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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.

Colorado Homebuilding Academy trains workers for an industry that badly needs them

One of the continuing stories across Colorado, and the Denver metro area in particular, is growth. The region is experiencing nearly unprecedented employment and population expansion, thanks to numerous sectors like, such as IT and cannabis. That has also led to a construction boom and the demand for more housing, which means it needs construction workers. That’s where the newly launched, Colorado Homebuilding Academy fits in. 

The Denver-based academy is aimed at training unemployed adults, military veterans and youth for careers in homebuilding and construction. It offers a "construction skills" boot camp that lasts for eight weeks. The academy already has partnerships with five high schools. “We have high school training programs that last for a semester with our partner schools and our superintendent training program has 5 courses that last for about 9 months,” explains Michael Smith, director of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy.

“The training programs are offered at no cost to the participant if they can genuinely commit to wanting to enter the construction industry and are ready to start a career after training,” Smith says. “The tuition is covered by a blend of supporters from industry contributions, local government workforce development offices, and community grant programs.”

The need for construction workers is greater than ever as vocational training programs have waned. “Our peers in commercial construction (Associated General Contractors) commissioned an economic impact report that stated over 30,000 people are needed for the Colorado construction industry over the next 5 years...and that count is not including those that are retiring over the same period,” explains Michael Smith, director of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy. 

“Over 80 percent of the builders polled by NAHB are experiencing labor shortages that are slowing down the home building process,” Smith adds. Nationwide that means the homebuilding industry could add roughly 200,000 employees to meet the latest homebuilding boom. 

The new academy was initiated by Oakwood Homes’ CEO Pat Hamill, who brought the industry together to support it. “Oakwood Homes is leading the industry by providing substantial financial support for the development, operations and student tuition assistance programs for the Colorado Homebuilding Academy,” Smith says. “Precision Building Systems, a manufacturer of trusses and wall panels for residential construction, has donated 25,000 square feet of their manufacturing plant to house the Academy offices and training center.”

“The homebuilding industry has been plagued by a shortage of high-quality workers,” Hamill says. “Preparing and training the workforce is the key to ensuring our industry remains healthy.”

 

Boa rebrands to focus on consumers

Denver's Boa Technology, the company behind an innovative closure mechanism originally designed to replace laces in snowboard boots, has launched a new site and logo design to focus more directly on consumers. The company had focused first and foremost as a business-to-business company but is now moving to focus on consumer marketing and education. 

The company's closure systems can replace everything from traditional shoelaces, to closure mechanisms for casts, prostheses and ski boots. It had primarily offered its products directly to manufacturers but now it's focusing on brand awareness, consumer marketing and education. As part of the effort, the company launched a new site, TheBoaSystem.com.

"With the re-brand, Boa is shifting focus to speak more directly to consumers rather than B2B, and in the last year, Boa has seen a good amount of growth in the brand and marketing teams in preparation for the change in approach and re-brand," says Casey Raymer, a spokesperson for the company. "The Boa global HQ will continue to operate out of its Denver office in the RiNo neighborhood."

The company will move into a larger space at TAXI in RiNo in late 2017 or early 2018, Raymer adds. She explains the new space will be better suited to the company's current needs and planned growth.

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

Utivity acquires Besomebody's Experience Marketplace

Denver-based Utivity, an outdoor adventure platform, acquired Besomebody's Experience Marketplace, to expand its national presence. The Besomebody marketplace allows people to book and host more than 400 types of experiences ranging from art to adventure.

Utivity offers more than 1,000 types of experiences -- everything from archery and basketball to wakeboarding and yoga, but outdoor and adventure activities are its most popular experiences. It plans to expand its outdoor base as it begins to scale up nationally.

"We started this company with one goal: empower both instructors and doers to experience every activity under the sun," says Utivity CEO Kyle Granowski. "The acquisition of Besomebody's Experience Marketplace allows us to pursue that goal with an extremely talented instructor base while expediting our growth efforts."

Utivity has helped more than 2,000 experience providers in the Denver-area earn more than $200,000 since it launched in 2015. The acquisition will more than double its user base and help accelerate its expansion, Granowski says. Through it, Utivity will gain access to Besomebody's large user and provider base across Texas, California and New England, as well as internationally.

"We couldn't be more excited to join forces with Besomebody to help people discover unique experiences, and make money doing what they love," says Granowski. "The Besomebody team has done an incredible job building a huge community of people who want to get out, and do more. We've had our eyes on them for a while, and the timing was finally right to make something happen. As Besomebody moves forward with their focus on education and employment, we're honored to be the premier platform where people come for activities and adventure."

