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Turning the Corner offers insights on retaining tech talent

Denver's tech scene is booming, drawing plenty of talent to the region and developing talent locally. The city also is constantly ranked one of the best places to live. However, at least one ranking from Indeed in 2016 found that Denver's employees were the most disgruntled in the country, leading to high turnover rates. 

"It's primarily because the small business community here does not know how to create great work environments for people to thrive," explains Kendra Prospero, CEO of Turning the Corner, an employment services company. "We work with thousands of people every year and eight out of nine reasons they leave their job are because of management issues. This is magnified here in Denver -- the lack of investment the small business community is making in leadership and management basics is appallingly low, and it shows up with low engagement and high turnover."

In the tech industry, for instance, a PayScale report puts the average tenure of an employee at three years, even as employment in numerous parts of the tech industry are expected to see continued growth through at least 2024. Between high turnover and quick job growth, it's harder for companies to develop deep pools of talent in their employees. 

Prospero says that employers can change this trend in Denver by developing mindful leaders by investing in training that promotes better management. "We need to strive to make Denver the place that creates the most emotionally intelligent leaders, and if we do that, we'll have no problem attracting the best to any industry and any job," she says.

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

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.

Alterian relocates to Denver, re-emerges as marketing services provider

Alterian, a marketing services company, is making major changes. Following a management buyout by SDL, the company relocated its headquarters from Bristol in the United Kingdom to Denver and relaunched as a marketing services company focused on adaptive customer experience.

The company's services are aimed at allowing marketers to use consumer data and history to engage with customers in real time. Its Dynamic Decision Engine allows marketers to personalize the customer, manage the experience even if they're engaging with a site and over the phone at the same time, ensure followup and incorporate new learning about the customer into the system. 

"Our goal is to give marketers the ability to bring the rich history of consumer transactional data together with the real-time context of how the consumer interacts with the brand, providing a unique and consistent customer experience across channels," explains Robert Hale, Alterian CEO. "For many marketers, this is first time they can really seize the opportunity to connect data with customers -- on customers' terms -- to spark an instantaneous, welcomed exchange and create a profitable relationship."

In addition to the real-time services, Alterian's services also conduct batch campaigns and analytics. Those tools help marketers rapidly define audiences and find opportunities across their ecosystem, the company says.

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

Comcast Media and Technology Center opens at CU Denver

The $5 million Comcast Media and Technology Center at the University of Colorado Denver opened March 2. The new center is offering a specialized curriculum aimed at students of engineering or arts and media to solve real-world problems and engage audiences in collaborative activities in media.

"If creativity is the currency of the 21st century, then academic institutions need to join with media and technology organizations to work toward discovery and excellence in creativity," says College of Arts & Media Dean Laurence Kaptain. "Denver is the ideal place where our college can align with Comcast to advance the creative economy and the tools necessary to succeed after graduation."

The new center is part of the partnership between Comcast and CU Denver's College of Arts & Media and College of Engineering and Applied Science. It will bring together not only students and researchers but also Comcast employees and the community to develop new technologies. Courses in the center will help students build collaborative skills to create innovative media content.

"The Comcast Media and Technology Center is an example of how CU Denver works with our industry partners to develop innovative approaches to the problems of today," says CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell. "We're grateful for Comcast's support and delighted to be able to offer this resource for the community."

Comcast also will offer internships to CU Denver students. "The Comcast Media and Technology Center will help to empower the professionals of today and tomorrow with the skills they need to innovate the next generation of rich, immersive media experiences," says Comcast Technology Solutions Senior Vice President and General Manager Matt McConnell.

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


Lockheed Martin to move hundreds of jobs to Colorado, Florida

Lockheed Martin announced that it will move a total of 650 positions to Colorado and Florida by 2024. The company is making the move to relocate its Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) program from California.

"As our business evolves, we're adapting to ensure we deliver the innovation, affordability and performance our customers demand," says Mathew Joyce, vice president and general manager of Strategic and Missile Defense Systems for Lockheed Martin. "We've laid out a long-term strategy that will achieve that evolution and position us for the future, while offering our employees time to plan and prepare for the transition." 

The move is being made to cut costs and centralize its expertise in key locations, the company says. The sites in Florida and Colorado have complementary facilities and employee skill sets and most of Lockheed's employees will be offered a chance to move to work at one of the facilities. 

"We value the deep expertise of our employees, and we're working diligently to shape a transition that leverages the knowledge of this team," explains Rick Ambrose, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "Reshaping our Fleet Ballistic Missile program will help us take full advantage of our engineering and manufacturing facilities and centralize key skills, saving costs for the Navy on this critical national security program."

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

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.

Community Wealth Building Network announces first job opportunity

Metro Denver's Community Wealth Building Network aims to build wealth within the community through increasing local ownership, control of resources and income. To date, the network was supported by volunteers at other organizations. But now, it's ready to hire its first staff member. 

"We are looking for someone who can not only connect with disenfranchised community residents, but also feels comfortable meeting with organizational and Metro Denver leaders," says Patrick Horvath, interim vice president at The Denver Foundation. "Denver is on the cutting edge of this movement and we can be a proving ground for innovative economic strategies that lift whole communities."

To that end, the Community Wealth Building Network's new fellow will conduct on-the-ground research into current and potential community wealth building in the metro area. The fellow will work to strengthen connections between such efforts and with the network's partners. They will create a five- to seven-year community wealth building vision and plan for metro Denver.

Community wealth building engages in creating sustainable businesses that keep jobs and resources within the community. It also promotes land trusts, local procurement by institutions including universities and hospitals, local investing circles and community empowerment.

