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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.

Hillary Clinton visits Denver trading startup PanXchange

PanXchange announced that Hillary Clinton visited the startup shortly after it launched the first U.S. pilot of its web-based trading software. Clinton was on hand to discuss her innovation and technology agenda at the woman-led business.

"I know just a little bit about commodities -- and their trading, their buying, their selling -- both futures and the actual commodities themselves," Clinton remarked after touring the facility at Galvanize. "And what you are doing, Julie [Lerner], is just transformational. . . . This kind of effort is opening up markets, creating more transparency which will benefit so many of the people who are actually doing the hard work of producing food and trying to get it to market, and create a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities. So, I'm thrilled by that."

The visit came the day after PanXchange launched its pilot for feed grains in the U.S. The pilot launched with 15 industry partners and already has added more. The pilot will run through July and is expected to launch out of beta in September. In 2015 the company launched its platform in East African countries including Kenya Uganda and Tanzania allowing the trade of maize, millet, sorghum and dried beans.

"I was expecting a quick meet and greet, but was pleasantly surprised at how pointed her questions were. It was clear that she was familiar with the work we're doing," Lerner says of the visit. "She asked about the inroads we've been making in East African grain and beans markets and our launch in U.S. feed ingredients. We then showed her the live trading screens and discussed our plans for growth."

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


Mile High WorkShop expands, offers local makers space

Mile High WorkShop, an innovative job training program that helps disadvantaged people learn employable skills, is expanding. The workshop, which launched in 2014, is expanding into a 13,000-square-foot space where other businesses will have an opportunity to rent space.

"A larger space will allow us to grow our business and increase our ability to employ and train members of our community who are rebuilding from prison, addictions and homelessness," says Mile High WorkShop Director Andy Magel. "The additional square footage provides room to partner with innovative businesses in town while furthering our job-creation mission."

Magel says Mile High Workshop will share the new location with Bud's Warehouse. Local businesses and makers can rent the space on a sliding scale. If the business uses Mile High WorkShop's employees and their services, which include woodworking, laser engraving, packaging and assembly services, they can get lower rent.

The workshop already has more than 20 partners, including furniture making for Relevant ReUse and Old Wood Soul. It also manufactures pillows for V&R Naturals and makes camera accessories for Artisan Obscura, among others.

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

Denver Startup Week receives proposals for nearly 1,000 sessions

The organizers of Denver Startup Week received a total of 944 proposals for sessions in 2016. Until July 15, people can vote on which sessions they want to see and attend at the annual event being held this year from Sept. 12 to 16.

"We continue to be blown away by the support for those looking to start and grow a business in our community," said Erik Mitisek, executive director of Project X-ITE at the University of Denver and co-founder of Denver Startup Week. "This level of community engagement and support for Denver Startup Week is proof positive that downtown Denver is the best place to start and grow a business."

The proposals received this year represent a significant, 76 percent increase over the 535 proposals received last year. Voters chose 235 sessions for last year's startup week, which ultimately was attended by nearly 11,000 people. Given the number of proposals submitted to the event this year it's likely even more will attend than last year.

"Now it's up to our attendees to tell us what they will value most by voting on their favorite sessions," said Ben Deda, chief operating officer at Galvanize. "There is no doubt that Denver Startup Week attendees receive unmatched quality of programming to support their business growth."

Entrepreneurs and likely attendees and others can vote for the sessions they want to attend at Denver Startup Week 2016 in one of six categories: Founder, Growth, Maker, Product, Designer and Developer. Organizers say the final program will support all industries and stages of business. Vote at www.denverstartupweek.org.

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


Asynchrony Labs growing in Denver

Earlier in 2016, IT services company World Wide Technology and its subsidiary Asynchrony Labs opened up an office in downtown Denver focused on regional sales, engineering and development. It's already looking to expand the office as it ramps up hiring.

"Asynchrony's Denver office is staffed with 25 employees and is looking to grow to over 60 software developers and Quality Assurance executives by the end of the year," says Dave Costello, a spokesperson for the company. He adds, "The company is looking for mid- and senior level developers (iOS, .NET, Java) and quality analysts for its Denver office."

The St. Louis-based IT company chose Denver for its strong concentration of technology resources and tech professionals. Ultimately the company plans to expand further in Denver. "It's projecting to grow its Denver office to over 200 people in the coming years to keep up with its hyper growth," Costello explains.

The company said that in addition to hiring up to 200 new software developers it also plans to hire 50 field sales representatives in the Denver market. The employees will help serve Worldwide Technology's enterprise customers in Denver, which include federal government agencies and Cisco Systems.

