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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.

CU Denver launches 15th annual THE CLIMB business plan competition

THE CLIMB, a competition to develop a business plan through the University of Colorado Denver's Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, is set to begin its 15th year with a new, non-collegiate competition, expanded footprint and a citizen vote. The competition, which starts Sept. 8, will culminate in an award event on Nov. 10.

The goal of the competition is to help entrepreneurs transform concepts into viable businesses through mentorship opportunities. Previously, the competition was only available to college students but now includes a non-collegiate track for Colorado-based startups. In addition the competition is now open to collegiate applicants from Arizona as well as students from Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana. 

Since the competition began in 2001, it's awarded $1 million and shared more than 500 mentor hours. Some of the previous winners of THE CLIMB include Rosenberg's Bagels, AppIt Venturesbeautifuli.com and Living Ink Technologies, says Sarah Engel, assistant director of the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship. "Rosenberg's Bagels is definitely recognizable in Denver," Engel says. 

"With thousands of business plan competitions available in the U.S. alone, these events are more than just a means to fund a big idea," says Madhavan Parthasarathy, director of the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship and an associate professor at CU Denver. "We redesigned our competition to deliver a comprehensive, real-world business and learning experience. The caliber of entrepreneurial experts, organizations and faculty that teams have access to in this competition is truly priceless. The financial payout is simply a bonus." 

Judges, including namesake Jake Jabs, will send 10 collegiate teams to the semi-finals. During the Collegiate & Community Pitch Night on Oct. 13 the audience will have the opportunity to invest "CLIMB cash" to advance one more collegiate team and three community startup businesses to the finals event in November. "As a public university with strong ties to our community, we wanted to give people an opportunity to engage in the competition and cast their vote for who they think would keep Colorado's entrepreneurial spirit moving forward," Parthasarathy says.

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

Rose Community Foundation awarding Innovate for Good grants

The Rose Community Foundation will host an event at the Cable Center on Sept. 14 to award grants through its Innovate for Good program, which is supporting youth projects and youth-adult projects with a total of $250,000. The program announced the nine finalists for the youth-adult partnerships this week and will choose the six awardees, each of which will receive $30,000 to realize their projects, at the event.

The organization already selected four youth-led projects to each receive a $5,000 grant and support to realize their projects. The youth awards will support the CeC Early College Mentorship Program, which will mentor-match high school junior students with high-school freshmen; the Juniors for Seniors project to build one-on-one relationships with teen volunteers and nursing home residents; the Stories Worth Saving project for teens to document stories of assisted-living residents; and the Theatre for Social Change Group project which aims to offer teens ways to use the arts to explore difficult social issues. 

For 2016, the second year for the awards, the foundation asked youth and youth partnering with adults to develop projects that answer the question: "What idea could you bring to life to empower youth to make the community better?"

Last year's awards challenge didn't have a thematic focus, according to Sarah Indyk, Rose Community Foundation's director of special projects. This year it was separated into two different pathways, with the youth awards and the youth-adult awards. "The youth-led projects were really conceived of by youths without formal adult partners," she explains. She adds that since the adult-youth partnership projects are a lot different it made sense to go through a parallel process; the Sept. 14 event will decide which youth-adult projects will be funded.

“Both groups will benefit from extensive training coaching and support from the Youth Leadership Institute,” Indyk says. "We're running a full incubator providing support to all awardees and finalists. It's a way we could support all the finalists even if they don't receive funds. That amounts to $50,000 in additional support."

Visit rcfdenver.org/IFG to learn more about the program and finalists.

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

Denver Startup Week will feature "Silicon Valley" show members, and first pitch challenge

With hundreds of events lined up and more than 10,000 expected attendees, Denver Startup Week 2016 has something for every entrepreneur, including a job fair, the Denver Startup Week Pitch Challenge and a discussion with Silicon Valley regular Suzanne Cryer and producer and writer Adam Countee who will take at a panel called The Intersection of TV and Tech Startups.

This year's events kick off with a Sept. 12 breakfast keynoted by Ryan Wood, a former fullback for the Dallas Cowboys and co-founder of billion-dollar Under Armour. The day will end with a party at Denver Union Station expected to draw 1,500 people or more. 