"Look at the Green Taxi company, which is the largest worker co-operative in Colorado: All the drivers own a share in the company as well as their vehicles," says Halisi Vinson, executive director of Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center (RMEOC), an organization that helps companies move from sole proprietorship to employee-owned businesses.

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

Colorado Harvest Company introduces Operation TransparenC

Colorado Harvest Company is introducing Operation TransparenC, an effort to show its growing processes in great detail to consumers and other industry members. In doing so, the company is aiming to show consumers how legal cannabis growers are distinguishing themselves from black market growers. The company is posting information about the purity and potency cannabis available from its three Colorado Harvest centers.

"Colorado Harvest Company is leading the way on  TransparenC, but our hope is that other companies follow suit," says CEO Tim Cullen. "I would welcome any partnership that has the same goals in mind." 

The company announced the new program last week after the the Colorado Department of Agriculture showed the purity of Colorado Harvest’s cannabis for the second consecutive year. The department tested hundreds of the company’s samples between November 2016 and January 2017. 

"We are constantly working toward ways to be different while providing a high quality experience for our customers," Cullen says. "There are two ways to look at regulation. One, it's a great opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves from the black market and shine for our customers; or two, the regulation becomes the focus and not the customer. We have to keep our eye on the ball while we comply with ever increasing demands from regulatory bodies." 

Cullen has begun speaking with 22 officials from state agriculture departments as far away as Florida and Guam. He also is presenting information about profitable and compliant production methods at two upcoming cannabis conferences.

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

Agility Recovery adds offices nationwide with new ReadyComplete suite

Agility Recovery, the Denver-based disaster recovery company that helps companies recover from hurricanes, floods, fires, blizzards and other challenging situations, is opening more than 3,200 locations across the country and internationally as part of its new ReadyComplete suite of services. The company provides its customer businesses with power, communications, computers and office space.

"Agility is providing access to thousands of office locations across the US and Canada, as well as overseas," explains Scott Teel, Agility Recovery marketing VP. "They are not Agility-owned office locations but are instead powered by the extensive portfolio of Regus-managed facilities."
 

The expansion is being funded by its investor, LLR Partners, Teel says. As the company expands it will add more positions both in Colorado and across the country. "We expect a company-wide head count increase of more than 10 percent for 2017 and continued growth over each of the next three years," Teel says. 

Agility relocated its headquarters from Charlotte, NC, to Denver in Oct. 2016, creating more than 40 jobs. "In 2016 we nearly tripled the number of employees on the Colorado team," Teel explains. "Some of these were transfers from the Charlotte office, but many were new hires. In January, we grew our Denver staff by 10 percent."

Teel says the company also expects to add more positions here. "We expect to add about 10 percent to our Denver head count over the course of 2017. Though we are always seeking to increase productivity and scalability through improved process and technology, we are still predicting even greater employee head count growth in Denver in 2018-19."

The growth comes as the market for recovery services is growing. It's currently valued at $40 billion and growing by 10 percent annually, according to TechTarget figures.

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


Gates rejoins Innovators Colorado

Gates Corporation has rejoined Innovators Colorado (iiCO), a network of Colorado-based companies working together to solve each others' problems and launch new companies and services to meet members' needs. The organization is the first regional chapter of Innovators International.

The Colorado chapter of Innovators International has already launched a company called iiFund, explains Thomas Knoll, president of Innovators Colorado. "It's a corporate venture capital fund created to help our members acquire and license new technologies." He adds, "We're in the process of creating several new companies that will acquire and license new technologies for our members. These companies will serve our members' strategic and financial interests."

Gates Corporation has renewed its membership to bolster its efforts to build the most cutting-edge growth engine in their industry. "Gates is interested in creating a new innovation management system that allows new ideas, products and services to move through their company more rapidly while producing better results," Knoll explains.

The organization's members include chief innovation officers and meet on a quarterly basis to discuss solutions to each other's innovation challenges. They also share venture capital and consulting services aimed at building innovation engines.

"The marketplace requires a relentless pace of continuous innovation and by joining forces with other large, innovative organizations we are better positioned to ensure our competitiveness," says Tom Pitstick, Gates SVP of Innovation.  "Innovators Colorado plays a critical role in helping Gates Corp build a reliable innovation department -- an engine for our company's growth."

Knoll says that Gates will use its partnership to help the company create a new innovation management system. The system will help new ideas, move through the company rapidly to create new products and services.

The group will have its next meeting at Colorado's CableLabs -- a member of iiCO -- on Feb. 23.

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.

Apto hiring 10 new employees in wake of accolades and awards

Apto's real estate platform for commercial real estate brokers was recently named one of the Best Mobile Apps by the Real Estate Tech Awards. The company was named by Outside as one of the best companies to work in 2016, and was also ranked among Inc.'s fastest growing companies in the U.S.

It should be no surprise that the company is increasing hiring and naming new executives. Case in point: Apto announced that it is hiring Steve Neely as its vice president of engineering. "Steve is uniquely qualified to lead Apto's engineering efforts and will uphold our commitment to providing unparalleled solutions to our customers," explains CEO Tanner McGraw. "We hired him for his proven ability to run a high-performing engineering team and to build products that help our clients be more successful. His international experience and perspective are certainly valuable both strategically and culturally." 

Neely has more than 15 years of experience in the technology sector. He most recently was part of Rally Software's research and development division at Rally Software. In his new position, Neely will advance commercial real estate technology innovation at the firm. 

The company also said it would hire at least nine more key people by March. "We're significantly scaling up our sales and engineering functions, so we're hiring sales reps and sales managers, as well as senior and junior developers," McGraw says.

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.

Colorado Technology Association wins Microsoft STEM grant for Denver students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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