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Rail~Volution conference will showcase Denver's transportation advances

Rail~Volution is coming to Denver Sept. 17-20.

The conference, hosted by the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and local partners, focuses on building livable communities through transit and multimodal investments. National leaders, planners and advocates will examine and discuss all that the Denver region has accomplished since it last served as the host city for the gathering 17 years ago.

During 25 mobile workshops and more than 75 sessions over four days, leaders and practitioners from the fields of government, transit, real estate, business, finance, environment and advocacy will explore pertinent transit issues, opportunities and challenges common to the Rocky Mountain West.

“Denver has an extraordinary story to tell about how transit investments and cross-sector collaboration have changed the economic trajectory of the regions,” says Dan Bartholomay, CEO of Rail~Volution. “The Denver community found the right mix of investments that lead to truly livable places — places that take care to ensure affordability and access to jobs, good homes and healthy lifestyles. The Denver region’s integrated approach is exactly what other cities and regions are hoping to learn about at Rail~Volution.”

Featured speakers include Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit in Seattle; Phil Washington, CEO of L.A. Metro; Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer; Maurice Jones, president of Local Initiatives Support Corp. in New York; Christine Marquez-Hudson, president and CEO of The Denver Foundation; and John Martin, president and CEO of the Southeastern Institute of Research Inc. in Richmond, Va.

Denver is nation's seventh-greenest city

For the fourth consecutive year, Denver has ranked among the top 10 U.S. cities for the percentage of its office space qualified as green certified, according to a recent survey by energy consultants CBRE and Maastricht University.

With a modest year-over-year improvement, 13.3 percent of Denver office buildings are certified green, representing 41.9 percent of overall office square footage, according to the annual Green Building Adoption Index. That’s compared with 11.8 percent and 40.2 percent, respectively, last year.

Chicago claimed the top spot in 2017, while San Francisco slipped to second and Atlanta, Houston and Minneapolis rounded out the top five markets.

“Green” office buildings in the United States are defined as those that hold either an EPA Energy Star label, U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification or both.

“Denver companies are savvy, and they realize that operating out of an energy-efficient space can not only save money and benefit the environment but also be a point of differentiation when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent,” says Sam DePizzol, executive vice president with CBRE Advisory & Transaction Services in Denver. “With one of the tightest labor markets in the country, we are seeing more and more Colorado companies pay attention to the role their real estate places in creating a competitive advantage.”
 

Denver’s Magpie Supply among winners of $25k at 4th Go Code Colorado pitch competition

Magpie Supply was one of the three companies that won the annual Go Code Colorado pitch competition. The company, which shows historic farmers’ market prices to farmers to help them find new markets, won $25,000, as well as a trip to the AT&T Foundry and a opportunity to pitch at Techstars and Boomtown.

Like all Go Code Colorado participants, Magpie Supply harnessed the power of public data. In this case, the company mapped prices farmers were able to charge at farmers markets throughout Colorado. The company also plans to develop a feature to help small farmers combat the cost of transporting goods. 

“This idea is a spin-off from a business concept I worked on last year with a Go Code Colorado team,” explains Daniel Ritchie of Magpie Supply. “Our team has worked hard to identify the real needs and concerns for Colorado farmers to develop a truly valuable tool to get more produce to market.”

Magpie wasn’t the only winner at the competition this year. Judges selected three of the 10 finalists to win a $25,000 contract with the state. The other two winners were Drip, from Colorado Springs, and Hud Buddy, from Fort Collins. Drip is a tool that helps with water analysis, including well and water quality information and Hud Buddy allows for simplified noise analysis for HUD residential developments.

“I continue to be impressed by the creativity and collaboration of the Go Code Colorado teams,” says Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. “Teams continue to show the value of public data if we can get it into the hands of innovative and entrepreneurial people who have a different perspective on how to use it.” 

Denver Peak Academy’s employee program saves city $22.5M over 5 years

Called the “School of Innovation” by Fast Company Magazine, Denver Peak Academy has helped the city’s employees save the city $22.5 million over the past five years, and is on track to save it $5 million this year. The city said that for every $1 spent on the program, it’s saved the City and County of Denver $5.

The academy was launched in 2011 by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock during a budget shortfall. The academy has trained 6,500 employees and led to 2,300 employee-led innovations ranging from reducing the time it takes to obtain a business license to 20 minutes rather than two hours and cutting the time of a DMV visit to 20 minutes from the 80 minutes it previously could have taken. 

