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CO Impact Initiative launches a call for social impact investments in Colorado

CO Impact Days has launched a Call for Deals, an effort to raise $100 million in investment capital to support social impact efforts over the next three years. The organizers are creating a statewide marketplace for impact investment that they say is the first such marketplace in the U.S.

The Call for Deals is open to for-profit, nonprofits, funds and projects from Dec. 7 to Jan. 10, 2016. The Curtis Hotel and The Ellie Caulkins Opera House will host live events on March 3 and 4 in 2016 to discuss identify impact investing in Colorado as well as opportunities.

CO Impact Days is part of the larger CO Impact Initiative, which is aimed at making Colorado a "better place to live, work, and play," the initiative said in a statement. The initiative was founded by the University of Denver's Impact Finance Center in 2014.

Organizers anticipate that 200 impact investors will be at the event in March. "Social ventures responding to this call could be among the top 50 selected to participate in the first statewide marketplace for impact investing in the United States," CO Impact Days said in a statement.

During the live event, participants will interact in peer discussions and workshops led by industry experts and thought leaders, according to CO Impact Days.

Social ventures and organizations can apply for consideration here in one of six categories: Health, Wellness and Food; Arts, Culture and Creative Enterprise; Energy; Environment, Water, Transportation & Agriculture; Early Childhood and Education; and Economic Development Social and Justice.

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

More than 11,000 entrepreneurs use Commons on Champa in its first six months

The Commons on Champa launched just six months ago to support entrepreneurship and innovators in Denver. Already it's provided services, 85 percent of which were free, to 11,569 people. They've benefited from more than 150 programs offered on the campus.

The Downtown Denver Partnership, Colorado Technology Association, and the City and County and Denver launched the Commons on Champa this year with fully 39 organizations. The organizations involved varied from local nonprofits to the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. In all the supports contributed time and financial resources of $2.5 million to restore the building and create the space.

"The Commons on Champa opened as a first-of-its-kind resource that is now a go-to resource for anyone looking to start or grow a business in Denver," says Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. "With more than 620 center city startups employing more than 4,350 people, turning successful startups into thriving small businesses is central to ensuring an economically healthy and vital Downtown."

In addition to serving as a center for entrepreneurs, the Commons on Champa served as hub during Denver Startup Week and hosted the local championship of the 1776 Challenge Cup. It's been a meeting center to foster discussions about the community and hosts an extension office for Denver's Office of Economic Development. It also released the Denver Entrepreneurial Resource Navigator. The navigator was designed link entrepreneurs to resources and partners to help businesses grow. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and U.S. SourceLink partners to help produce the navigator.

"The Commons supports startups across all industries by emphasizing inclusivity and implementing programming to support diversity in entrepreneurship," says Erik Mitisek, CEO of the Colorado Technology Association. "The entrepreneurial ecosystem in our center city continues to strengthen thanks to initiatives like The Commons, and we are committed to providing the programming, resources and connections to help business builders in our center city succeed."

To continue to help grow the startup community, the Commons on Champa will host a mentor "speed dating" event on Dec. 15 aimed at aligning U.S. military veterans with Denver's growing startup community. It also will launch the "InCommons" Mentorship Program, in December. That program will connect entrepreneurs with some of the community's most successful business leaders, innovators and investors.

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

RAFT focuses on unique learning experiences with Broncos, new pilot

RAFT (Resource Area for Teaching) Colorado is gaining traction. It recently partnered with the Denver Broncos to create interesting STEM challenges for children, moved to Steele St. and is piloting new programs aimed at creating maker spaces.

"The Tackle STEM program is a partnership between the Denver Broncos and Arrow Electronics with a goal of promoting STEM learning for kids," explains RAFT Colorado Executive Director Stephanie Welsh. The partnership with the Denver Broncos and Arrow engages students with a popular team in Colorado as well as through experiential learning rather than learning via book or lecture.

"They have sponsored three activity kits for us:  the Broncos Blaster, Flick a Field Goal, and Broncos Biomechanics," Welsh says. "We launched these activities at Share Fair Nation held at University of Denver in September, where hundreds of kids had the opportunity to create and play and learn from them, and we now are stocking the kits in our resource center."

The organization also is launching a Mobile Make pilot program in the Spring. Though details on the program are being refined, Welsh says it will take RAFT's resources to students and teachers around Colorado. "The content will focus on making -- we will help libraries and schools learn how easy and inexpensive it can be to set up and run maker spaces and how to maximize the learning that happens within them, by setting up temporary maker spaces for community members to enjoy and then by providing training for teachers and librarians," she explains.