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.


QuickZip's sheets win $250,000 at Capital Championship

Denver-based QuickZip has reimagined one of most used pieces of people's homes -- sheets. The line of products make it easier, quicker and cleaner to change sheets on beds ranging from cribs to California Kings.The company won the 2016 Capital Championship and $250,000 to help the company expand.

QuickZip's sheets cover the bottom of the bed, and the top is zipped into place. The flat top layer of the sheet s changed and washed and the bottom remains in place. Clothes don't get stuck in the sheet in the dryer and the clean sheet can be folded flat for easy storage. When the sheets are changed, people don't have to lift or move the mattress.

"This is a well-deserved win for QuickZip as they faced incredible competition from numerous startup companies across the country," said David Brey, executive director of Capital Championship. The championship, funded by Blue Ocean Enterprises and sponsored by OtterBox, Hewlett Packard, FirstBank, EKS&H and Hogan Lovells, had 10 finalists this year. It is aimed at the startup community to help entrepreneurs gain exposure, networking mentoring and cash.

"We saw tremendous presentations throughout the tournament and are thrilled for QuickZip. We appreciate the work they put into their company and hope this new cash infusion and mentorship helps move them to the next level, continuing the company's trajectory to success," Brey explained.

QuickZip will use the prize to help further its growth. "We will use the money for sales and marketing and product development so that we can bring smarter bedding solutions to more people and in new market segments," says QuickZip founder Elizabeth Sopher. "We will squeeze every drop out of the mentorship offered by OtterBox and Blue Ocean Enterprises to maximize the impact of the funds. In the short term we will gain capacity through our partners and contractors and would likely hire in the longer term," she adds.  

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.


EatDenver, MSU Denver launch leadership incubator

EatDenver and Metropolitan State University of Denver have announced the Hospitality Leadership Incubator, a new boot camp to help restaurateurs boost their knowledge and skills in hospitality. The new program brings together educators and local hospitality leaders from companies like Chipotle and Restaurant Solutions.

"Because of the sheer volume of new restaurants, there's a greater need for a skilled workers who, ideally, will learn and grow alongside a restaurant or bar," explains Adam Schlegel, executive director of EatDenver, a local non­profit consisting of locally owned restaurants. "This program helps to address this need and will surely be a huge benefit to the city's restaurateurs."

 "We are testing the waters with this first session but due to the interest and registrations already, we anticipate continuing to offer and grow the Hospitality Leadership Incubator," Schlegel says. Indeed, in under a month the first boot camp is full. "Ideally, the Hospitality Leadership Incubator will be offered on an ongoing basis -- with even more courses added to the curriculum."

The first boot camp will include five courses starting July 12. Schlegel says the courses are aimed at preparing staff to advance within the hospitality industry. Each of the five sessions will last for two hours and will include hands-­on experience and coursework.

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


Denver Startup Week seeks proposals for 2016 event

Calling all entrepreneurs! The nation's largest free entrepreneurial event, Denver Startup Week, is seeking your proposals for its fifth annual event. The event, which takes over the heart of Denver's innovation and business incubation centers like The Commons on Champa and Galvanize, is being held Sept. 12-16, 2016.

Now is your chance to influence what will be discussed at this year's event by submitting a session proposal, but hurry up: Organizers are accepting submissions through June 15.

The event, which began in 2012 has quickly ballooned. Last year 10,875 people registered to attend 235 sessions, explains event coordinator Brea Olson of the Downtown Denver Partnership. "We are expecting to exceed that number this year," she adds.

"We continue to look for quality and diverse sessions across all of our tracks: Founder, Growth, Designer, Developer, Maker, and Product," Olson says. "We’re also looking for sessions that appeal to a range of industries and at various stages of business."

Denver Startup Week has received more than 200 proposals for sessions for the 2016 event. "Last year, we had more than 520 total submissions and we are looking to meet or exceed that number again this year," Olson asserts.

"We will open up voting to finalize the program in the coming weeks," Olson says, explaining the next steps. People can register to attend the free events starting in August.

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


Innovators take on improving schools with Startup Weekend Education

Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) is aimed at improving education and schools by harnessing the power of innovation to create new tools, learning models and schools of thought. University of Denver hosted SWEDU from June 10 to June 12.