“Through innovative thinking, employees are now able to do more with less, while bettering our customer-experience,” Hancock says. “Peak has become a revered national model adopted by some of the largest municipalities in the country, and we look forward to continuing our forward progress here in Denver.” 

The academy is a four-and-a-half day curriculum that includes problem solving and behavioral economics allowing the voluntary attendees to examine inefficiencies and speed up work processes. Since the program launched it’s been adopted by over 150 cities across the country and globe. The academy said that includes Brussels, Belgium; Ottawa, Canada; San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Kansas City and others.

“Denver Peak Academy provides employees with the tools to be a catalyst of positive transformation. As a result, our employees  continue to build Denver into the best city in the world,” says Denver Peak Academy’s Director Brian Elms. “We are excited and inspired that other cities are adopting Denver Peak Academy principles to empower their employees to improve their cities as well.”

Denver launches “Race to Raise,” chance for early-stage companies to win up to $100k

A new competition will help early-stage companies in Denver raise venture capital through its “Race to the Raise” pitch event on June 13. While the prize for the contest is only $25,000, there’s an additional $75,000 at stake in the future, meaning the winner could ultimately net $100,00 in venture capital from the Denver Venture Showcase, part of the Denver Office of Economic Development (OED).

“There is no shortage of early-stage firms that are doing great things in Denver,” says Mayor Michael Hancock. “We’re committed to doing all we can as a city to spotlight these firms, foster additional growth and investment, and propel our culture of innovation to an even higher level.” 

Indeed, the city and OED offer a myriad of events and opportunities throughout the year to support the industry of nascent companies. Chief among them are the Commons on Champa and Denver Startup Week

The OED is offering the contest to early-stage companies that have raised at least $250,000, but less than $4 million. In addition to the grand prize, two runners up will each receive $15,000.

Whichever company is the first to raise an an additional $500,000 in equity or convertible debt within six months, will receive a $75,000 boost from OED, the office says.

“We’re tremendously excited to send the winning firm to the Colorado Venture Summit,” explains Turid Nagel-Casebolt, director of business development at OED. “With investors from around the nation, the Summit offers incredible potential for a growing firm to land a significant amount of operating capital. This could truly be a quantum boost for a small firm that is just beginning to learn how to present itself, demonstrate promise, and raise funding.”

In addition to raising the required capital, the entrepreneurs must demonstrate that they have developed a growth and job creation plan to help grow Denver’s economy. Companies can apply to participate in the competition through June 2 via this link

They will be judged by local startup experts and scored by Denver-based Valid Evaluation’s evidence-based platform. The judges will select finalists to compete at the June 13 event which is being hosted at Holland & Hart, a co-sponsor along with US Bank. They will have five minutes to pitch their company to the judges.
 

With more than 1,000 proposals in Denver Startup Week is ready for your votes

The nation’s largest free entrepreneurial event—Denver Startup Week—received a record 1,039 session proposals this year. That’s up from 944 proposals submitted last year. Now it’s up to the public to help organizers choose which sessions should be held—last year the event hosted more than 300 programs. 

“Our entrepreneurial community is the envy of cities across the country,” says Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. “We now have nearly 700 tech startups in Downtown, employing close to 5,000 people. Companies large and small are coming to Denver to positively impact our economy and help grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

“We continue to be impressed with not only the volume, but the quality of proposals submitted and now it’s up to the entire entrepreneurial community to help tell us what programs they find the most interesting and valuable,” says Ben Deda, vice president of channels and ecosystems at Vertafore and co-leader of the event’s organizing committee.

The organizers will accept votes for Denver Startup Week through May 28, 2017. The event's organizing committee will sift through the results and determine which proposals will become sessions during the sixth annual startup week from Sept. 25-29.

In addition to the five tracks of Denver Startup Week—Founder, Growth, Maker, Product, Designer, and Developer—this year’s schedule also will include topic and industry clusters focused social impact, the Internet of things, health care technology, diversity and inclusion, cannabis and business basics. 

“When more than 1,000 people step up to share their insight and knowledge with others, it signals that Downtown Denver continues to be one of the best places in the country to start and grow a business,” said Erik Mitisek, executive director of Project X-ITE at the University of Denver and co-founder of Denver Startup Week.

To help people wade through the potential sessions and vote, organizers recommended that voters search for trends, themes and topics that interest them. They can also sort session proposals by cluster and organize sessions by their favorite track. Site users can vote on each session once.