Under the purchase, which was made for an undisclosed sum, Besomebody will retain its branding, trademarks and community assets. Besomebody will transition its hosting and booking strategies, services and data to Utivity and help it tap into Besomebody's partner network. Besomebody's founder and CEO Kash Shaikh will also join Utivity's board to assist with transition and growth plans.

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

SecureSet Academy closes $4M Series A financing round

SecureSet Academy, which offers cybersecurity training in a bootcamp-style setting, announced that it raised $4 million in a Series A round of funding led by the Colorado Impact Fund (CIF). The funding will allow the academy, currently encompassing campuses in Denver and Colorado Springs, to expand its offerings into new markets.

"Partnering with Colorado Impact Fund and raising this Series A round is a huge step for us," says Bret Fund, founder of SecureSet Academy. "We have validated our curriculum and instructional model, which more effectively creates job-ready cybersecurity professionals for an industry with a severe shortfall of talent. This new round of financing and partnership allow us to take our validated model and expand it to new geographic locations. We're excited and ready to grow." 

SecureSet offered its first classes last year. It's one of a growing number of companies and organizations in the state that are aimed at cybersecurity. In 2016, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a new National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs and the University of Denver launched a new, one-year cybersecurity masters program.

"There is a dramatic supply-demand gap in this industry. Organizations who need cybersecurity professionals have found that certifications aren't enough," says Ryan Kirkpatrick, a CIF partner. "Our diligence suggests that SecureSet Academy's high-intensity education, world-class curriculum and experienced team will position the company to scale quickly while providing benefit to students, government and industry."

The funds will allow SecureSet Academy to scale its educational offerings. It says there is a critical need for cybersecurity expertise across the country. Thus far, the academy says it has placed 100 percent of its students in a security job within two months. The average starting salary in the industry is $84,000.

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

Cloud Elements raises $13M in Series B financing

Denver's Cloud Elements, an API integration platform provider, raised $13 million in a Series B funding round led by Harbert Growth Partners. With the latest round, the two-year-old company has raised $21.2 million. 

The company, named a "Denver Gazelle" in 2016, has enjoyed dynamic growth since launching, experiencing revenue growth of 40 percent on a quarter-over-quarter basis. The company said that makes it the fastest growing API management vendor in the industry.

"Over the past few years, the industry has witnessed exponential growth in public and private APIs," says Mark Geene, co-founder and CEO of Cloud Elements. "Businesses now rely on APIs as a critical component of daily operations, and the number of APIs needed per business will only continue to rise, leading to higher costs and delays for go-to-market strategies, customer programs and more."

Since launching in 2012, Geene's company has grown from offering a few API integration services to more than 120 pre-built API connectors to integrate multiple programs. "Our vision for the next generation of digital business is to unify the world of APIs in such a way that makes it easy for businesses to quickly and seamlessly integrate applications of any kind at a much lower cost -- something that has only been a daydream of developers until now," Geene says.

The integration platform that Cloud Elements has created allows developers to integrate cloud services, enterprise application and connected devices. "APIs are what enable businesses to really embrace digital transformation," explains Tom Roberts, a general partner at Harbert, who joined Cloud Elements' board. "Cloud Elements has been a pioneer in establishing this new space of enabling all APIs to work together, which is reinforced by their fast growth since they've launched their platform. We're excited to support their next-generation initiatives for the modern business and are to see where they lead."

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

Denver Startup Week breaks record with 12,500 attendees

The 2016 installment of Denver Startup Week again broke records, with 12,500 people registering for the more than 300 events, drawing celebrities and entrepreneurial rock stars. For the first time, the nation's largest free startup event also hosted a pitch fest, awarding a package worth $35,000.

It was another significant year of growth for the event, with nearly 2,000 more attendees and about 70 more events than 2015.

"We convene community better than anywhere in the country, and Denver Startup Week is an excellent representation of our thriving and diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem," says Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership and co-founder of Denver Startup Week. "Our strength in numbers grows our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and further establishes a powerful platform in Downtown Denver to attract the most innovative companies and investors in the world."

Other than panels with celebrities like Under Armor co-founder Ryan Wood, a former Dallas Cowboys fullback and owner of Steamboat Springs' Sweetwood Cattle Co., and Silicon Valley regular Suzanne Cryer, the most anticipated event was likely the Pitch Challenge, which had awarded a package of cash and mentorship worth $35,000.

