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Low-income Coloradans could lose small business funding under budget proposal

Denver’s Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) is warning that important funding for low-income communities in Colorado is at risk under President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal. The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund has issued $40.3 million to Colorado’s 15 CDFIs, including CEF. 

Local CDFIs are able to leverage every $1 in federal funding with up to $12 in private investments from banks, foundations and other funding partners, explains CEF President CEF Ceyl Prinster. “The total economic impact of CDFI grants in Colorado is as much as $480 million supporting businesses, affordable housing and nonprofit community projects.” Under the budget proposal all that economic development could be at risk as the Trump Administration has proposed slashing CDFI’s, says CEF President CEF Ceyl Prinster. 

“CEF was the first mission-driven lending organization in Colorado certified by the CDFI fund in 1996 to serve low-income and minority populations. Over the last two decades, CEF has leveraged $8.5 million in CDFI fund awards to loan more than $58 million, financing nearly 2,000 small businesses in our state,” Prinster states.

The fund has a national budget of just $250 million, Prinster asserts that the CDFI fund costs each American just 79 cents annually.

“CDFIs fill a vital need in the nation’s financial services eco-system by serving communities and market sectors that conventional lenders cannot,” Prinster says. “The ultimate goal of CDFIs is to bring their customers into the mainstream economy as bankable businesses, home owners and/or individuals.”

Indeed, the fund has the support of major banking associations, including the American Bankers Association, who have issued a letter to Congress in support of the CDFI fund.

Denver launches JumpStart Academy for startups

Denver is further cementing its reputation as a capital for startups with its recently launched JumpStart Academy. The academy is focused on second-stage growth, to help startups reach their next stages. 

The new academy is aimed at training, mentoring and providing opportunities for entrepreneurs. It builds on the other startup tools and resources Denver offers including the Commons on ChampaDenver Capital Matrix, Denver Startup Week and Denver Venture Capital Report.

The academy's initial class includes six local founders with the potential to attract capital and create jobs. Each of the companies in the inaugural class, including HyprLoco, LockState, Maria Empanada, Sugarwish and TurtleWise, have graduated from local incubator or business accelerator programs.

The new academy was launched by the Denver Office of Economic Development, the University of Denver's Project X-ITE and Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. "With the powerful expertise of both the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network and Project X-ITE to draw on, we're listening to these firms, and responding to their needs with a curated curriculum that positions them for their next round of funding," explains OED Executive Director Paul Washington.

During their six-month training at the academy the founders will receive customized training, mentoring and introductions to help their startups grow.

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

"The Whiskey Film" launches crowdfunding campaign

The filmmakers behind brewing documentary Crafting A Nation are now turning their lens on craft distilling in their new project, The Whiskey Film.

The project follows the story of the craft distilling revolution that's taken hold in Colorado in the recent years. "The whiskey industry in the United States is over 200 years old and when a Congressional resolution declared bourbon whiskey as America's native spirit in 1964, it gained a legitimacy in heritage. No other country can call their spirit bourbon whiskey. Since then, state laws have loosened to allow more distilleries to open and thrive," says Thomas Kolicko, the film's director. "What we're seeing now is a lot of very creative and driven entrepreneurs build upon the tradition. The Whiskey Film features the new generation of whiskey craftsmen and women and dives deep into the agriculture ties behind the end result."

The documentary, which will feature craft distillers from across the country, has focused on three Colorado companies: Colorado Springs-based Distillery 291, Deerhammer in Buena Vista and Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa. The documentary crew is currently looking for up to nine more distillers and whiskey-related agricultural operations to capture their stories, according to Stacey Fronek, a producer with Traverse Image, the production company behind the documentary. 

"This is a story about American craft whiskey and to tell that story well, we want to include distilleries from across the country who are innovating and demonstrate a strong connection to agriculture," Fronek explains. 

While Bourbon County and Kentucky Bourbon are often considered the home of bourbon and the heart of US whiskey manufacturing, Fronek says:  "To us, Colorado is the symbolic epicenter of the movement that is defining craft whiskey." Still, she adds, "We love Bourbon County and Kentucky bourbon, and have high hopes for filming there because of the rich history and tradition."