ParkiFi partners with Parkmobile, hoping to lure new customers with combined services.

As anyone who works or visits downtown Denver knows, parking is a pain. Now, Denver-based ParkiFi is making it easier to park by adding new features to its smartphone app. Previously, it could only show users where parking was available—but now users can pay for parking from the app. To help raise awareness ParkiFi is giving away a year of free parking in downtown.

“We’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm around our real-time parking spot finder app since we launched in November, but we think users are really going to get excited about the payment capability,” says Ryan Sullivan, CEO and co-founder of ParkiFi.

The new capabilities are thanks to a partnership with Parkmobile, which allows transactions via smartphone. While ParkiFi was launched in Denver, it could prove a valuable service in any metro area in the US.

“Our goal is to make parking as easy as possible for Colorado drivers, everything from finding a spot to payment” Sullivan explains. “They can focus on getting to where they need to be downtown without worrying about where to park and how to pay, saving even more time and eliminating the headache of forgetting to pay for parking or potentially getting a ticket.”

ParkiFi is valuing the year of parking at up to $2,000. The company explains that people can enter the contest by downloading ParkiFi and using it to find and pay for parking at downtown properties where they can use ParkiFi between now and July 31. Each time a person uses ParkiFi, they’re entered into the contest. After that it will select a winner at random and work with them to find the best place for them to park for the year or reward the winner with a $150 a month credit to their ParkiFi account.

Currently ParkiFi is only available in downtown Denver, but the company plans to expand its capabilities into other Denver neighborhoods soon. "ParkiFi’s parking sensors are being used by parking operators and municipalities at 24 locations in 11 states and 13 markets to obtain valuable analytics on parking patterns including occupancy, turnover and more," says Abby Hagstrom, a spokesperson for ParkiFi. "ParkiFi is also excited to announce a new partner, Parking Revenue Recovery Services, which will increase ParkiFi's coverage in Denver by over 2,000 spaces."

Denver Startup Week Accepting Session Proposals Through Friday

The nation’s largest free startup event, Denver Startup Week, is gearing up for 2017 and it wants your input, soon. The event, which will take place Sept. 25-29, is seeking ideas for sessions in six different tracks to help entrepreneurs learn about launching and growing startups. The deadline for submissions, however, is April 21.

The sessions are in addition to headline events, which bring industry leaders to discuss entrepreneurship, launching a startup and more. The track categories this year include designer, developer, founder, growth, maker and product. Each is intended to address the functional roles in a startup team and will be led by industry experts. 

Last year, the event brought more than 13,000 people to 300 sessions. Organizers, including the Downtown Denver Partnership, Colorado Technology Association and Startup Colorado, expect this year’s startup week, the sixth, will attract even more attendees.

After the deadline passes track chairs will evaluate the submission proposals and approve them for voting on by the community. Then the organizing committee will use the votes and comments to guide the selection and scheduling process.

Sessions in the past have included individual and group presentations as well as panels, workshops and social events. Organizers said that ideas focused on transferring knowledge to the community have the best chance of being selected. T

Innovators, entrepreneurs and others can register and submit proposals here: SUBMIT A TOPIC.

Two teams from Denver make it to Go Code Colorado’s next round

The annual challenge to use public data to create business insights in Colorado, Go Code Colorado, is getting ready for the mentorship weekend April 21-23. Two Denver teams, <div>ersity and Magpie Supply, are among the finalists. In all, more than 230 people participated in the Challenge Weekend events this year. 

“Each year, Go Code Colorado participation and enthusiasm increases across the state,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, whose office runs the contest. “The high-caliber app and business concepts created during challenge weekend will further encourage government entities of all sizes to make their data available to developers and entrepreneurs so its inherent value can be fully utilized.”

The first team, <div>ersity, is harnessing data to create a hiring tool that will help companies build diverse teams. The other team, Magpie Supply, is using data to solve transportation problems for farmers. 

Both teams will join the other finalists in the expenses-paid mentoring weekend. During the weekend,the finalists will have a chance to discuss their ideas with leaders from Techstars, Boomtown, House of Genius and others from Colorado’s tech and entrepreneurial community. 

After that, they will compete for three $25,000 awards, which will be decided in a final competition on May 24. The awards will help the winners move their ideas into the next stage as apps or startup businesses.
 