The competition was winnowed down to eight finalists who made their pitches to an audience of their peers and a panel of judges. The three finalists were Orderly Health, edn and Sidekick Holdings. The winner, Sidekick Holdings, makes a device that simulates soccer training with a partner. Orderly Health, the third runner-up, helps users get on-demand information about healthcare via text messages. The second runner-up was edn, a Techstars company that  introduced an indoor garden for herbs, vegetables and flowers.

The event also saw new funding for startup-focused nonprofits. JPMorgan Chase granted $60,000 to each of four nonprofits including the Commons on Champa, Accion, Mi Casa Resource Center and the Path to Entrepreneurship Program.

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

Founder Institute offers free entrepreneur classes to explore launching semester in Denver

The Founder Institute is offering free classes aimed at entrepreneurs to gauge interest in launching a winter 2016 semester of classes in Denver. The institute will launch the free classes on Sept. 21 with "Making the Leap from Employee to Entrepreneur."

"The Denver/Boulder region is one of the most attractive places in the country to build a startup," says Adeo Ressi of The Founder Institute. "Our program aims to identify and develop the next great set of entrepreneurs in Denver and prepare them to take advantage of everything the region has to offer."

The institute, which helps launch startups from the idea stage, has operated in Denver since 2010 and has helped launch companies including BittyPets and CipherPoint Software, among others. Its program is unique in encouraging people to grow their businesses even if they're still working day jobs. Also, with those startups that enter into its incubator program the institute offers an equity share when one of those startups reach success. 

In Denver the new efforts are being led by Mollie Rusher, Rob Rusher and Chad Johnson, who are Denver's co-director of the local Founder Institute. "A new Denver Founder Institute program could provide aspiring entrepreneurs (including people with just an idea) with the training, mentorship and network to build a global company in Denver," says Rob Rusher, Mollie's husband and founder of Cheddar Up, GrowBuddy and RealSoulful. "It is a great fit for Denver because explosive growth and strong entrepreneurial community."

“Working with hundreds of startups as a founder of a co-working space, I'm excited for the opportunity for Founder Institute to help people understand what it's like to go from employee to entrepreneur, and help them achieve success in their business,” adds Johnson, an architect and founder of Thrive Workplace.

Following the initial session, the institute will hold two more free sessions: "Startup Funding 101: How to Raise Capital for Your Idea" on Oct. 6 and a Founder Institute information session on Oct. 12.

The Founder Institute is requesting  people to fill out an interest form at http://fi.co/apply/denver before Oct. 16.

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

Denver Startup Week kicks off schedule of more than 250 events

This year's Denver Startup Week kicked off Monday morning with a breakfast headlined by former Dallas Cowboys fullback and Under Armor co-founder Ryan Wood. Also the owner of Sweetwood Cattle Company in Steamboat Springs, Wood was flanked by other entrepreneurs, including Eddie Kim of Gusto, Lee Mayer of Havenly and Chris Terrill of HomeAdvisor.

During his keynote at the breakfast Wood opined on his career(s) moving from football to athletic undergarments to beef jerky. Regarding Under Armor, he said: "We went from just a product to brand almost overnight." To get there, however, took a lot of work, a lot of face time and a lot of travel, he said. "We took it to a broader audience, team sports is what we knew and we saw the benefit of what these types of fabrics and this fit could make for sports."

The NCAA, the NFL and Major League Baseball "were our main targets. We went after those guys with great intensity," Wood said. "You've got to be creative, you've got to be different and you need to figure out a way to differentiate yourself and your strategy from larger competitors."

Following the breakfast, the Downtown Denver Partnership released the Downtown Denver Startup Report, which found, among other things, that in the last year alone 56 startups in Denver have raised more than $420 million in venture capital in the last year. 

"The growth of tech startups is strong, both in terms of number of new businesses and job creation," said Tami Door, Downtown Denver Partnership CEO. With events like startup week and support and services including The Commons of Champa, the organization is helping startups as they strive to become the next Under Armor. "We are focused on providing access to free resources and education to further establish Downtown Denver as the leading place for businesses to succeed."

The report looks at how startups are changing the employment sector in Denver. The city now has 664 startups, with 165 launching in 2015 alone. Startup growth is strongest in the technology sector, as startups represent 10 percent of all companies downtown and employ 4,508 people.

