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Colorado Enterprise Fund gets $776,500 grant

The Colorado Enterprise Fund has received a $776,500 grant to support its small-business lending and technical assistance programs statewide.

Colorado Enterprise Fund is among seven Colorado Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Other recipients include Denver -based Mercy Loan Fund, Mile High Community Loan Fund and Triple Bottom Line Foundation, as well as Aurora-based Community Enterprises Development Services. Outside of Denver, First Nations Oweesta Corp. in Longmont and La Plata Homes Fund in Durango received awards.

“We are honored to receive this funding from the CDFI Fund again this year,” says Ceyl Prinster, president and CEO of Colorado Enterprise Fund. “This award will expand our ability to finance businesses that create quality jobs, enhance long-term economic vitality and expand community prosperity to insure more residents benefit from Colorado’s robust economic growth.”

Certified as a CDFI in 1996, the Colorado Enterprise Fund received its first CDFI Fund award of $275,000 in 1997 to increase capital access for small-business owners across Colorado. Since then, Colorado Enterprise Fund has been awarded nearly $10 million to continue that work and expand its focus to increase access to healthy foods and serve more communities of color and businesses located in persistent poverty counties.

Interactive artwork unveiled at Levitt Pavilion

The latest addition to the city of Denver’s public art collection was dedicated July 20 as part of the grand opening celebration for the newly built Levitt Pavilion Denver at Ruby Hill Park.

“Sky Song” by Colorado artists Nick Geurts and Ryan Elmendorf is a two-part interactive sculpture that blends light and sound through interaction with the viewer and even the sky above. 

Comprised of mirror-polished stainless steel, “Sky Song” invites viewers to create music by pressing any combination of 33 buttons on an eight-foot-tall sculpture on the plaza. The kiosk is linked to its companion piece 30 feet away on the building’s facade. During concerts at Levitt Pavilion, the interactive function transitions from sound to light. With 25 lights and bells, “Sky Song” is an engaging public artwork.

The Levitt Pavilion is programmed, managed and supported by Friends of Levitt Paviolion Denver, a local nonprofit dedicated to building community through music. 

Upcoming concerts include:
  • July 23: The Stone Foxes
  • Aug. 3: The Suffers
  • Aug. 4: John Fulbright
  • Aug. 5: The Reminders co-headline with Fed Rez
  • Aug. 6: Rocky Dawuni with the Bunny Gang
  • Aug. 9: Hippo Campus with Slow Caves and Corsicana
  • Aug. 10: The Dustbowl Revival with Charley Crockett
  • Aug. 13: The Band of Heathens with Blake Brown & The American Dust Choir
  • Aug. 17 The Haunted Windchimes and Edison
  • Aug. 18: My Body Sings Electric and Chemistry Club
  • Aug. 19: Smooth Hound Smith with Anthony Ruptak & The Midnight Friends
  • Aug. 24: Gaby Moreno
  • Aug. 25: Mariachi Sol de Mi Tierra with Fiesta Colorado Dance Company
  • Aug. 26: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
  • Aug. 27: New Breed Brass Band with Denver Municipal Band
  • Aug. 30: Ripe with Chris Daniels & the Kings with Freddi Gowdy
  • Aug. 31: Inspector with Izcalli
The public is invited to bring their picnic blankets and lawn chairs to the free concerts. There also will be a handful of ticketed shows featuring artists like UB40 and 311.

With more than 1,000 proposals in Denver Startup Week is ready for your votes

The nation’s largest free entrepreneurial event—Denver Startup Week—received a record 1,039 session proposals this year. That’s up from 944 proposals submitted last year. Now it’s up to the public to help organizers choose which sessions should be held—last year the event hosted more than 300 programs. 

“Our entrepreneurial community is the envy of cities across the country,” says Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. “We now have nearly 700 tech startups in Downtown, employing close to 5,000 people. Companies large and small are coming to Denver to positively impact our economy and help grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

“We continue to be impressed with not only the volume, but the quality of proposals submitted and now it’s up to the entire entrepreneurial community to help tell us what programs they find the most interesting and valuable,” says Ben Deda, vice president of channels and ecosystems at Vertafore and co-leader of the event’s organizing committee.

The organizers will accept votes for Denver Startup Week through May 28, 2017. The event's organizing committee will sift through the results and determine which proposals will become sessions during the sixth annual startup week from Sept. 25-29.

In addition to the five tracks of Denver Startup Week—Founder, Growth, Maker, Product, Designer, and Developer—this year’s schedule also will include topic and industry clusters focused social impact, the Internet of things, health care technology, diversity and inclusion, cannabis and business basics. 

“When more than 1,000 people step up to share their insight and knowledge with others, it signals that Downtown Denver continues to be one of the best places in the country to start and grow a business,” said Erik Mitisek, executive director of Project X-ITE at the University of Denver and co-founder of Denver Startup Week.

To help people wade through the potential sessions and vote, organizers recommended that voters search for trends, themes and topics that interest them. They can also sort session proposals by cluster and organize sessions by their favorite track. Site users can vote on each session once.

Bold Legal and Innovation Pavilion partnered to offer legal services for startups

With so many startups launching in the Denver and greater Front Range region, there’s a need for legal help designed to meet startups’ needs, from establishing company bylaws to organizing business operations and more. To meet those needs, Innovation Pavilion (IP)—a startup center—in southern Denver has started Bold Legal to provide counseling and legal services. 