Faction to expand its cloud with $11M funding round following year of big growth

Faction is growing its cloud rapidly. After growing 44 percent year-over-year, the cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider will continue to grow its operations in Denver, with a new $11 million round of funding. 

"The Faction team has earned our respect and enthusiasm by consistently delivering strong top-line growth coupled with substantial gross margins," says David Solomon, managing director of Meritage Funds. Meritage Funds and Sweetwater Capital are increasing their investments in the company. The new round of funding also included two new equity investors, Charterhouse Strategic Partners and Rifkin-Pottle Group, and debt financing from Ares Capital Corp.

"Faction's IaaS offerings clearly met and exceeded the needs of the company's target customers as evidenced by the addition of a record number of new customers, a record-setting number of Faction customers expanding their current service and customer retention rates well in excess of industry expectations," Solomon says. He states that the company shows a strong commitment to service as well as expanding its services.

In 2016, Faction was named a leading service provider on CRN's Data Center 100 list last year. The company partnered with Level 3 Communications, and BluePrint Information Management and Security Services. The company also released its Faction Internetwork eXchange (FIX) service allowing enterprises to connect private cloud and colocation resources into public clouds and introduced Faction Forums, a networking event series.

"The continued substantial support we're receiving from reputable and knowledgeable investors is a testament to the groundbreaking technology developments we're creating in the cloud arena, especially with our unique hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments," says Luke Norris, Faction founder. "This new funding round will go toward serving our rapidly growing customer base, bringing new products to the market, expanding our employee base and growing our global footprint." The company is likely to introduce new products and services in 2017, he adds. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Technology Association wins Microsoft STEM grant for Denver students

More than 800 Denver students interested in STEM-based careers will get additional opportunities to learn through Denver Public Schools' CareerConnect program. That's thanks to a new grant awarded to the Colorado Technology Foundation, a nonprofit created by the Colorado Technology Association (CTA).

"The grant will specifically support outreach and engagement throughout the tech community, benefitting students who have opted into the TechConnect pathway of study within Denver Public Schools," explains CTA spokesperson Fred Bauters. "TechConnect courses include web design, UX/UI, coding, computer science, robotics, intro to computer design, 3D animation and video game programming." 

The amount of the annual, multi-year grant was not immediately disclosed but it is part of Microsoft's YouthSpark initiative and will help CTA continue to grow the program. The organization said that it has helped nearly 500 high school students through the program placing them with more than 60 Colorado tech. The grant from Microsoft will allow it to continue serving students prepare for the future in 2017 and beyond.

"This grant to the Colorado Technology Foundation . . . is one of the many ways we're working to create opportunities for students to connect to and pursue STEM careers," says Phil Sorgen, Microsoft corporate vice president of enterprise sales.

"The work-based learning opportunities available to students through DPS CareerConnect prepare and equip students to pursue training programs and university degrees beyond high school," Bauters says. "DPS educators and industry mentors assist students with exploring post-secondary options and considering various career opportunities."

 While the program does not directly place students into jobs, Bauters observes that "[s]tudents are occasionally hired by host companies directly out of high school -- circumventing the need (and additional expense) for additional training and/or higher education." 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

CDOT's $500K RoadX challenge open through February

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) launched the RoadX Bicycle and Pedestrian Challenge in 2016 to develop better systems to help those on foot and bicycles travel more safely. The RoadX challenge is open to proposals through Feb. 27. 

The challenge is made through a partnership with the Colorado Innovation Network's Imagine Colorado. The department said it is the nation's first statewide open innovation challenge platform to generate new ideas. In this case, the platform is taking on the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety. 

Department officials hold that technological solutions to pedestrian and cycling safety can save lives. Studies have found that pedestrian crashes represent 10 percent of all fatalities and 7 percent serious injuries in Colorado. Bicycle crashes represent another 2 percent of all fatalities and 4 percent of all serious injuries in Colorado. 

The department will award $50,000 to the best ideas to help put them into action and the rest of the funds will support bringing concepts into reality, according to advocacy organization Bicycle Colorado. It will divide the awards into two tracks, the "Idea-thon" and the "Do-athon."

Under the first track up to five winners will each receive $10,000 for submitting a groundbreaking technological idea to improve bicycling and pedestrian safety. Under the second track, innovators can submit a unique and implementable idea that they must deploy within eight months of being selected as a finalist on March 31, 2017.

