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Rail~Volution conference will showcase Denver's transportation advances

Rail~Volution is coming to Denver Sept. 17-20.

The conference, hosted by the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and local partners, focuses on building livable communities through transit and multimodal investments. National leaders, planners and advocates will examine and discuss all that the Denver region has accomplished since it last served as the host city for the gathering 17 years ago.

During 25 mobile workshops and more than 75 sessions over four days, leaders and practitioners from the fields of government, transit, real estate, business, finance, environment and advocacy will explore pertinent transit issues, opportunities and challenges common to the Rocky Mountain West.

“Denver has an extraordinary story to tell about how transit investments and cross-sector collaboration have changed the economic trajectory of the regions,” says Dan Bartholomay, CEO of Rail~Volution. “The Denver community found the right mix of investments that lead to truly livable places — places that take care to ensure affordability and access to jobs, good homes and healthy lifestyles. The Denver region’s integrated approach is exactly what other cities and regions are hoping to learn about at Rail~Volution.”

Featured speakers include Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit in Seattle; Phil Washington, CEO of L.A. Metro; Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer; Maurice Jones, president of Local Initiatives Support Corp. in New York; Christine Marquez-Hudson, president and CEO of The Denver Foundation; and John Martin, president and CEO of the Southeastern Institute of Research Inc. in Richmond, Va.

DSTILL grows with craft distillery movement

There are now more than 70 licensed distillers in Colorado, including such Denver standouts as Laws Whiskey House to Leopold Bros. DSTILL, an annual celebration of craft spirits in Denver in its third year, is mirroring the industry's growth.

"DSTILL is a platform that brings people together," says Chuck Sullivan of Something Independent, founder of the week-long event. "The heart and soul of the programming is with with the craft-distilling community both in Colorado and nationally." 

In 2015, the April 16 showcase, where 49 craft distillers participating from across the country poured tastes of their spirits, was the most popular event, drawing more than 1,000 people.

"It is distillers and bartenders and those craft spirit enthusiasts from every on point on the compass. I think there is a great opportunity throughout the week for distillers to connect in a lot of different ways both with consumer and industry," Sullivan adds.

This year's event expanded to include a DSTILL Rocks, a music event at the Bluebird Theater with Nathaniel Rateliff and Paper Bird, as well as what Sullivan calls pop-up bars showcasing spirits at Union Station. Both of which were new events for the multiday event.

"It's safe to say the DSTILL Rocks Concert will become a main staple event of DSTILL each year," Sullivan says. He explains that all of the ticketed events of the conference were sold out this year. "That is indicative of the story of DSTILL and how it has evolved to be a serious celebration of the American craft spirit."

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

State of Downtown Denver 2015 has plenty to praise

Last year, downtown Denver saw $1 billion in investments through completed projects. In 2015, that figure is expected to nearly double to $1.9 billion. That's just one key takeaway from the State of Downtown Denver 2015 event, hosted by the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) on March 24.

There was a host of data showing the recent successes of Denver and how the city is poised to keep growing -- for instance, residential population has grown 165 percent since 2010. "In order to ensure future success we need to understand what we did right to get us where we are today," explained DDP CEO Tami Door at the event.

"Last year, we welcomed 16 new companies in downtown. These companies, many of them having significant national and international brands, further endorse downtown Denver as a key business hubs," said Door, noting that many companies attributed their choices to Denver's premiere workforce, its mobility options for employees and the overall cool factor of the city center.

Door added that Denver is attracting significant amounts of Millennials, which is important to the city's future. "As we go forward two Baby Boomers will retire for each new employee entering the workforce," she explained. "This is not just a battle to get companies to move to our cities. this a battle to get the right type of workers here."

"We are quickly becoming recognized as a premier entrepreneurial hub," Door said. "Right now, we have 370 tech startups located in the core of downtown. These companies employ 3,000 individuals. That number is growing and is growing very fast."

Craftsy was one of those startups. Founder and CEO John Levisay explained that the company started in 2010 with four founders. "We're now over 260 employees and have 50 open jobs," he said. "It's been a great ride. When we were starting the company our primary investors told us we'd have to move the company to California, there wasn't enough talent here. We disagreed. We wanted to make this a Colorado company and we were committed to that and we still are."

In his comments Levisay attributed much of Denver's success in launching such companies to Denver's evolution into a commuter-friendly, city with ample access to travel options, among other things. For instance, 60 percent of Craftsy's employees take public transport, bike or walk to work, he said.

"Downtown Denver has done everything right in terms of urban planning, urban infill and residential for young employees," Levisay added. "Cost of commercial real estate and access to it is very reasonable. The engineering talent here is very strong."

