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CommutePays offers mileage rewards program for everyone

"I always hated commuting," says CommutePays Founder and CEO Shahir Ahmed.

He figures there are plenty of people with a similar mindset among the country's 140 million commuters -- 10 million of whom commute an hour or more daily.

It follows that CommutePays uses location-based data to market businesses to commuters who pass them on a near-daily basis, and commuters earn rewards just like air travelers. "It's the everyone, everyday miles app," explains Ahmed.

As commuters travel from "point A to point B," whether they're in a car or a bus or on a bike or a train, CommutePays sends them push messages from partner businesses.

Commuters can earn bonus miles by engaging with these partner brands, and ultimately earn "location-based rewards" for their commute, says Ahmed. "You earn miles by doing something you do every day."

CommutePays is partnering with numerous companies to integrate its technology into other apps. "Our app will be a button within those apps," says Ahmed. The company completed a pilot in New York last year and is currently working to raise an undisclosed Series A funding round.

Ahmed says CommutePays is part of a larger trend. "The next generation of apps are utility apps that reward you," he says.

Ahmed started CommutePays in Denver in 2011 and left to work at San Francisco's RocketSpace in fall 2012. He subsequently raised a seed round and returned to Denver in August 2013. The company is now based in LoDo.

Despite his difficulty fundraising in Denver, Ahmed says that he came back for other reasons. "The quality of life here in Denver is so much better -- that's why I came back here."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Tack Mobile growing and hiring in RiNo

RiNo-based mobile-app developer Tack Mobile is looking to hire iOS and Android developers and an account manager.

The company grew from about 15 to 20 employees in 2013. "In the last year, we've added five or six people," says Tack President John Myers.

Tack customers include PearsonCartegraph, Tendril and the Colorado Rapids.

The company in 2013 also released several of its own speculative mobile apps, include Noted, a note-taking app, and a puzzle game called Adrift.

"It was an opportunity to do something new," Myers says of the latter. "We hadn't built a game before." He says it's been a good learning experience for Tack. "Games are extremely competitive. It's been a moderate success."

Tack's next release is a mobile app in the lighting space, built off of the API for Philips hue, the electronics company's new "wireless personal lighting" product. "We saw an opportunity to improve on what they've released," says Myers.

The company is firmly entrenched at TAXI in RiNo, and just signed a lease on a new 8,000-square-foot office in the campus' DRIVE 2, currently under construction. Myers says he expects the company to move into the new space by the end of the summer.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

PaySimple hiring 10 to 15 in 2014

LoDo-based PaySimple has 65 employees in Denver and will likely boost that number by 10 to 15 this year, says CEO Eric Remer.

Founded in 2006, the company provides a cloud-based payment platform for small businesses and currently has more than 10,000 customers.

The company's mission, says Remer, is "to manage payments in an easy-to-use fashion," spanning face-to-face, online and other payment methods and including several customer relationship management features. "You can track your customers and payments together."

"About 35 percent of small businesses still use paper-based billing," he adds. "It's easier than paper."

The company has grown by 50 percent most years, but Remer says the growth curve has started to flatten as the company matures.

"It's hard to maintain that kind of growth as the company gets larger," he says. "We continue to grow in really positive ways."

The company works with numerous resellers and partners, including ADP and Zions Bank Corp.

PaySimple shuttered a small Silicon Valley development office in 2013 to consolidate operations in Colorado. The move boosted the HQ staff by 10 employees.

"We're excited to be in Denver," says Remer. "We think the talent here is growing every day."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Idolum expanding staff at animation-oriented postproduction boutique

Founded in 2007 by Robin Schmachtenberger and Bob Maple, Idolum is growing in the Golden Triangle.

"We're up to five employees now and we'll probably add a couple more this year," says Schmachtenberger. "We've grown very methodically and very carefully." He anticipates adding another video editor and a sales/development person by the end of 2014.

The two Principals saw a sea change happening in postproduction when they started Idolum, with cheaper technology and a "wider cast of players" in terms of competition, says Schmachtenberger.