CDOT will select up to five finalists to build a proof of concept and will support each with $75,000 to help them launch the pilot. Of those, the one that implements the best program in the time period will receive $150,000 to continue it. The runner-up will receive $50,000 and the third runner-up will receive $25,000 to further develop their safety deployments. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Commons on Champa looks back on its first full year at new campus

The Commons on Champa, Denver's center for entrepreneurship and innovation, recently released its 2016 impact report. The center reports that since launching its campus on the eponymous Champa St. downtown in 2015, it's served more than 23,000 community members.

The center has served those entrepreneurs through 450 programs and events it's hosted with 145 partners. That includes hosting 19 Meetup groups per month. The center also plays an integral part in Denver Startup Week and has hosted 4,000 people at events during that entrepreneurship juggernaut.

The bulk of those programs, 275, were hosted in 2016, according to the Commons. The programs were presented by 120 partners and 85 percent of them were free to the public. Through Denver's Office of Economic Development, the Commons also offered 326 hours of one on one assistance in helping people launch startups. 

To further support growth in Denver's innovator space, the Commons launched the InCommons Mentorship Program in 2016. That program connects entrepreneurs, innovators and disruptors with business leaders, innovators, and investors. It allows them to attend monthly mentor hours at the campus, join industry specific and subject matter forums and share online resources. It also gains them access to online, collaborative goal-setting tools. The offering already includes 240 members and 80 mentors and financial support from 20 partners.

As a capstone to its efforts in 2016, the Commons on Champa was awarded an Inclusion Challenge grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The campus will use the $400,000 grant in 2017 and 2018 to expand entrepreneurship focused on the inclusion of military veterans, women, people of color and new American citizens. It offers eight-week programs to help participants launch their businesses.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Blinker app refinances car loans

Denver's Blinker has just launched an app aimed at disrupting the trillion-dollar auto-loan market.

"People want to finance their car just as easily as they can call an Uber," says Rod Buscher, founder and CEO of Blinker. "We offer car loans that are competitive, transparent and easy to complete from anywhere. Car-owners can finance a used car purchase or refinance an existing loan in minutes -- all on their mobile device. No banks, no dealerships." 

Users take pictures of a vehicle and its license plate, and its patented image-recognition technology allows the company to recognize the vehicle. After uses answer some questions they can refinance their vehicle to reduce the costs associated with their loan. There are no origination or loan fees.

The app offers a refinancing quote, payment and cash-back options. After a user selects an option they authorize Blinker to perform a credit check. After approved Blinker pays off the existing loan sets up the new payment plan -- and if a user chooses to refinance for cash, deposits it in the user's bank account. 

Without affecting credit scores, Blinker can give refinancing quotes for vehicles from 2010 or newer with less than 100,000 miles and at least $5,000 left on their auto loan. Currently, the app is limited to users in Colorado but Blinker plans to expand it beyond the state soon. 

Throughout the country users can use the app to take a picture and learn the make, model, year and estimated value and mileage of any vehicle on the road. It's like taking the license plate game to whole new level.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver Startup Week announces 2017 dates

Denver Startup Week recently announced that it will host the nation's largest free entrepreneurial event in 2017 from Sept. 25 through Sept. 29. In early 2017 the organizations behind the events will offer more details, including things like how to propose session ideas.

The event, which is returning for its sixth year in 2017, has quickly become massive. In 2016 1,334 people signed up to attend the events, which included 306 free programs held throughout downtown Denver aimed spurring and growing the local innovation and entrepreneurship community in the city and state.

"Denver Startup Week is a celebration of entrepreneurship, and the diversity of industries represented allows everyone to learn from outside of their respective 'box,'" says Anthony Franco, founder of Denver startup mcSquares. "There is something in the air here in Denver that is electrifying for founders, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

The organizing committee behind Denver Startup Week includes Galvanize COO Ben Deda, Downtown Denver Partnership CEO Tami Door and Executive Director of the University of Denver's Project X-ITE Erik Mitisek. They announced the new dates on Nov. 15, which the Obama Administration named National Entrepreneurship Day this year, in recognition of entrepreneurs across the country. 

"National Entrepreneurship Day was designated with a call to action to support budding entrepreneurs, and tap into the diverse skills and talents of the entrepreneurial community to create businesses of the 21st century. It seemed only fitting that we leverage this day to announce that Denver Startup Week will return for a sixth year as one of the best resources in the nation for those looking to start or grow a business," Deda says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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