Levisay also credited the success to Denver's unique "collective zeitgeist" that encompasses established companies in the region talking with startups. "Ten years from now, we'll be amazed as we get some startups that evolve into escape velocity and really achieve iconic stature."

Read the annual State of Downtown Denver report here.

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

Utivity hosts the first Colorado Indie Business Forum at Green Spaces

On March 11, Utivity hosts the first Colorado Indie Business Forum at Denver's Green Spaces. The event is focused on helping startups grow into a successful business and will feature executive speakers from Love Grown Foods, Icelantic Skis and Utivity.

Utivity is a new startup that Founder Matthew Shifrin likens to Airbnb for professional services. "Our desktop and mobile platform are designed to provide users with the ability to search and filter on a wide array of criteria," Shifrin says.

Users will be ability to price, shop, read reviews and compare products and services via its portals. "For the business, freelancer or individual we give them a simple and intuitive tool that manages every aspect of their business, from store front, rich media, reviews, billing, credit card processing, customer interactions, legal, rewards, referrals and advertising at no upfront cost."

He says the platform connects people looking for services with those that can provide them. The site can connect individuals or professionals with all sorts of things, ranging from someone wanting private guitar lessons to individuals and small businesses providing the services they want. Shifrin formerly worked with the Jarden Corp. where, among other things, he introduced the Billy Boy condom brand to the U.S.

Shifrin will join Maddy D'Amato, CLO (chief love officer) of Love Grown Foods, and Annelise Loevlie, CEO of Icelantic Skis, to give roughly 10-min speeches. "Speakers will spend 10 minutes providing a little background on their companies, how they got started, and provide a couple of anecdotes on what worked and what didn't," he says. Attendees also will be able to ask the executives questions about their experiences in launching companies.

The event will also include beverages from Great Divide Brewing Co. and food from Amerigo. Shifrin anticipates that up to 175 people may attend the event, including several state representatives as well as members of Colorado's economic development team.

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

Colorado Capital Congress helps startups access funding

There's a plethora of startups in Colorado and they're all in various stages of growth. With that growth comes the need for capital to hire more employees, increase marketing, boost sales, launch new initiatives, etc. Denver's Colorado Capital Congress PCB (Public Benefit Corporation) is trying to address those needs. It will host a workshop, Crowdfunding Colorado Style, Jan. 31 in Louisville to help entrepreneurs and investors understand more of their options for raising funds.

"In an industry where it is considered acceptable for over 95 percent of capital presentations to be turned down, any improvement will have tremendous positive impact on our economy," says Karl Dakin, Colorado Capital Congress co-founder and president. "Higher quality capital transactions will make our State more attractive to both entrepreneurs and investors."

The organization is working to foster local capital communities helping businesses find appropriate capital sources. The stated goal: "Where no source exists, the Colorado Capital Congress will work to establish new funds or financing programs."

Sometimes that's just a matter of awareness. "One of the ways to improve the capital ecosystem is to make everyone aware of different approaches to obtaining and funding capital," Dakin explains.

"One approach is the little known Limited Registration Offering," Dakin says, which allows companies to raise funds in a way that is exempt from SEC regulations because it is an in-state sale of securities that can only be conducted between Colorado residents or entities. The law requires that the offering can't be publicized and can only be promoted to people and entities that the offering party knows. In addition, only 35 non-accredited investors can participate.

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

TEDx coming to RiNo with reIMAGINE in April

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks are among the most popular ways to get innovative ideas out to the public spectrum. So it’s no surprise that TEDx, which supports local versions of the national events, is coming to RiNo -- one of Denver’s up and coming innovation centers, through the first TEDxRiNo event on Apr. 13.

The first event, reIMAGINE, is intended to cover topics relevant to the RiNo community and to spark meaningful conversation and collaboration to benefit the community, explains, Kimothy Pikor TEDxRiNo’s chief dreamer.

"We'd like to try and source as many speakers who have a vested interest in the RiNo community. However, we are welcoming speaker nominations from the greater Denver and Colorado community, as well," she says. "It's a venue to share the art district's creativity, innovation, and smart urban growth on the global TED platform -- to connect with other communities internationally via unbiased ideation."

TEDxRiNo isn’t the first TEDx group in Colorado, Pikor explains. "The largest organization is TEDxMileHigh, which hosts several events annually for several hundred attendees." She adds that that organization has been extremely supportive of TEDxRiNo, but says TEDx agreed that the River North Art District is different in tone, growth, residents/businesses and appearance compared to the rest of Denver, allowing RiNo to create its own chapter. "Our events will be reflective of this in the way that they are smaller (100 attendees max), highly attended by the arts community, and more intimate."

The deadline for speaker submissions and/or nominations is Jan. 23, 2015. Following the submission deadline, a panel will select six to eight speakers to present "the talk of their lives." Each will have up to 18 minutes to present.

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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