It's an expansion of RAFT Colorado's core, which makes use of donated materials to help advance education for kids. The materials can be purchased by schools or teachers for their own in-class projects. "These donations are the most helpful for us because, in addition to the higher volume, we receive large quantities of the same item, which is helpful for teachers who need enough materials for all of their students, and for us when we are assembling hundreds of money- and time-saving educational activity kits," Welsh explains.

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

Craftsman & Apprentice crowdfunding workshop expansion

Craftsman & Apprentice, a maker workshop that launched in 2014, is seeking to expand into a new space via Kickstarter.

The new space would allow it to create a retail co-op for crafts and wares made by its makers and workshop leaders and separate production and workshop space. It would allow the startup to purchase more tools, create a production space and host different types of events, like live music.

The space began as a place where husband and wife Jonathan Fessler and Delanie Holton-Fessler could work and host the occasional wooden-bow workshop and market. Now it hosts workshops where adults can learn about everything from making a better pie crust to carving a wooden spoon, hosting drop-in workshops and Saturday kid workshops, where kids can get supervised, hands-on experience learning and tinkering with wood, scraps, cardboard and tools like hammers and drills.

Now the owners are looking to expand the concept to have dedicated maker spaces as well as a dedicated retail space with gallery and learning spaces. To achieve that they’re looking to Kickstarter to expand into a storefront two doors down their current space, where workshops can be louder. The expansion also would support purchasing a kiln and more tools, as well as a scholarship program to help more kids learn about making.

Some of the rewards for investing are pretty unique, including getting your sidewalk shoveled by Jon -- in the neighborhood -- for $20. Others include workshops for kids (like tinker time and bow-and-arrow carving) and adults (including fermentation classes, woodworking with reclaimed wood and pie crust mastery).

The Kickstarter campaign runs through Dec. 7.

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

Canopy Advisory Group connects 'highlancers' with jobs

A report in October from The Freelancers Union and Upwork showed that 54 million people in the U.S. are freelancing, and 60 percent of them are doing so by choice. That's nearly a third of the 157 million people working in the U.S.

Denver's Canopy Advisory Group is focused on the higher end of freelancers and helps connect 'highlancers' -- professionals who still want challenging work but might be single mothers or Baby Boomers who still want to work but not full-time.

Canopy's highlancers are professionals who have had 10 or more years at big firms. They are professionals that made careers in marketing, non-profits, strategy, law and finance. "Many of them feel that their experience in the corporate world has left them disillusioned and dissatisfied," says Brooke Borgen, who founded the company with Griffen O'Shaughnessy in 2009. " Acting as independent consultants, highlancers have ownership over their careers. This particular aspect is appealing to high-achievers who crave challenging assignments and meaningful work, as well as flexibility and freedom to balance family life and personal interests."

"Canopy has about 40 highlancing consultants in its current portfolio and continues to selectively bring on new talent as opportunities arise," Borgen says. "We have specifically chosen to be a boutique firm that thoroughly vets new members and knows each consultant personally, rather than becoming a giant database of names and skills." The company has expanded out of Denver and into Seattle and plans to have an active group of 15 to 20 consultants there by the end of next year.

The company creates access to these freelancers as consultants and serves as an advocate for them. "Our consultants earn a higher hourly take-home rate through Canopy than they did through their previous full-time jobs because of Canopy's low overhead," Borgen says. She adds that their pay rate is between $75 and $175 an hour based on the project and client.

Borgen and O'Shaughnessy say they spend a lot of time in coffee shops with business and nonprofit leaders to understand their needs and see how Canopy's consultants can meet them. The company also encourages its consultants to do engage in business development and they receive a bonus for bringing new clients into its portfolio, which is helping it grow its network of clients and consultants.

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

Golden's HomeAdvisor to open Denver office amid new purchases, partnerships

HomeAdvisor, an online home services marketplace formerly known as ServiceMagic, is getting ready for its next big moves. That includes opening up a sales and training office at 15th and Wazee streets in January and relocating its headquarters and 300 or more of its more than 900 positions from Golden to Denver.

The new sales and training office in Denver is designed as a training and leadership program to help develop small business leaders and entrepreneurs, according to spokesperson Brooke Gabbert. "It's to build and capitalize on what Denver is seeing right now. Developing the entrepreneurial spirit and growing them as leaders," she says. "We plan on having 60 to 70 employees in that office." She says the company plans to open that office on Jan. 4.

That program, Gabbert explains, calls for a two-year commitment and will develop develop small business leaders as well as prepare participants for sales and leadership jobs within HomeAdvisor. As such, she says it's a program that's similar in some aspects to those available through Galvanize or the Commons on Champa.

