State of the state: Technology

After eight years of DemoGALA, the Colorado Technology Association (CTA) rebranded its annual confab APEX on Sept. 10-11 at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center.

“Why APEX?” Erik Mitisek, CTA’s CEO since April, asked rhetorically. “We wanted to extend the lens of focus and build an agenda that showcases the best of CTA.”

This year has been a big one for the state’s tech community, Mitisek added, citing best-ever C-Level @ A Mile High and Women in Tech Events, the Rally Software IPO, Intuit’s acquisition of GoodApril before TechStars Boulder demo day (a first), and – last but not least – a robust wireless network at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

“Every 72 hours a new startup is created in Colorado,” he added. “Something special is happening, and that’s why we’re all here.”

Mitisek pointed to technology as the unifier in industries ranging from energy to health care, and highlighted education as the key to the trend continuing. “How do we build the technology leaders of tomorrow before they even know it?”

In her subsequent remarks, ViaWest President and CEO Nancy Phillips focused on the need to get more young women interested in technology careers. “If half the population is women, we better find a way to get them into tech,” she noted before introducing QwikCart’s Adriana Gascoigne, who helped bring Girls In Tech to Colorado to do just that.

“This is a huge problem,” said Gascoigne. “We need more women in technology.” Indeed, the numbers don’t lie: Only about 20 percent of the technology work force is female, and 11 percent of startup executives are women.

Keynote speaker Jack Dangermond, president of Redlands, Calif.-based GIS titan ESRI, said geographic information systems (GIS) are at “a turning point.”

“Maps tell stories,” said Dangermond. “They also deliver huge business value.” He reeled off a list of industries from agriculture to emergency response that will benefit from the ongoing innovation in GIS.

On the floor, APEX exhibitors included Google, with a popular demo of its Google Glass, the wearable computer slated to ship next year, and Denver’s 3D Printing Store, cranking out widgets all day long. Denver data center FORTRUST also made waves with its “Be A Hero” theme, complete with Batman masks, Pez dispensers and a test-your-strength game.

FORTRUST Senior VP of Sales and Marketing Dave Shepard commended Mitisek’s leadership. “I think Erik has done a great job of elevating Colorado,” he said. “The state is positioned to become a technology leader – we need to leverage that.” Shepard cited the elimination of the state’s business personal property tax as the top priority, particularly as many other Western states have done so in recent years.

Demo Challenge

The APEX afternoon saw 10 demos featuring what Mitisek described as “the hottest companies in Colorado in a winner-take-all, American Idol-style contest.” The winner, smart sprinkler startup Rachio, took home $15,000.

On the Web

APEX Award Winners

Technology Startup of the Year:

Cloud Elements

Customer Service Company of the Year:

Connect First

Technology Entrepreneur of the Year:

Peter Hudson, CEO,  iTriage

Technology Advocates of the Year:

Representative Angela Williams, Senator Mark Scheffel

Technology Teacher of the Year:

Scott Schankweiler, Science Teacher, Mountain Range High School Adams
12 District

Technology Community Connector
of the Year:

Jim Franklin, CEO, SendGrid

Technology Project of the Year:

Office of Information Technology,

State of Colorado

Woman in Technology of the Year:

Michele Hovet, Deputy City Manager,
Former CIO, City of Arvada

Technology Company of the Year:

Ping Identity

Bob Newman Lifetime Achievement Award:

Dan Caruso, Co-Founder & CEO, Zayo Group