Indie Business Forum sparks candid conversations

Do we have a technology gap in Colorado education?

In the spirit of connecting the state’s ever-growing small business community, the Colorado Indie Business Forum recently tackled the complexity and opportunity associated with technology as it applies to education.

Covering a range of perspectives, speakers came from Denver Public Schools’ Innovation Lab; student data aggregation platform Schoolrunner; and pioneers from two coding programs, the Skill Distillery and Turing School of Software & Design.

“Everybody wants to innovate,” said Sarabeth Berk, the innovation project manager at DPS’s Imaginarium. She talked about the challenges and aspirations around modifying the environment, standards and tech-specific preparation for both students and teachers.

College- versus career-readiness immediately emerged as a theme for all four panelists, noting the evolving marketplace and work force expectations.

Jeff Casimir, founder of the Turing School, says his program developed as an attempt to avoid alternative “soulless connections to education.”

Turing maintains a flexible payment model and cash-back guarantee for students who don’t find a job offer with at least a $65,000 salary three months following graduation. Casimir says the program has yet to refund a single student. Despite skills acquisition and job placement success worth a $17,500 per student price tag, the panelists spoke of roughly 15,000 open developer jobs in Colorado alone.

Additional insights and anecdotes emerged from the hour-long forum, including the technology talent gap, the reinvention of K-12 schooling as well as higher education, the high price tag attached to tech training and the inclusive commitment to females and minorities in software programming.

“Companies are hiring with the expectation of skills-ready people,” says Bruce Batky, founder of the Skill Distillery, a 19-week developer boot camp. 

Amidst the sea of startup celebrations and events, it can be challenging for attendees to distinguish between them, let alone commit to adding yet another to the calendar. CIBF differentiates its offering by focusing on what makes founders successful across industries. Panelists provide resources, support and candid responses when asked to describe their grand plans, trials and tribulation.

“For me, CIBF takes the discussion from ‘Why?’ to ‘How?’” said Samantha Klaas, an audience member from June's event. “The forum takes these hot topics out of the abstract by using professionals who work in various facets related to the topic. And that is what CIBF strives to do, to build a conversation.”

“Moving back to Colorado from New York, I saw so many cool startups and small businesses and we sought to give them a better platform to showcase their products, services and ideas,” said Matt Shifrin, founder and CEO of Utivity, which hosts the event.

 The new Denver-based platform that links learners to teachers across the activity spectrum launched CIBF in March. The events aim to fuel startups’ growth and expand dialogues around the issues local founders are most passionate about.

The next panel will convene August 6.

Categories: Company Perspectives, Tech