"Both of us came from a company in Lakewood called Crosspoint, a large postproduction company," he explains. "When you have a really large facility, you have to work to fill those rooms. At Idolum we wanted to be much more of a boutique and focus on the work we wanted to do."

That work usually entails 2D or 3D animation for clients like Curves, Dish Network and Waterpik. "We do 70 percent commercial and 30 percent corporate work," says Schmachtenberger. "Most everything we do has a heavy graphic component."



The work has migrated from a mix of analog digital to exclusively digital, says Schmachtenberger. "We used to send tapes by FedEx. Now everything is delivered electronically."

As much as things change, some things stay the same, he adds. "Companies change, companies absorb each other -- you always need to be making new contacts."



Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Pivotal Labs growing in Denver

Pivotal Labs is adding to its Denver staff in 2014.

The San Francisco-based company has about 35 employees in Denver, says Mike Barinek, Midwest Director.

"The Pivotal Tracker team has been on Platte Street since summer 2010," says Barinek. "Last year, we brought in Labs as well."

Pivotal Tracker has 15 local employees focused on the development tracking product. Working on custom software projects, Pivotal Labs' 10-person team in Denver is based in Galvanize in the Golden Triangle. The company also has about 10 local employees in its big-data, platform-as-a-service operation, Greenplum.

Barinek says he expects to add project managers, developers and designers in Denver in 2014, and consolidate operations in the city by the end of the year. "All three business units in Denver are all going to be under one roof in 2014," says Barinek.

Owned by General ElectricVMware and EMC Corporation, Pivotal also has 25 employees in Boulder and about 1,300 employees in all. Pivotal Labs, the Agile development services unit of Pivotal, is known for its expertise in Java, Ruby on Rails and pair programming and a focus on behavior- and test-driven development.

Pivotal Tracker has about 500,000 users worldwide, Barinek says, and Pivotal Labs' Denver-based clients include Portico, GoSpotCheck and Plink.

You will usually find a full house working at the Galvanize offices, he adds. "We encourage clients to come work with us," says Barinek. "You're going to write some software -- no distractions."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

gSchool holds App Demo Night at Galvanize

Six teams from gSchool presented demos at Galvanize in the Golden Triangle on the night of Jan. 23.

gSchool offers intensive, six-month coding classes. This is the second gSchool class offered in Denver, and the third will be offered at the soon-to-open Galvanize Boulder at 1035 Pearl St. starting in March.

"We try to make gSchool like the real world," says Galvanize Managing Partner Chris Onan of Demo Night. "That's what we try to get them ready for."

gSchool "is something our community needed," Onan adds. "We've got 150 tech companies here and they can't find developers. It's harder than finding capital."

Demos included: Mile High, a social marijuana finder; Appollo, a Fitbit-integrated fitness app; Triptionary, a social travel app; Social Smarts, a Twitter management tool; Runline, a virtual running group; and FooFoBerry, a project management app.

"We built an app that tracks progress on a development project," says FooFoBerry team member Kevin Powell, an Army veteran from New York. "Managers and non-technical people can have a good idea of what's going on with the project and the speed of the project."

Powell says the FooFoBerry name was a placeholder that grew on team members and the project was a learning experience that has potential. "We're going to pursue it as a business," he says.

Powell relocated from New York to attend gSchool in Sept. 2013 but isn't planning to head back east when he completes the six-month course in March.

"I love it," Powell says of Denver. "It's the best kept secret in the world. I'm going to stay here."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Fruition helps California city recover from Google snafu

Fruition President Brad Anderson says a client that is an unnamed "big city in Southern California" recently got overzealous with its security and unintentionally blocked Googlebots when they were just trying to block malicious bots.

"They dropped from Google, we diagnosed it and they recovered," says Anderson. "The root cause was human error."

Organic search traffic dropped by "99.9 percent," Anderson says. "It was effectively all of their traffic. They were freaking out."