Beyond being just for entrepreneurs, this year's startup week will feature a startup job fair on Wednesday at the Buell Theatre. Organizers say that last year more than 40 companies were at the job fair seeking candidates and this year they expect even more companies to attend. 

However, what's likely one of the more anticipated events is The Intersection of TV and Tech Startups, a discussion with Countee and Cryer of HBO startup spoof Silicon Valley, hosted by Colorado-based satellite TV provider DISH. They will talk about the show's comedy and the culture of tech startups and participate in a Q&A. 

The week will end Thursday night at Galvanize Platte with the finals of the first Denver Startup Week Pitch Challenge.

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

Denver Startup Week Challenge will offer awards to most innovative startups

It's almost time for Denver Startup Week, and already things are heating up. Event organizers and the University of Denver's Project X-ite recently announced the Denver Startup Week Challenge, asking the most innovative companies in Denver to give their best pitched to a panel of judges. The best pitch will win awards, which have not yet been named.

Like Denver Startup Week, the challenge will be divided into four tracks, which will be determined based on the submissions received. Up to eight semifinalists will be chosen by entrepreneurs and industry professionals who will judge submissions related to their field.

Interested companies can submit their proposals through Aug. 29. Semifinalists will be notified of the their status around Sept. 1. On Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, the entrants will compete. The top two finalists from each track will present their pitch in front of the startup community on Sept. 15 at Galvanize on Platte.

The organizers said that all Denver-area based startup with less than $5 million in outside investment are eligible to participate. They must also be less than three years old.

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


Gaming bar Board Game Republic opens in Baker

Denver's Board Game Republic is holding its grand opening this weekend. The pub and cafe boasts more than 600 board games for those who aren't just satisfied with the average game of Sorry! anymore and want to up their Parcheesi game instead.

"Board games are perfect at bringing people together and creating interaction," says founder Keith Meyers. Meyers is well-suited as game master and curator for the cafe. He's worked for Hasbro, The Game Keeper and IELLO, among others, and  has invented dozens of games and taught classes in game design.

The pub will host its grand opening on Aug. 20-21. The opening will include local gaming celebrities and publishers.

"We'll have hourly drawings for free stuff -- games, promos, toys and just plain goofy things," Meyers says. "We'll have pop-up tournaments for prizes, scattered over the weekend." He adds that events will culminate in a grand prize drawing of $250 worth of board in games, sponsored by Time Well Spent games and $250 in smaller prizes.

Like newer room escape adventures, Board Game Republic is designed to embrace Denver's gaming culture without sticking them in front of a computer screen. The collection of games ranges from Monopoly and Clue to modern titles including Settlers of Catan or Pandemic, and party games such as Telestrations and Codenames.

Visitors to the unique pub on 1st Avenue and Santa Fe Drive can pay $5 to receive all-day access to collection of games. Staff is on hand to serve food and introduce visitors to new games.

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


FullContact brings in $25 million to expand, add employees

Cross-platform contact management startup FullContact announced that it raised $25 million to fuel its growth. The company said in a statement that the funding will allow it to grow its business, recruit global talent and fund acquisitions.

FullContact officials plan to more than double its workforce next year. The company will begin hiring in the second half of 2016 and and begin opening additional offices. With headquarters in Denver, FullContact already has offices in Riga, Latvia and Dallas, and plans to open additional offices.

The new funding round was led by Foundry Group and included investments from Baird Capital, Shea Ventures and Blue Note Ventures. With this round of funding the company has raised $50 million.

"With over 40 billion contact records under management, FullContact was already on track to more than double recurring revenue for the fourth straight year," says Brad Feld, managing director of Foundry Group. "The funding will be used to support the company's rapid growth by further expanding sales, marketing and engineering." He adds that the funding also will grow its technology and data assets.

The company has previously acquired other companies including mobile contact management application Cobook, an SaaS-based customer data intelligence service and social address book Brewster.

FullContact's suite of products is aimed at contact management for individual professionals, businesses and software developers. It offers free iPhone and Android apps, which can transcribe business cards, add social profiles to contacts and sync contacts across multiple address books.

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.