The Happy team won first place at the event and three tickets to SXSWEDU in 2017. The team is focussed on creating a way to help students communicate their emotional state. It also will allow teachers and administrators to track student emotions and understand how they tie into incidents and the school's culture. The team also tied for the people's choice award with Youprentice, to match underserved students with paid apprenticeships. Teachify took second place overall and Syllabusy took third. Teachify is tackling boring online education and Syllabus is working to help freshmen manage their time better. 

"The focus of the weekend is about tackling challenges in education -- it is also about breaking down the walls of communication that sometimes exist between these groups, connecting them with one another, and letting them experience the process of entrepreneurship together," explains Katy Kappler, co-founder and president of Crafted Education, one of the event's organizers.

"SWEDU embraces education in the broadest sense, including ideas focused on early childhood, K-12, higher ed and continuing education, professional learning, et cetera," Kappler says. "It is focused on bringing together individuals from across the education spectrum -- including students, educators, administrators, developers, designers and entrepreneurs who have a passion for improving the education space."

"We welcome solutions to any educational challenge. We have intentionally left this open, so the diversity of participants is wide," says Lauren Almon Dietz, school happiness ambassador for Schoolrunner, another organizer. "Any idea with the intention to promote education and learning is fitting."

The project is intentionally open to solution types, Dietz explains. Teams created apps, programs, toys, robotics or other things to address issues in learning. In such an event, "Teams will form around an idea and participants will be grouped based on team needs," she says. "For example, if an educator pitches an idea for an app and we have a developer without a team, they will be grouped together. We also have mentors with diverse backgrounds coming who can provide general feedback on the idea and business direction."

The three best solutions that come out of the weekend received free or discounted access to 4.0 Schools Essentials Denver, according to Kappler. "All three teams are guaranteed an interview with the AT&T Aspire Accelerator." Other awards included a people's choice award and a Pearson Learning mentorship package award for the Best Solution for Higher Education Learning Design.

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.


Posner Poverty Hack comes back for second year

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

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

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

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

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

"The Marijuana Show" returns to Denver, $20M in startup investments at stake

The Marijuana Show is readying for its third season, holding Denver auditions between May 23 and May 25 to help the next great "Ganjapreneurs" bring their ideas into reality. This year up to $20 million in investment capital is at stake, and Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Recordings, will serve as a guest mentor on the show. 

"After the unparalleled success of The Marijuana Show during seasons one and two, we are scouring the country to find ground-breaking and original business ideas to introduce to the cannabis industry," explains producer Wendy Robbins. "With this season capping out at $20 million in investment capital, the level of competition this time will far surpass previous seasons and set a new bar for our contestants."

The show is the first to serve as a "Shark Tank for Ganjaprenuers," creators say. In the first two seasons, it’s already helped raise $18 million in investments for innovators in the cannabis industry. The series is holding auditions in 50 markets in the U.S. Judges will choose up to 15 entrepreneurs and four accredited inventors and mentors to participate in a three-day Bud Camp that will culminate in pitches to a panel of accredited investors. 

Previously the show has resulted in creating the first cannabis-powered car, a major Hollywood "stoner comedy," a cannabis advertising agency and a line of CBD-infused dog bones to the market.

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

PlainSmart offers DNA testing to aid in weight loss

In the never-ending quest to help people manage and lose weight, there is a slew of options. Now Denver's PlainSmart is offering a new tool, DNA testing.

The company is using DNA testing to help understand how genetic markers can impact metabolisms. "DNA testing identifies a body's strengths and weaknesses in processing nutrients, as well as personal requirements for physical activity. When we look at a client's genetic profile, we can interpret the markers and understand how their body is able (or not able) to metabolize foods," said Kassandra Gyimesi, RDN, PlainSmart's clinic director. "The report guides a lifetime nutrition plan that is medically sound, realistic and created solely for each individual's needs and lifestyle. With these diagnostic tools, we can pinpoint a client's metabolic rate, body composition and how his or her body responds to macronutrients -- focusing on unique needs for optimal weight-loss success."

The company claims that genetic testing, accomplished through a cheek swab, can show a genetic profile that reveals how a person processes proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and how to properly proportion them within a nutrition plan; ideal intensity and duration of physical activity for weight, energy and overall health; and a person's tendency to develop and maintain healthy eating habits.

The testing can help develop a nutritional and exercise program for PlainSmart's clients and is just one of its tools. It also uses a body composition analysis (BCA), meetings with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and provides a customized plan for its customers that starts at $295.

"Weight loss is a personal journey.  And, nothing is as personal as DNA, so we recognized it was time to bring them together for the best possible weight-management outcome," said Jonathan Harding, president of PlainSmart.

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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