Local Ecosystem Strikes a Balance for Startups
Resources such as Techstars and Co.Starters, along with physical spaces to work, live and play, allow Colorado's capital to provide ideal entrepreneurial environment
The Denver startup scene has shaped itself into a giving-focused, balanced community. Rather than a highly competitive, cutthroat culture like Silicon Valley. Denver offers resources for small businesses that encourage a "give first" mentality, a sense of collaboration and a balanced lifestyle.
This generosity flourished thanks to Colorado's largest seed accelerator group, Techstars, based in Boulder. Techstars educates and prepares global startups and operates with a steadfast "give first" motto, coined by co-founder Brad Feld in his book "Startup Communities."
Sarah Tuneberg, co-founder and CEO of crisis management startup Geospiza, discussed the cultural impact of Techstars on the Front Range.
After graduating from the entrepreneurial program this year, Tuneberg returned Geospiza to Denver. While she was searching for a location for her business, the co-founder of tech startup Maxwell and fellow Techstars graduate, John Paasonen, reached out to help and offered up office space.
“[The ‘Give First’ mentality has] created a culture of giving, and it doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Tuneburg said. “It’s a wonderful cycle.”
Denver’s tech ecosystem benefits from its proximity to Techstars and combines that asset with its own network of business resources to support early-stage businesses.
Before TechStars, Geospiza received mentorship with the Co.Starters program at the Commons at Champa, a resource center created by the Downtown Denver Partnership. The program offered networking opportunities, education and workshopping for Tuneburg to flush out her idea and “see if it had legs.”
Kenton Johnson, CEO of the management and consulting firm Prosper Systems, discussed Denver’s other startup resources: WeWork and Galvanize.
WeWork is a global collaborative workspace provider that houses startups and enterprise businesses alike and encourages cross-company interaction, developing a sense of community. This value is right in WeWork’s mission statement, where it explains it wants to create a place “you become part of a greater 'we'. A place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.”
Galvanize is another resource campus with two locations in Denver. It offers community workspaces for entrepreneurs, free workshops and tries to establish meaningful professional connections. According to its website, the organization aims to bring together an “eclectic mix of entrepreneurs, skilled programmers, expert data scientists and men and women motivated to make an impact.”
Pattie Money, the chief people operations officer of cloud-based email services firm SendGrid, offered a unique view of the Denver startup ecosystem, comparing it to her experience in the Bay Area. SendGrid, another Techstars graduate, was originally based in Denver and opened a Bay Area office in 2015.
“The tech scene in Denver is encouraging and supportive,” Money said. “Companies share ideas in ways that help each other succeed. The business community takes the time to share successes, best practices and help one another in ways that weren’t readily apparent in the Bay Area.”
Denver’s less aggressive startup landscape has also allowed it to have a healthy balance of work and play, which counters the exhausting demands of entrepreneurship. The city’s close proximity to the Rocky Mountains gives it access to summer hiking and winter sports.
“People in Denver also seem to value time outside of work more than their Bay Area counterparts and take advantage of the varying activities that come with [Colorado’s four] seasons,” Money said.
Anna Dunn is a student at Colorado State University, majoring in journalism. She participated in a partnership between the University and ColoradoBiz magazine that brought students from Fort Collins to Denver Startup Week 2018.