Pop-up beer garden coming to Skyline Park

Beginning Aug. 19, Skyline Park will host a pop-up beer garden showcasing Colorado craft beers. Adults will be able to enjoy a beer at a 40,000-square-foot area at Skyline Park and relax in the shade under a tent or in open-air seating. The beer garden is part of the city's effort to encourage activities in Denver's public spaces like the Meet in the Street events.

"The Downtown Denver Partnership is excited to bring forward a new and unique program to encourage residents, employees and visitors to gather in Downtown Denver in one of our most vibrant parks," says John Desmond, executive vice president of downtown environment for the Downtown Denver Partnership. "The Skyline Beer Garden builds on several initiatives to bring diverse and attractive programming to Skyline Park and support long-term strategies to create a premier outdoor downtown that contributes to an economically thriving center city."

The family-friendly beer garden will feature 12 beers on tap and serve food from the Lowry Beer Garden. Oktoberfest-style tables will seat more than 350, and the operation will create 15 to 20 jobs while open through Sept. 15. 

The menu will include gourmet brats, burgers, salads, pretzels and dipping sauces. The garden also will host music on Fridays and Saturdays and the garden will include ping pong, a nine-hole miniature golf course and cornhole. 

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

Follow Your Fruits & Veggies Journey, a monthlong celebration of local foods, kicks off


This August, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and its Colorado Proud program are celebrating local food and food manufacturers with the Follow Your Fruits & Veggies Journey. The celebration launched Aug. 1 on Colorado's 140th birthday as part of Gov. Hickenlooper's Colorado Proud month, with a pop-up picnic at the History Colorado Center.

More than ever, Colorado restaurants are sourcing locally grown produce, and manufacturers are using local ingredients ranging from honey to fruits to vegetables to grains. Supermarkets carry local cheeses, spreads, sodas, tinctures and other products.

"The event is a great way to recognize Colorado's past and celebrate the people that continue to make the state a great place to work and live," says Wendy White, marketing specialist for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. "We are excited to host a pop-up picnic on Colorado Day as it allows us to educate consumers on the benefits of buying and eating local produce while celebrating the farmers, ranchers and food producers that contribute to the vitality of the state."

While Denver is often regarded as an IT mecca, it's worth remembering that the state's economy is largely an agricultural one. In fact, the agriculture department notes that it's one of the state's top three industries with more than 173,000 jobs and that it contributes $41 billion to the state's economy annually.

In all, the campaign is hosting 20 events -- with multiple events in Denver -- throughout the month. The events throughout the month will take place at stores, farmers markets and other venues, including events at Union Station, Fiddler's Green and Old South Pearl Street. Events will link the stages of locally grown produce and connect Coloradans to local farmers and educate consumers about local produce, like Palisade peaches, Rocky Ford melons and Olathe sweet corn.

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.


Colorado STEMworks helps investors find STEM programs

Colorado STEM has added six science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs ideal for investment to its STEMWorks database.Three of the programs in the database were newly added, the three others moved up in the program, joining a number of other programs in the database that the organizers deem investment worthy for business leaders, funders and advocates.

Colorado STEMworks lists more than 20 programs as potentially worthy of investment, up from seven programs in its first year. These include locally grown programs like Denver Public Schools CareerConnect, Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Urban Advantage Metro Denver and local versions of Smithsonian Science Education Center's Leadership Assistance for Science Education Reform.

Adams 12 Five Star SchoolsSTEMinspired, Open World Learning and ST Math were added to the Colorado STEMworks database. KidsTek and LAB-AIDS boosted their status in the database from "Promising to Accomplished."

"Defining quality in STEM education and supporting programs to meet a high bar of excellence for Colorado students ensures that companies have a way to make meaningful investments in education," said Angela Baber, STEM Director of the Colorado Education Initiative (CEI). "We are delighted to be welcoming more programs into this growing coalition of STEM programs that we know deliver results for Colorado kids and Colorado companies." The STEMworks database is organized by CEI and the Colorado Technology Association using the national Change the Equation model of application and review to add programs.

The program has drawn investments from major local companies like Arrow Electronics. "Arrow's investment in STEMworks is an opportunity to help shape the next generation of employees," said Alex West, corporate social responsibility manager at Arrow. "Will they work for Arrow some day? Who knows, but I certainly hope so." 

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.
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