Fruition staffers quickly identified and rectified the issue and traffic recovered to pre-Googlebot-block levels in 18 hours. The company published a case study detailing the episode on its website.

The 40-employee Fruition recently consolidated its eight employees in Boulder into its offices in Cherry Creek, and is currently hiring developers and SEO project managers.

"Just this year, we've hired three new people," says Anderson. "We're actively hiring three more right now. I'd be surprised if we weren't at 60 employees at the end of the year."

Fruition's clients include Bankrate.com, Icon LASIK and the City of Ontario in California.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Funnybone Toys launches new games and sister company

City Park-based Funnybone Toys has launched Funnybone Muse, a sister company, to market rolling stamps imported from Japan that have been branded as Rolli for the U.S. market.

"I went to Japan last summer," says Funnybone Founder Julien Sharp. "I saw these amazing stamps with all of these different patterns, and they roll. I said, 'I wonder if we could sell it here.'"

She worked with Denver design agency MATTER on branding and local band Champagne Charlie on a song for a promotional video (below) and began selling earlier Rolli this month. "It's like taking Japan to Denver," says Sharp, with "a Denver band, a Denver designer, and a Denver company."



Early signs are good for Rolli. "Our sales have been crazy," says Sharp. "Everybody wants them." 

Individual Rolli stamps sell for $11.99. The line will expand from 10 to 20 patterns by March and custom designs are available for corporate clients and restaurants.

Sharp's original company, Funnybone Toys, is on the cusp of launching its sixth game, Funnybones. "It's the most complex one so far," she says, "so we waited until the company was a bit more developed."

Funnybones updates an ancient jacks-like game for a modern audience. "It's our version of this 2,000-year-old game," says Sharp. "It was played with bones."

Challenges "vary from very easy to very difficult," she explains.

Shipping in Feb. 2014, Funnybones retails for $9.99 and is designed for ages six and up.

Sharp started Funnybone Toys in 2012 and today the company has over 50 sales reps and 700 retail accounts.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

FullContact acquires Cobook

LoDo-based FullContact has acquired Cobook, a Latvian startup that makes address-book apps.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed; the transaction consisted of equal parts cash and stock.

FullContact Content Director Brad McCarty says it's a perfect match. "We've been watching the Cobook team for awhile," he says. "It just became obvious we were both trying to solve the same problem. We're just so well-aligned it just made sense to come together. It's one of those peanut-butter-and-jelly moments."

The product match is similarly apt. "They've been solely focused on the consumer side since their inception," says McCarty. "We were more focused on the API side for a long time."

Cobook's apps will be integrated with FullContact's APIs and cloud-based address books. "Now we don't have to spend six months or a year developing a native Mac app or a native iOS app," says McCarty.

FullContact's strategy follows a "hydra model," he adds. "It's one product with a bunch of different heads." The company currently supplies six contact-management APIs to the development community.

"The bigger product is the address book," notes McCarty. "You have all of these contacts, you bring them in from anywhere, and you do whatever you want with them."

The end goal? To free everyone's contacts from myriad corporate silos and centralize them in one comprehensive address book that automatically updates and enriches contact information, says CEO Bart Lorang, and then distributes that data to multiple devices.

The private beta for individual users went public in late 2013. "We've released our private beta to the public," says Lorang. "We now have 30,000 users, with 100,000 waiting in the wings."

An enterprise system is on the drawing board. "That's something we're definitely looking at," says McCarty of the latter.

The public beta was delayed by several months. "Software development's always a little slower than you plan," Lorang explains. "The real challenge is the contact management problem and the de-duplication problem. You might have a few Jim Smiths in your address book. They might be the same person and they might not."

FullContact now has 41 employees, including six Cobookers who are relocating to Denver. "We're building out our executive team," says Lorang. "We're always adding engineers." He anticipates hitting the 75 employee-mark by the end of 2014.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.


