-time Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that enables teams to track and aggregate pricing, merchandising, product demos and events.
PIVOTAL MOMENTS: Belly Ella – a subscription rental service for maternity clothes – was the first rendition of GoSpotCheck, which launched the three founders into the Techstars Class of 2011. After meeting with several target customer brands, the team was able to transform its business model into what GoSpotCheck is today – a field and retail execution solution.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: Field and merchandising work has been a core component of business intelligence for decades, but it has historically been done with pen and paper, emails and snail-mailed photos. GoSpotCheck’s centralized platform, user-friendly app and instant analytics give managers intel and insight from the field as quickly as their teams uncover it.
COMPANY CULTURE: GoSpotCheck’s employees embody the company’s six values in everything they do every day: Do Great Work, Own It, Focus on What’s Important, Communicate, Go to Bed Smarter and Have Fun, Stay Sane and Take Care. At Monday’s all-company meeting, employees give one another kudos – building incredible camaraderie and morale across teams. A VIP award gets passed around each week to an employee who does great work.
GIVING BACK: Employees are encouraged to donate to an organization or cause they’re passionate about, with a company match. All of the founders participate in nonprofits, and all employees are invited to every single charity event, whether it’s on the weekend or during work hours. An internal committee researches and selects events for GoSpotCheck to donate time and money to year-round.
VintageView Wine Storage Systems
The company makes metal wine racking systems, holding the patent on the “label forward” (racks show off the bottle’s label rather than cork) wine rack.
DEFINING INNOVATION: The company’s initial product collection achieved two ground-breaking goals: creating the first label-forward wine rack and the first mass-market metal wine rack, standing out in a sea of wood. Since 2015, it has launched more than a dozen products.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: VintageView turned the bottle of wine on its side — literally. This simple wine rack design change has made navigating large collections easier since the label is visible, helping to move cellars from dusty back rooms or basements into design focal points in homes and restaurants. Making wine racks an interior design element has led to a massive shift in the industry, making it common to see a wine cellar at a restaurant entrance or off the kitchen in a home.
GIVING BACK: The company has a multi-year relationship with the Stout Street Foundation, a rehab center, and its work program, and generally has two or more of its patients working in its warehouse at any given time. Three Stout Street graduates have moved onto full-time employment with VintageView.
ON THE HORIZON: VintageView plans more launches later in 2017 to add to its contemporary, modular wine cellar design products.
Shadescapes distributes premium umbrellas, shade solutions and outdoor furniture.
PIVOTAL MOMENTS: When launching ShadeScapes, Jo Edmondson created an online distribution company rather than follow the traditional designer showroom model. In 2011, ShadeScapes added cabanas to its lines.
DEFINING INNOVATION: ShadeScapes was an early adopter of online marketing/SEO and continues to use digital means to efficiently drive customer acquisition. The company is unique in prioritizing strong CRM and data management capabilities. The entire executive team have backgrounds in direct and database marketing and actively use customer data to drive sales and marketing strategy.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: In 2002, luxury outdoor products were found only in designer showrooms. ShadeScapes immediately employed a web-based approach and pricing strategy to generate sales across all channels – design professionals, businesses, dealers and consumers.
GIVING BACK: ShadeScapes’ office-showroom in downtown Hotchkiss is a hub for community events, historic preservation and economic revitalization. After hours, the company offers its space to nonprofits and community organizations at no cost.
PopSockets LLC designs, manufactures and sells innovative lifestyle products, such as the PopSocket, a collapsible grip and stand that provides secure one-hand holding for any mobile device.
PIVOTAL MOMENTS: In 2012, PopSockets signed a deal with Case-Mate to manufacture phone cases with two PopSockets grip-stands integrated into the case, the idea founder David Barnett funded on KickStarter. The deal with Case-Mate fell through, but before that happened, Barnett had time to work on what was then a side-project: designing “PopSockets for All," a PopSockets grip-stand that would stick to the back of any phone or case. This product ended up being the source of the company’s success.
DEFINING INNOVATION: Barnett went through about 40 prototypes before achieving the current version of the PopSockets grip-stand. The company maintains flexibility and the willingness to pivot based on the changing market for phone cases, as well as customer feedback.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: PopSockets created a previously non-existent — and elegant — solution to a very common problem: people dropping their phones.
COMPANY CULTURE: In PopSockets’ open-office environment, everybody is equal — and dogs are king (dog beds are provided next to desks). CEO Barnett and senior management all work at open desks alongside junior employees.
GIVING BACK: A new goal for 2017 at PopSockets: Increase net happiness in the world by 0.01 percent in five years. A collaborations committee is focusing the company efforts on partnering with nonprofits, such as the National Parkinson Foundation; people with Parkinson’s benefit from the PopSocket grip-stand.
ON THE HORIZON: For the first time, PopSockets is investing $2 million in marketing to supplement its powerful word-of-mouth allure.
The company makes powerful laptops, desktops and servers for creators and
innovators whose primary work tool is the computer.
DEFINING INNOVATION: System76 started off in a basement with $1,500, using old spare computers and free open source software to build a phone system, email server, ecommerce site and operating system installation tool for the laptops and desktops it shipped. As the company grew, it began writing custom applications to match its unique processes.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: When System76 was founded in 2005, the iPhone didn’t exist, Microsoft was dominant and Linux was a geek toy. Today, Linux is everywhere, from Android, the world’s most popular operating system, to the dominant platform for everything on the web and in homes. Engineers develop on Linux and deploy their work there; System76 creates computer products that engineers, scientists, companies and schools can trust to work flawlessly with Linux.
COMPANY CULTURE: System76 prides itself on bringing smart people together and giving them the freedom to create and innovate. When the company hits a major milestone, it celebrates with a company outing. Employees hang together on the weekend, have movie nights, ski together and swing dance together.
GIVING BACK: The company partners with Blue Star Recyclers, a nonprofit computer recycler that combines environmental stewardship with job creation for the disabled. It has also partnered with Kids on Computers in the past to build computer labs in rural poor areas of the world.
Blinker Inc.’s app uses patented image-recognition technology to allow anyone to learn about, sell, buy or refinance a car, simply with the snap of a photo.
PIVOTAL MOMENTS: In late 2016, Blinker officially launched its app in the Colorado market and brought to life its buy, sell and refinance capabilities. Since launching, Blinker has generated more than 55,000 app downloads and serviced more than $1 million in car loans.
DEFINING INNOVATION: Blinker’s concept is built on the idea of innovating in the auto industry. The Blinker app creates a customer-focused, streamlined, positive process to put consumers in control of their car buying, selling and financing experience, saving them time, money and hassle.
THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: Blinker is the first-ever mobile application that uses technology to help people to buy, sell, finance or refinance cars by simply snapping a photo with its patented image-recognition technology. Blinker cuts out the dealership and lender middlemen so people save on financing.
COMPANY CULTURE: Blinker retains top talent by offering an ownership interest in the company. Employees are asked to define what they want to accomplish each quarter and are supported by the whole company to meet their goals.
GIVING BACK: The company is currently hosting students from the Denver School of Science and Technology to give them real-life startup experience in exchange for college credits. The Blinker Philanthropic counsel within the company chooses specific charities each quarter for Blinker to support, donate to and volunteer with.
ON THE HORIZON: Blinker has launched in Texas, the nation’s second-largest auto market, and will be launching soon in California and Florida. The company has seven approved patents and nine others pending.