People can register online to attend more than 250 events or go to Basecamp hosted by Chase at 1515 Arapahoe St.

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

All Copy Products, Inner City Heath Center offering free vision screening

On Aug. 20, All Copy Products and the Inner City Heath Center (ICHC) will offer children and adults free vision screening as part of national Children's Eye Health and Safety month. The offering is intended to help those who may have health insurance but lack coverage for vision benefits.

All Copy Products, which offers digital office equipment, print services and IT services for companies, calls it a win-win partnership. The company is doing it not just to be beneficial to the community but beneficial to itself.

"Employees -- particularly the newest generations to join the workforce -- are actively seeking employers who take community giving seriously, and win-win partnering takes us well beyond writing a check to staff engagement with programs like the upcoming vision screening," explains President Brad Knepper.

All Copy Products says it is contributing $35,000 to ICHC in 2016 and plans to grow its contributions to the center to nearly $60,000 in 2017. "Denver nonprofits need partners like All Copy Products that take this collaborative and organized approach to corporate giving," says Kraig Burleson, CEO of ICHC. "This partnership is a game-changer for our organization because it allows us to plan for and use contributions in the most strategic manner possible. . . . It's also helpful to have a pool of volunteers who's support we know we can depend on."

All Copy Products' employees will and more than 20 volunteers from the Lions Club of Denver will aid at the ICHC at 3800 York St. in Denver to support the center's first free vision screening.

At the screening ICHC will have bilingual volunteers and also offer recycled glasses to patients who need them.

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


Arts in Society grant program launching in Denver

The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Hemera Foundation and RedLine Contemporary Art Center have launched a new Arts in Society grant program. Bonfils-Stanton and Hemera are supporting the grants, which will range between $10,000 and $50,000. RedLine is administering the program, which will support social practice projects.

"Social practice or socially engaged art is where the artist integrates communities and topics or issues that are informed or relevant to those communities within the artwork in a collaborative way," says Louise Martorano, RedLine executive director. As such it will support projects that work across multiple sectors. "An artist could collaborate with a nonprofit service provider that focused on healthcare or homelessness," Martorano says.

"There are many national examples of this type of work like with Theaster Gates and the Dorchester Projects in Chicago, Rick Lowe and Project Row Houses [in Houston], Creative Time [in New Orleans] and their production of Waiting for Godot," says Martorano. A local example comes from RedLine's resource artist Tracy Tomko asked artists to envision, in art, solutions for emotional and psychological challenges through her "Institute for Non-Bizarre Treatment" project. The gallery also will host another example of the type of projects the grants could support in Baltimore artist Graham Coreil-Allen's New Public Sites walking tours project on Aug. 10 and 11. The tours showcase overlooked public spaces.

The site for the new grant program will go live Aug. 10 and the portal for applications will be available Aug. 15. Artists must submit a letter of intent by Sept. 26 to be considered for a grant. RedLine will host information sessions about the new program on Sept. 1 and Sept. 11. To attend, email Martorano at louise.martorano@redlineart.org.

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


"Debugging the Developer Shortage" offers informal IT job fair

With Denver and Boulder suffering from a shortage of IT workers, Girl Develop It (GDI), Turing, and The Dialog Lab are hosting "Debugging the Developer Shortage," a networking event and informal job fair, on Aug. 3 at RiNo's Green Spaces aimed at filling some of those empty positions.

"The event is open to any and all developers, but helping women find tech jobs is definitely close to our hearts," says Alena Bowen, a spokesperson with The Dialog Lab. "Organizations are actively seeking to build more diverse engineering teams, and orgs like GDI are helping women gain the skill sets they need to succeed in developer roles -- this event will connect the dots," she adds.

ReadyTalk is one of the event's sponsors. "We plan to have eight to 10 companies at the event," says Bowen. "Alteryx, GoSpotCheck, SendGrid and Rachio are currently confirmed attendees." In addition, more than 70 people have signed up to attend the event already and the organizers expect about 100 to attend.

"The event came out of a conversation between The Dialog Lab and Girl Develop It," Bowen says. "We work closely with tech companies who are struggling to keep up with the demand for great developers. GDI is incredibly successful at training developers, but doesn't provide direct support for finding jobs. We thought it would be fun and impactful to bring the two groups together. Turing was excited about the event when they heard about it, so joined in as well."

Companies attending the event will send their engineers and human resources people -- who won't be collecting resumes, just meeting and talking with potential hires.