GetSkiTickets.com pursuing partner resorts

Brandon Quinn started GetSkiTickets.com with wife Heather Quinn and sister Erika Troyer in 2008 as a Travelocity affiliate.

After two years, the founders pivoted the business model. "We realized the company needed to go direct," says Brandon, a former sales agent for the Breckenridge Resort Chamber.

The model now calls for GetSkiTickets.com to market its email list of 52,000 skiers and snowboarders to resorts around North America, and vice versa. Current deals at Colorado partner resorts include 42 percent off at Copper Mountain and 50 percent off at Ski Granby Ranch.

As of today, the company partners with 35 ski areas and is looking to grow. "We're hoping to get to 50 in 2014 and 100 in 2015," says Brandon. "It's all about relationships."

To get there, the path lies beyond the Rockies. "The West has a good footprint and Canada has a good footprint" on GetSkiTickets.com, says Brandon. He's looking to beef up partnerships with ski areas in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, and will likely hire a sales rep on the East Coast to spearhead the push in early 2014.

GetSkiTickets.com enjoyed substantial growth in 2013, upping the revenue to partners by 182 percent and total transactions by 171 percent.

The company is sponsoring Icelantic Skis' Winter on the Rocks, a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Jan. 31 featuring Jurassic 5 and Ghostland Observatory.

"We're looking forward to linking arms with other local businesses," says Brandon.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Think Global Institute launching women's business accelerator in Denver in March

Think Global Institute is offering an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs in Denver starting in March.

Amy Scerra co-founded Think Global Institute with her fiancé, Steve Haase, in late 2011 to help female entrepreneurs all over the planet. Now she's taking the concept to local markets in the U.S. The couple relocated from Phoenix to Denver in late 2013.

Scerra's experience with similar programs is that they didn't happen in the business owner's hometown. "We said bringing entrepreneurs to the U.S. is great, but we're taking women away from their businesses, their families and their realities," she says. "There was no follow-up plan when they returned home."

It follows that Think Global Institute will move to city to city for the first four weeks of each program for face-to-face work with participants, and then connect them with mentors and keep in regular contact with them for 12 more weeks. Then Think Global keeps tabs on participants through regular communication and support services.

"We're trying to create a structure for growth," says Scerra. "It's about, 'How do I overcome those hurdles? How do I take that next step?'"

Denver is the first city for the program. Milwaukee is on tap as the second, slated for mid-2014.

There is a $2,000 fee for the 16-week program. Applicants are being accepted until Feb. 1 and the program launches in early March.

Denver applicants to date have been "extremely diverse," says Scerra, and range from filmmakers to IT professionals. Scerra is also looking for local mentors and partner organizations on an ongoing basis.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Grad student maps Denver startup density

University of Pennsylvania graduate student Allie Morgan wanted to map the Denver startup scene for a GIS project.

Using data from Confluence's Companies database, Morgan, who will graduate with a master's in public administration in spring 2014, mapped the density of companies in the city, with the focus on startups founded since 2008.

Morgan shared various GIS maps (pictured above) that depict startup density in and around downtown Denver.

"It's not surprising it's concentrated in the downtown area," she says.

But her final project ultimately moved in a different direction. After looking at startup concentration in Denver, Morgan opted to cover the best location for a new microbrewery in Denver.

Her top potential brewery location, 2243 Curtis St., topped three others: 3440 Walnut St., 245 Santa Fe Dr. and 752 Kalamath St.

"A lot of people who work at startups are the same people who are starting breweries," or else are brewery customers, says Morgan. "There's a lot of crossover."

She sees room for growth in Denver's brewing scene. "It doesn't seem to be slowing down, and I don't think there will be a saturation point if people keep moving there."

Morgan will do her part: After graduating, the Fort Collins native is planning to move west herself. "I'm hoping to be in Denver by summer," she says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

NYC-based Signpost expects to hire 70 in Denver by end of 2014

Founded in 2010, New York-based Signpost will make as many as 70 new hires in Denver in 2014, including sales representatives, account managers and developers, says CEO Stuart Wall.