Also, the company hasn't finalized its plans yet but Gabbert confirmed that it plans to move its headquarters from Golden to Denver. "Being closer to downtown is better for recruiting," HomeAdvisor CEO Chris Terrill told The Denver Post. "It will be a place we can grow. We're actually growing so quickly that when we started the process of looking downtown, we're already larger than we thought we'd be."

The company is making other moves. It recently announced a partnership with Google allowing homeowners to book appointments with home service providers Google's search results via a "Book Now" option. "No other player in our category is able to power instant scheduling at such massive scale," Terrill said in a release. "It will also drive more qualified customers to the small businesses in our marketplace -- a marketplace that will drive an estimated $25-$30 billion of gross marketplace transactions this year alone."

In addition HomeAdvisor's parent company, IAC/InterActiveCorp, made a bid to acquire HomeAdvisor's rival Angie's List for roughly $512 million. "The combination of the Angie's List brand, highly trafficked website and its network of paying service professionals with our HomeAdvisor business, the category leader which has seen eight consecutive quarters of accelerating growth in its core U.S. business, would cement our position as the premier home services platform," said Joey Levin, CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp. 

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

Commons on Champa will host local 1776 Challenge Cup for startups

On Nov. 24, the Commons on Champa will host the local event for the international startup event, 1776 Challenge Cup. The event precedes the regional competition in New York and the global competition in Washington, D.C., where winners will compete for more than $1 million in prizes.

This year Denver is one of 45 cities around the world hosting a local competition. Local judges will choose three winners that will be flown to the Challenge Cup Regional competition in New York.

The Challenge Cup is produced by 1776, which bills itself as a global incubator and venture fund. The cup is a worldwide tournament, according to the organization. "Together, with our Startup Federation partners, Revolution, the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and over 50 incubator hosts around the world, we’ll discover the most promising, highly scalable startups that are poised to solve the major challenges of our time," 1776 officials explained in a statement.

The local competitions around the world will select a total of 135 winners who will then compete for the regional and international prizes. Happy hour and opening remarks begin at 5:30 p.m. and winners will be announced starting at 8 p.m.

Registration to compete in the Denver event is closed, but people can register to attend the free event here. Information about the selected competitors should be announced by Fri. Nov. 13.

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

Stellar Jay launches leather tie line that could only come from Denver

Certain things make sense coming from the Mile High City, like Stellar Jay's new ties. The ties celebrate the spirit of the West with one of its classic fabrics, leather, harnessed in a unique way in neckwear.

Stellar Jay is the creation of Zach Blaine in RiNo. "All of my products are cut from full leather hides in small batches. From there, I work with a small network of seamstress locally to perform the stitch work," he explains. 

While the ties are, well, tied, leather, obviously, isn’t as pliable as silk or cotton or other materials commonly used for neckties. "The leather neckties . . . are all made from suede leather, which is more pliable than other leathers," Blaine says.

"This material folds easily in your hand and the narrow cut allows for an easy fold. That being said, the best knot for this kind of tie is a four-in-hand," Blaine says. "A full Windsor knot could be a challenge. The neckties are approximately 1/16-inch in thickness. The bow ties fasten with an adjustable leather strap."

The leather ties are relatively simple, basically a single color and with stitching on the edge, which Blaine says offers structure and durability to the tie. "The stitching also adds a nice contrast to the color of the tie and helps draw the eye to the necktie.  As long as the tie is properly cared for it should have exceptional longevity -- untying the tie after use and hanging the tie on a hanger to avoid wrinkles." 

Both Zach and his brother are building businesses out of their RiNo Apartment. His brother is designing furniture from repurposed materials in Cambodia, which is currently only for sale in Cambodia but has plans to expand to the U.S. Meanwhile Stellar Jay is currently available online, but Blaine is looking to get into physical locations.

"I am targeting primarily small boutiques, which already capture the aesthetic we are looking for," Blaine says. The ties are available at Decade, Fancy Tiger, Steadbrook and Berkeley Supply and other stores in Denver.

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

goingto.do launches 2.0 integrating Uber transportation, beacon tech

So you're stuck in a city on a Tuesday night and don't know what's happening. That's where goingto.do comes in. It's an entertainment app built in Denver that connects users with local events from around the country by harnessing big data.

The free app designed for mobile devices has just launched its second version, bringing a new user interface, as well as a host of other information and features that take advantage of a smartphone's capabilities. The new features include Uber integration, iBeacon functionality, weather information, push notification capability and Canadian events.