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

Denver proposes dedicated fund for affordable housing

On July 13, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilwoman Robin Kniech introduced the details of the city's plan to create funding to support affordable housing.

Pending approval by Denver City Council, the funding will be generated by way of development fees and property taxes. Over the next 10 years, the new funding stream could generate $150 million, allowing for the construction of 6,000 new homes for low- to moderate-income families in the city and catalyze thousands of jobs in the process.

"There is no more important a priority in Denver right now than affordable housing," Mayor Hancock said. "In my state of the city speech yesterday, I spoke about the thousands of people who lack the simple advantages so many of us take for granted, like a place to call home. Home ownership gives families a foundation to build equity, build wealth and build a life. This is a fair, balanced and modest approach to address one of the most pressing problems facing Denver today."

The proposal from the mayor's office are expected to cost residential property owners $1 a month and commercial property owners $145 annually for every $1 million worth of commercial valuation. It also would establish a one-time development fee on new construction projects collected when a project receives its building permit. Residential construction fees for single-family homes will carry a 60 cent per square foot fee and multi-family homes will carry a $1.50 per square foot fee. Industrial projects will pay a 40 cents per square foot fee and retail, hotel and other commercial development will pay a $1.70 per square foot fee.

"By pairing a small portion of the property tax revenue that Denver voters approved almost four years ago with what would be one of the lowest one-time fees on new residential and commercial development in the nation, our broader community will be coming together with a sector of the economy generating some of the demand to create a bold solution for affordable housing in Denver," Kniech contended.

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

Posner Poverty Hack comes back for second year

Launched in 2015, the Posner Poverty Hack, a 2.5 day-hackathon aimed at fighting global poverty issues, brings teams together to address issues of poverty. This year's event will focus on creating solutions for three of the Posner Center's organizations: the Africa Agenda, Starfish and The Women's Bakery.

"The challenges are informed by the expressed needs of these communities and we're actively working alongside these communities to support the development of meaningful solutions," explains Posner Center Director Meg Sagaria-Barritt. "We're looking for people with skills in tech, education, database development, entrepreneurship and much more," she says.

The Africa Agenda is challenged with a new digital strategy and news service to change the way people understand, talk about, and interact with Africa. The organization wants to engage African communities and the inform the public with African news and information. Starfish is focused on empowering young women in Guatemala to lead transformational change. It wants to develop a platform to monitor and evaluate their holistic educational and empowerment program. The Women's Bakery (TWB) operates in East Africa where it provides opportunities for women based on a nutritious bakery business model, training, and long-term development opportunities. It wants to develop a mobile application to support local bread sales, enhance safety for sellers and increase accountability and professionalism.

The hackathon will be held at Denver's Posner Center July 10-12. The event will culminate in a happy hour on July 12 when winners of the hackathon will be named.

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

March shapes up as Denver's other big beer month

Almost half a year from the other big beer event in Denver, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), March is shaping up to be just as important for Colorado's fermentation revolution.

Colorado Craft Beer Week begins with the one-of-a-kind Collaboration Fest on March 19 and pours through March 30 at Strange Craft Beer Co. with an auction and IPA Throwdown. In fact, for the purposes of innovative brewing and moving the local industry forward, March might even be more important to craft brewing than GABF.

Collaboration Fest, being held for the second year at the Broncos' stadium at Mile High, is probably the most innovative of all the events since it invites breweries from across the world to come together and create what are mostly one-off beers with their fellow brewers. In fact, last year it was dubbed "America's most creative beer fest" by Food & Wine Magazine.

It's an important event for the industry because it encourages brewers from all over the world to exchange notes and practices -- and of course plenty of beer. "We can guarantee one thing: the beers of Collaboration Fest are sure to be some of the most unique, delicious and limited offerings you've ever tasted," say festival organizers, which include the Colorado Brewers Guild, Visit Denver and Two Parts. "Per festival guidelines, one brewery must based in Colorado and a member of the Colorado Brewers Guild, while the collaborating partners could be located next door, across the state, across the country or even overseas."  

This year the fest will boast more than 85 projects from 149 brewers. While most participating breweries are in the U.S., the fest also is bringing international attention with five international breweries participating this year.

Beyond that Denver will serve as a hub for Craft Beer Week, with events happening throughout the state. While many are at breweries, others have unique locations -- like the Mighty Beer Run in Platt Park on March 26.

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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