The company currently counts 30 people at its Denver office among its 100 employees, and the company also has offices in Manhattan, Austin, and Santa Barbara, Calif.

The maker of marketing software began as a services firm Wall describes as "a location-based Reddit," then pivoted to a platform model in 2012.

"The real category killer is the platform," Wall says. "That gives [customers] a single point of access and automates a lot of things."


Wall says the Internet's myriad social networks often overwhelm a small-business owner and a singular platform helps cut through the noise.

Funded by a roster of investors that includes Google Ventures, Spark Capital and OpenView Ventures -- which led a $10 million Series B in Nov. 2013 -- Signpost has more than 10,000 customers, says Wall.

Wall says the Denver office, which opened in 2013, will move from LoDo to Ballpark in Feb. 2014 to accommodate the growth.

"Most of the hiring from our Series B will be in Denver," says Wall. "It's easy for people to go out there. Costs are considerably lower than New York. It's been pretty amazing for us."

Wall has an ulterior motive. "I'm a big skier, always have been, so I had a big bias when we were picking cities," he says. "New York City has a lot of disadvantages. Trying to do anything besides nightlife is difficult."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Baker-based Adroit Web Design expanding and rebranding as Adroit Creative Solutions

Adroit Creative Solutions Founder Paige Wiese worked in architecture and land surveying until the real-estate bust of 2008.

"After that, I was looking for a career change," she says. "I have epilepsy, so I was thinking, 'What can I do from home?' That's where it all started."

Wiese started developing websites as Adroit Web Design in 2010 and finished a bachelor's from University of Phoenix to bolster her skill set in 2013.

As of January 2014, she's broadened the Baker-based company's offerings into marketing, graphic design, print, and content creation, and rebranded the company as Adroit Creative Solutions

She's looking for immediate help in the areas of graphic design, marketing, and content writing, and will likely look to start with contractors who transition to employees over time.

"Ideally, I'd like to grow it to 10 people in the next two years," says Wiese. "I'm more into 'Let's do it slow and let's do it right' than going haywire."

Wiese highlights Colorado clients like Soul Journey Health in Lakewood and Andrea Mancuso Webber with Fuller Sotheby's International Realty with offices in Evergreen and Beaver Creek.

"I'm out to support small local businesses in the Denver area," she says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.

Inspirato with American Express combines with Portico

LoDo-based travel club Inspirato with American Express has combined operations with Portico Club

The resulting travel club has 185 employees in Denver and 7,000 total members, says Inspirato President David Kallery. A technological integration will be completed in Jan. 2014.


Kallery says the merger has its roots at Exclusive Resorts, where he spent more than eight years until coming over to Inspirato in 2012. "The last thing I did there before I left was launch Portico," he says. "There's a lot of connections." The deal reunites Brent and Brad Handler, Co-Founders of both Inspirato and Exclusive Resorts, with Exclusive Resorts Chairman Steve Case.

The combined club has about 500 lodging properties, primarily vacation homes, in 100 destinations worldwide. "From a member's perspective, it offers a lot of choices," says Kallery, highlighting options in Sea Island, Georgia; Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica; and Kapalua, Maui.

Kallery anticipates hiring as many as 40 new employees in Denver in 2014. Most hires will be the tech team members and "Personal Vacation Advisors" who help members curate their travel experiences on a one-on-one basis.

The company's current "job one" is smoothly integrating the companies after the merger, says Kallery, highlighting a push into "members-only experiential travel" like wildlife safaris and Antarctic cruises and Inspirato for Business as other priorities in 2014.  "We see a good opportunity to extend what we've done on the consumer side to businesses," he says of the latter.

Denver has emerged as a hotbed for travel-tech startups, including Inspirato, NextGreatPlace and Evolve Vacation Rental Network. Many of the founders and executives are former Exclusive Resorts staffers.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Eric Peterson with tips and leads for future stories at eric@confluence-denver.com.
212 Eric Peterson Articles | Page: | Show All
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