"We are excited to announce the release of goingto.do version 2. We have worked quickly and strategically to offer our growing user base the most efficient and informative services yet," says co-founder Bryan Basset. The company launched in 2104, showing the speed of moving to the second version and its new important functionalities. "The Beacon capability will drive business and spontaneity among our users."

By taking advantage of a device's GPS capabilities the app begins to narrow interests down to a location. Adding a users' preferences further narrows that information down to their interests and location. It also offers directions on who to get to the event as well as coordinating Uber transportation.

The free app also allows beacon capability for businesses. This allows local businesses to provide location-based events, deals and promotions through the app's push notifications -- things like a flash sale at a retailer or a happy hour at a watering hole. The company says it's the only one to offer such a service for businesses.

Business owners can submit ideas for events on the app's event management screen, and leave it to goingto.do to help with the promoting and managing. The app is available for Android and iOS-equipped devices, including smartphones and tablets.

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

Relevant ReUse turns old skis into new jewelry

Relevant ReUse is finding ways to make your old castaway skis, wood scrap and other things into handsome, interesting and functional furniture and is creating one-of-a-kind wallets out of recycled leather and bike tubes and skis into unique jewelry -- just in time for ski season. More importantly, though, the company is giving disadvantaged women a second chance.

"Relevant ReUse is a local, woman-owned, jewelry and furniture business, which supports our mission by contracting our employees to make handmade jewelry out of old, upcycled skis," explains Mile High WorkShop Director of Operations and Production Jeremy Katz.

Relevant ReUse owner and designer Heather Mullins partnered with organization to give women recovering from addiction, homelessness, or former incarceration a chance to start over crafting the jewelry and the company's other recycled goods. Mullins contracts and trains Mile High WorkShop employees to handcraft the earrings and prep them for sale and each sale helps support the job training and employment program at the Mile High WorkShop in Englewood.

Considering that ski and holiday seasons are about to get underway it's an ideal time to launch a unique line of jewelry. By design all of the jewelry is unique. "The beauty of this jewelry is that no two pieces are identical. The skis have been cut to ensure that every necklace or pair of earrings is completely unique," Mullins says.

Currently Relevant ReUse's products are available at a number of spots in Denver, including Re-For Your Home, I Heart Denver and Icelantic Skis.

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

Uber's AMBER Alert program, piloted in Denver, goes nationwide

Uber announced that its AMBER Alert program was launched nationwide after successfully being piloted in Denver. The company began testing the implementation of the alert system, which is designed to alert people in a geographic area by any means necessary about an abducted child in the region, in July 2015.

The Colorado-based branch of the ride service developed the idea and brought it to fruition. Explains Will McCollum, general manager of Uber of Colorado, "These are real people on the road at that time, they're the eyes and ears, and if they can help out local authorities our drivers want to do so."

As of August 2015 the AMBER Alert Program has been vital to recovering 772 children across the U.S. It's a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry and pushes out all available information about serious child abductions. They're broadcast through radio, television, road signs and all available technology, including cell phones. Uber harnessed its power as a network of drivers and riders to incorporate the service.

"The AMBER Alert program's success is built on the ability to reach the right people at the right time with these potentially life-saving messages," says Robert Hoever, director of special programs, Missing Children Division, National Center For Missing & Exploited Children. "Uber's presence in communities all across the country will be an incredible asset and we are proud to team up with Uber to increase the reach of the AMBER Alert program and help bring more missing children home safely."

Uber's drivers in more than 180 cities across the U.S. will now receive time-sensitive and critical AMBER Alerts specific to their region through their app. The company explains that its "driver-partners" now receive geographically targeted information that may help to locate and recover a missing child as soon as a bulletin goes out.

"As a data-driven company, we understand the power of information for communities," Uber says of the service. "Since day one, our mission has been to connect people with reliable rides through the use of data and technology. As our footprint has grown throughout the years, so has our ability to use the Uber network in different ways."

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

The Whole Works takes The Wright award for 2015

On Oct. 20, SPACE Gallery hosted the annual Wright awards from Something Independent celebrating the intersection of lifestyle and leadership. The Whole Works won the 2015 Wright and the $5,000 award that came with it.

The annual event, organized by Denver's Something Independent, focuses on identifying companies that are exhibiting leadership at the intersection of lifestyle and commerce. The Whole Works, a new clothing production facility in Rifle, won the award this year. The company works with customers, including Colorado's Voormi, to produce products as needed.

"As one of the first public benefit corporations in the state, we are focused on making a social impact by partnering with a job preparation program that teaches production sewing to women who are transitioning from federal assistance," the company said in a statement.