Traverse Image launched an Indiegogo campaign to support The Whiskey Film on March 15. It hopes to raise at least $100,000 to support the production of the project as each minute of the documentary costs roughly $1,000 to complete. "As we continue to fund the campaign, new filming locations will be 'unlocked' on the Indiegogo page," Fronek says. "Until then, the site of our next shoot will remain a mystery!"

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

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.

Go Code Colorado's 2017 challenge launching Feb. 1

The Go Code Colorado challenge is about to kick off in 2017. The state will announce the goal of this year's challenge on Feb. 1 at an event at the Golden Triangle Galvanize

It's the fourth year for the challenge. The event that brings together entrepreneurs, business partners and developers to harness the wealth of public data to create apps aimed at solving problems. 

Secretary of State Wayne Williams will kick off the event which will include thought leaders from across Colorado who will talk about what's happening in the tech/innovation sector with their community. It will be the first of numerous events in Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins and Grand Junction that will culminate in choosing winners at an event on May 24.

"Two teams from each challenge site will move on to a mentor weekend in Boulder to further flush out ideas with tech leaders, lawyers and entrepreneurs from across the state," says Go Code Colorado spokesperson Brandy Whalen. "Ultimately, 3 teams will take home $25,000 for the best app concept." The funds will help the teams make the concept a reality. 

The event is proving popular. "Last year we had around 200 people divided amongst 35 teams," Whalen says. 

In 2016 the teams were asked to create an app and business concept that helps businesses build a competitive strategy. The winners were Foodcaster, Regulation Explorer and Hively. "All three winning teams from last year are actively working on business and app development," Whalen explains. Foodcaster integrates foot traffic and cellular service data, food truck parking regulations, Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook to help food truck owners find optimal locations and times. Regulation Explorer aims to streamline the permitting process for oil and gas exploration. Hively is using employment data to help businesses make better hiring decisions.

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.

Denver-area startups win $15K in national Calvert Foundation competition

It was a Denver-area sweep for the 2016 Calvert Foundation Small Business Competition, with three local businesses winning the top three prizes in the national competition.

Outdoor adventure and clothing store Feral Mountain Company, took the top prize, $10,000. Denver's Pearl Wine Company took second, winning $3,000 and Golden-based rock and ice-climbing service Golden Mountain Guides, took third, winning $2,000.

"We are very proud of all our borrowers who participated in this competition and heartily congratulate those who won," says Ceyl Prinster, CEO of Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF), which supported each of the winners. "Starting a business can be cash-intensive, so when our borrowers are able to access additional funding that can help them grow to the next level, we are all for it."

It was the first time the Calvert Foundation held the competition, which was open to small businesses that received financing from nonprofit lenders like CEF. The goals of the contest, sponsored by the Calvert Foundation, were to promote small businesses with ties to the local community, enhancing business operations and educating people on investing in the local community and businesses that create local jobs. The contest also was aimed at generating awareness of the Calvert Foundation's Community Investment Note, which supports investments in small businesses. 

"We had over 5,000 votes -- way more than we expected," says Senior Officer of Investor Relations at the Calvert Foundation Katherine St. Onge. "We are so thrilled that the participants were able to showcase the value of small businesses to so many people!"

The Maryland-based Calvert Foundation launched the Ours To Own (OTO) Denver campaign in 2014. That effort is designed to channel capital towards community development efforts in Denver.

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

COIN announces new direction

The Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) is announcing a new focus and direction to place Colorado at the forefront of the civic disruption conversation. The organization will concentrate on public sector innovation.

COIN is a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade with the mission of advancing connections in the global innovation ecosystem to place Colorado as a leader in innovation. As such, it is pivoting toward more public sector innovation and will officially launch the new focus in early November. 

The public-private partnership has a physical and virtual global network of more than 2,000 people that support the state's innovation ecosystem, its growing companies, and are helping to create jobs in the state. 

The new focus will be announced at the Reverb Conference, hosted by COIN and Sound Ventures on Nov. 3. At the conference, COIN and partners also will announce the 2nd Imagine Colorado Innovation Challenge. The conference is aimed at matching public sector changemakers with entrepreneurs and innovators who are developing technologies ideal for the government.

The organization also is committed to expanding its actions with a new digital platform. COIN is expanding its reach through blogs, podcasts and video.

