State of the state: Innovation

How do you measure the intangible aspects of business? With things like after-tax profit, it’s easy: dollars and cents. But what about innovation, a driving force behind all great businesses?

That spark of originality and the ability to make an idea actionable is tough to capture. Yet it’s the very thing the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) – a 100 percent privately funded government startup housed within our state’s Office of Economic Development – aims to do with its second-annual Innovation Networking Summit.

Launched by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2011, COIN intends to make Colorado the most innovative state in America by building a virtual network of local entrepreneurs. Long-term, COIN plans to build a physical network too, by hosting more frequent events.

The 2013 Summit, Aug. 28-29, is one such event. Part of “Innovation Week” as announced by Hickenlooper, the gathering is designed to facilitate communication between local leaders who will discuss Colorado’s economy in relation to the global market, job creation and local business support.

At the inaugural 2012 Summit, COIN and Colorado State University released an Innovation Report Index that measures innovation by benchmarking Colorado against the nation.

“We have a highly educated workforce and more small business bursts than most,” Deputy Program Director Kelly Underell says of the findings. “But we have lower small business success rates five years out.” The index, available online, is how COIN discerns opportunities for growth.

This year, COIN added an out-of-state element to the Summit. Speakers include internationally renowned figures like Dietmar Harhoff, director of Munich Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research, and Hikmet Ersek, Western Union president and CEO, as well as notable locals like Daniel Epstein of The Unreasonable Group. Session topics vary, ranging from The State of Capital to The Impact of Culture on Innovation. The event, capped at 250, is invite-only.

The winner of the Glorious Failure in Search of Success Prize, a $50,000 award celebrating risk-taking, will be unveiled at the Summit. The new Colorado brand will be shared as well, an idea conceived during a 2012 Summit break-out session, when Aaron Kennedy, founder of Noodles & Company and the state’s current chief marketing officer, hypothesized a state logo synthesizing quality of life with business aspiration. The year-long branding process has itself been innovative – an exciting collaboration of 30 statewide marketing firms.

While the actual event, held at The Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, is exclusive, the information disseminated is free and will be available on COIN’s website after the Summit.


Deputy Program Director • Kelly Underell 720 539 6297,

On the Web:

Gov. Hickenlooper’s Innovation Week: Aug. 26-30

Private Partners include: OtterBox, PricewaterhouseCoopers, CSU

Summit Sponsors: Arrow Electronics, General Electric (GE), Coca-Cola, Western Union

Summit: 100 percent funded by sponsorship dollars, in-kind donations and summit fees

Expected cost of 2013 Summit: $200,000