Thanks to its operating model, the company said it is able to promise shorter turnaround times on projects and produce smaller volumes of orders. It's a selling point as more companies are looking to re-shore manufacturing in the U.S.

This year's other finalists for The Wright were ReActive Adaptations, which makes off-road handcycles and downhill machines and The Public Works, a Denver-based design, fabrication and multimedia marketing firm.

The event had fully 125 applicants in 2015. Judges winnowed the number down to 10, then three and finally chose the winner.

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

Faction introduces FAST hybrid cloud customizations for customers

Denver's Faction is upping the ante on cloud technologies by launching Faction Advanced Solutions Team (FAST). The team is dedicated to developing cloud services for clients that are customized to their needs.

"Faction prides itself on delivering truly customized cloud platforms, unlike other cloud providers who typically only offer one-size-fits-all options," contends Faction CEO Luke Norris. "Through our Faction Advanced Solutions Team, our customers have access to some of the most talented and innovative cloud design experts in the industry."

While the cloud is out there many options don't allow for a lot of customization. Faction's software-as-a-service platform allows for more customization and its FAST services will allow for even more customization. The company says its services can be structured as a private cloud, public cloud or a hybrid system.

For instance, earlier in 2015 its services helped Altitude Tickets sell 140,000 tickets for Garth Brooks at the Pepsi Center in under three hours. By offering the company an opportunity to use increased CPU, RAM and storage during the initial crush of requests, it was able to keep the site from crashing.

While most of this can be handled with its services online, the company realizes that some customers will need more advanced solutions or ones that might not have been developed yet. "When deeper engineering expertise is required, for requests such as bare metal installations, calibrating applications for the cloud, or even hybrid cloud architecture development, FAST will execute these complex tasks to completion," the company explains.

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

DAM seeks input from local creatives for 2016 programming

On Nov. 20, the the Denver Art Museum (DAM) will host Meet Here: An Evening of Idea Brewing and Creative Criss-Cross." The meeting is intended to bring together creatives from various disciplines to help develop ideas for DAM's programs in 2016. The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. The museum is welcoming all sorts of people in the creative community from chefs to dancers, crafters, musicians and artists.

The brainstorming session will help the museum plan out its Untitled Final Fridays, a series of events that the museum offers on the final Friday of every month except November and December. "This program offers a unique museum experience with unconventional art encounters, new insight into the DAM collections, artmaking activities and more," DAM explained in a release. "At each Untitled event, the museum highlights a specific theme with exhibition-related activities and community collaborations."

In addition to the Untitled series, attendees will also be able to give input and insight into museum residencies and outdoor installations. This year, museum officials are particularly focused on dance and it wants to have outdoor dance programs in summer 2016.

While the Nov. 20 session is designed to help the museum create relevant events tailored to its community, it already has some broad themes planned for each date. ere's a list of the date and proposed themes for each event:

  • Jan. 29: Family Matters  
  • Feb. 26: Homegrown
  • March 25: Risky Business
  • April 29: Show Down
  • May 27: Rising Sun
  • June 24: Power House
  • July 29: In-Sync
  • Aug. 26: Center Stage
  • Sep. 30: Stop Motion
  • Oct. 28: Glory Days

RSVP here.

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

Denver 8 launches new brand, shows

The municipal TV station, Denver 8, recently launched a new brand identity and advertising campaign, "It's All About Denver," aimed at meeting the changing needs of the city. The new campaign is designed to showcase the station's award-winning and new, exclusive programming.

The new campaign includes a new logo, website, outdoor billboards and television as well as newspaper ads. To launch the new campaign Mayor Michael Hancock, local musicians and Executive Chef Troy Guard are appearing in the campaign touting the slogan: "Denver 8, It's All About Denver."

"Denver 8 is leading the way in dynamic and cutting edge municipal TV programming," asserts Denver Media Services Director Julie Martinez. "We want the community to know about our Emmy Award-winning programming and the special coverage we provide for everything from new local music, to the visual arts." This year, the station's lifestyle show, Dtown, won a Heartland Emmy Award, for instance.

The campaign focuses on programming like Dtown as well as its local music shows including Denver Loft Sessions and Red Rocks Premieres, both of which premiered over the past year. It's also focussing on the station's upcoming shows, including ArtScene and a new collaboration with Mile High Sports Magazine to introduce a sports talk show.

The station is attempting to gain new viewers with the campaign and educate them about the information and shows that Denver 8 offers to residents. The station is available on Comcast and Century Link on channel 8 and in HD on channel 880.

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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