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

City releases new Denver Capital Matrix funding directory

The fifth edition of the Denver Capital Matrix  includes more than 400 potential funding sources. The city's Office of Economic Development offers the directory to help connect entrepreneurs and innovators with organizations and entities that can help them grow.

The office introduced the matrix during toward the end of Denver Startup Week to help give it maximum impact among startups and entrepreneurs. "Access to capital is a critical thread through every startup venture, and there are far more options for financing than many entrepreneurs realize," says OED Executive Director Paul Washington. "Denver enjoys a very healthy mix of investment and financing resources that are supporting our entrepreneurs."

The funding sources identified in the Denver Capital Matrix are a mix of investors, including banks, venture capital firms, private equity firms, angel investors, mezzanine sources, investment banking institutions and others. In addition to contact information, the matrix also identifies what type of investor they are and their target industries.

The matrix has grown significantly. "The 2012 edition listed approximately 260 resources, while this year's edition includes just over 400 resources," says Derek Woodbury, communications director with the Office of Economic Development. 

As a data source, the Denver Capital Matrix is limited to data and doesn't go into details, Woodbury explains. "While the document does not include grant forms or capital pitching tips, our office does provide one-on-one advisory hours to startups and entrepreneurs at the Commons on Champa."

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.

Colorado Technology Association starts tech internship accelerator

To encourage high schoolers to enter or consider careers in the booming tech industry, the Colorado Technology Association (CTA) partnered with Denver Public Schools and DPS CareerConnect and more than 20 civic and industry partners to launch the inaugural Civic Tech Internship Accelerator (CTIA). The new program for high schoolers was launched last week with 34 high school student interns.

Students from three DPS schools -- Abraham Lincoln, West and High Tech Early College (HITEC) -- are participating in the program. The curriculum will cover cybersecurity, cloud computing, GIS, UX and design sketching, creativity software and other technologies to show them what directions the industries are moving in and what opportunities are available while equipping them with the skills and knowledge for such careers.

The accelerator is not a full internship program, explains Program Coordinator Cyrus Martin. "It is an accelerator coinciding with DPS CareerLaunch, occurring every Friday during the six-week program." CareerLaunch is part of DPS CareerConnect program for students.

Fifteen companies are participating in the program. Among them are: Apple, Bit by Bit Analytics, Choozle, Coastal Cloud, Couragion, DaVita, Handy Networks, Ibotta, KidsTek, Minerva, OhHeckYeah, Secure Set, Turing, Universal Mind and Zayo Group.

Martin says that the junior and senior student interns work with their host organizations most of the week fulfilling 20 of their required 25 CareerLaunch hours. "We are fulfilling the other five each Friday by delivering 15 one- to two-hour industry-led tech trainings."

Currently, the internships are singular opportunities for the students and aren’t tied in with other local training programs or colleges directly, according to Martin. However, "Some of the civic hosting partners have expressed to the students that there are other opportunities to stay involved and some have informed students of additional, longer-term internship opportunities within their companies/organizations," he says.

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


Decibel Blue launches Decibel Green, a cannabis-focused marketing agency

Decibel Blue, a decade-old national digital marketing and public relations firm with offices in Denver and Phoenix, has launched a new sister agency, Decibel Green. The new agency will focus on cannabis and sustainability.

"Decibel Blue has been servicing cannabis clients for three years. It's the right time to give them more focus," says Decibel Blue Founder David Eichler. He explains that creating the sister agency will better position both companies to best serve their customers.

"My passion for cannabis is not only rooted in 30 years of enjoying it," Eichler says. "I have a chronically painful neck and my wife had cancer, thankfully a long time ago. I know first hand how powerful a medicine it can be. I am fortunate to have partners and a team who delivers incredible value to Decibel Blue's real estate, retail, healthcare and restaurant clients in both Denver and Phoenix. This deep bench allows me to focus on helping Decibel Green's clients achieve their goals."

The company has created local and national campaigns for the cannabis industry, already. In Washington, D.C., it's working with clients including the Marijuana Policy Project and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Locally, it has represented Puff, Pass & Paint and Your Green Contractor.

According to Eichler the company can advertise nationally, even though cannabis isn't legal across all the states. "Many dispensaries and content providers like Leafly do screen users by age when visiting their website. It's essential the industry is diligent and vigilant in making sure that cannabis is only being marketing legally, to adults," he says.

Decibel Green isn't the only cannabis-focused marketing agency in the U.S., according to Eichler. "There's plenty of business for everybody. What's important is that we foster a sense of community across every facet of this industry, including creative agencies."

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


Junior Achievement hosting mocktail hour

To prepare young people for careers Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain (JA) is hosting a mocktail event at The Curtis Hotel on June 8. The event will give more than 200 students from across Colorado a chance to participate in an event like a networking event to practice networking skills.

"JA provides programs for students which focus on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness. The goal is to teach concepts through experiential learning, allowing young people to put their new knowledge and skills into practice," explains Kim McGrigg, JA spokesperson.

"JA Business Week is one of our most in-depth and impactful programs; however we do offer many other K-12 programs," McGrigg says. "With the help of 6,000 volunteer role models, JA reached 136,000 local students this school year. Of those students, 44 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch."

The mocktail event is part of JA Business Week. The organization's aim is to prepare today's students for professional careers.

"Students who are returning to JA Business Week for the second or third time participate in the mocktail event," explains McGrigg. "There, they will learn the fine art of 'working a room' as they network with 25 volunteers from the business community."

During the week, which runs June 5-10, McGrigg explains that students will go to volunteer-led workshops. "For example, they attend a personal branding session as well as a networking/relationship-building workshop," she says, to help prepare them for the event.

Students attending JA Business Week for the first time will attend an etiquette dinner at The Curtis. "During the three-course meal, they learn about dining etiquette from a speaker with JDW Cotillion," McGrigg says.

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


Denver seeks public comment on four-year workforce plans

City officials is seeking comments on its workforce development services and program plans for the next four years. The plan is a draft for the city's state and federally funded workforce development services and programs and will help guide Denver as it strives to maintain a vibrant community with plenty of job and career opportunities.

The Denver Office of Economic Development said the report is designed to implement a "one-stop model that integrates WIOA [Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act] and [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] TANF programs into a seamless service delivery system." It will help the city plan how it will prepare the workforce of today and tomorrow. That includes developing places like The Commons on Champa to help encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

The plan will help the city and its citizenry identify career pathways and develop learning experiences that are business-driven, including transitional jobs, professional internships and on-the-job training, with a focus on developing apprenticeship programs in areas including IT and advanced manufacturing. It also will assist the city in developing a preferred training provider list that will offer clear and transparent information to prospective students about career pathways and preferred education and training programs for potential careers.

People, businesses and organizations may comment on the Denver WIOA 2016-2020 Area Plan through April 30. Public comments may be provided to Cindy Gaertner at cindy.gaertner@denvergov.org.

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


At 40, Colorado Enterprise Fund shows no signs of slowing down

The Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this March and will commemorate the milestone with events throughout the year. The nonprofit organization, dedicated to supporting small businesses and startups, loaned more than $7.1 million to small businesses in 2015 alone.

"This organization brought much-needed economic development initially to Denver, and then to the rest of Colorado. It was an opportunity to help Colorado communities find and develop their economic strength," says CEO Ceyl Prinster. "Small business is big business in Colorado, and Colorado Enterprise Fund has been part of making small business growth possible."

The organization isn't stagnating. Already in 2016, it was selected as a finalist in Colorado Impact Days, Prinster will serve as a panelist at the Denver Business Journal's Small Business Awards conference and luncheon in April and it will be recognized at ColoradoBiz Magazine's Top 100 Women-Owned Companies Reception in June.

The organization offers loans of up to $500,000 to entrepreneurs and small companies that can't access other financing. "We lend more than just money," Prinster says. "We provide our borrowers with one-on-one business training and coaching to help them succeed. And when our borrowers succeed, our local communities grow and thrive."

To showcase what it's been up to, CEF launched its "40 Success Stories in 40 Weeks," a social media campaign, which will run through October. The campaign will post stories to Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media outlets about companies that it's helped out in the past.

In October, CEF will host a 40th Anniversary Gala to celebrate its legacy, which includes providing 1,800 loans totaling over $49 million for to support small business growth and startups. It's also been recognized as the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Community/Rural Lender of the year in 2015, among other awards.

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

47 Capitol Hill Articles | Page: | Show All
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