“A legal structure is crucial to the success of any entrepreneurial venture and we are excited to extend this fantastic resource to our community,” explains IP CEO Vic Ahmed. “We are grateful for Bold Legal’s support and I am certain our community will reap many benefits from their work.” The organization has a history of making innovative partnerships to help its tenants start and grow their businesses.

Bold Legal will provide a number of services including regular monthly hours and free access to legal advice for IP’s tenants. Also, Bold Legal’s first billable hour for IP’s tenants will be free. It will provide insight into issuing equity, raising capital, hiring and more. It will also provide a ‘starter suite’ of documents and forms for IP’s startups, including bylaw and articles of incorporation forms, investment agreements, non-disclosure agreements and more. 

“More than a co-working space, Innovation Pavilion is a training ground, a social capital nexus and a home for the entrepreneurial community of Colorado,” says Bold Legal founder and attorney David Ray. “Entrepreneurs and startup companies deserve fearless service providers. Our job is to facilitate evolution, simplify complexity, push through the conventional envelope and smooth the way for great ideas to change industries. We are delighted to partner with Innovation Pavilion and, together, deliver exceptional value to Colorado’s rich entrepreneurial community.”

The legal firm, which has offices in Denver and Boulder, also will co-sponsor IP’s monthly “Access to Capital” events. The events include panels of venture capital, angel and other investors who will discuss the capital-raising process for entrepreneurs and startups.
 

Co.Starters now offering (an affordable) boot camp for would-be startups

The Co.Starters program has graduated more than 3,000 entrepreneurs nationwide and now it’s coming to Denver’s Commons on Champa. The nine-week business development program will launch on May 17 and will help participants learn about launching businesses with a community of peers. 

“This nine week program equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships and tools needed to turn business ideas into action. Unlike traditional platforms, Co.Starters applies the lean business modeling methods popular among high-growth startups to businesses of all kinds,” explains Jacqui Dietrich program manager at the Commons.

“The program is new to The Commons and will be a regular offering focused specially on women and minorities,” Dietrich says. However, she adds, “The Co.Starters program is open to any new business or new product idea, regardless of sector or industry.” While this is the first time the program is launching in Colorado, it’s been used in other cities including Chattanooga, Cincinnati and Detroit. 

“Up to 15 aspiring entrepreneurs will be admitted to the first Co.Starters at The Commons cohort. The deadline to apply for the upcoming cohort is May 3,” Dietrich says. The program, supported in part by the Kauffman Foundation, will cost participants $125 including curriculum and meals. 

The program, Dietrich says, helps participants understand their assumptions about their businesses and how they will work and then enables them to talk with their target customers to validate their ideas. “This approach enables entrepreneurs to rapidly uncover flaws in their concepts and find viable models more quickly,” she says.

The Commons plans to offer cohorts on a rolling basis. Entrepreneurs can apply here and successful entrepreneurs who wish to serve as mentors for the program can register to help here. 

Want to get into the brewing business? Colorado Enterprise Fund will show you how

When Colorado Small Business Week launches on April 30, the Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) will host a number of  events showcasing the state's smaller enterprises helping entrepreneurs launch new businesses. To help them capitalize on the regional brewing craze, CEF, for the first time, is hosting a workshop aimed at craft beer startups. The workshop, Crafting Success: From Home Brews to Beer Biz, will be hosted at the Commons on Champa on May 5 from 1:00 pm–2:30 pm. 

“With the increase in brewery startups CEF is financing in Colorado, we felt it would be helpful to showcase some of our successful borrowers so others could see it’s possible to follow your dream and make a living,” says Alisa Zimmerman, director of marketing and communications at CEF. 

The event will feature Chad Miller of Black Shirt Brewing Co, Brian O’Connell of Renegade Brewing, Tom Jasko of Colorado Craft Distributors and David Levesque of Launch Pad Brewery. Each of the companies received support from CEF. For instance, Renegade recently expanded into a 15,000 square-foot warehouse and received a working capital loan from CEF in August 2016. 

CEF also is supporting ancillary brewing businesses, like Colorado Craft Distributors, which launched in 2016. The business is a wholesaler of beer, cider, spirits and wine. The founders received a working capital loan from CEF in 2017.

“The featured borrowers each produce, package and distribute their products differently, and may share info on resources they use. We expect them to touch on these areas depending on their current operations and future plans,” Zimmerman explains.

As part of Colorado Small Business Week, CEF will host other events, including tours of refugee and immigrant small businesses in Aurora. It also will host the Colorado Emerging Ventures Breakfast, where entrepreneurs will learn about what a business needs to qualify for a loan. CEF also will host the SBA Colorado Business Week Awards Reception on Wednesday, May 3 at Denver Public Library.

Denver Startup Week Accepting Session Proposals Through Friday

The nation’s largest free startup event, Denver Startup Week, is gearing up for 2017 and it wants your input, soon. The event, which will take place Sept. 25-29, is seeking ideas for sessions in six different tracks to help entrepreneurs learn about launching and growing startups. The deadline for submissions, however, is April 21.

The sessions are in addition to headline events, which bring industry leaders to discuss entrepreneurship, launching a startup and more. The track categories this year include designer, developer, founder, growth, maker and product. Each is intended to address the functional roles in a startup team and will be led by industry experts. 

Last year, the event brought more than 13,000 people to 300 sessions. Organizers, including the Downtown Denver Partnership, Colorado Technology Association and Startup Colorado, expect this year’s startup week, the sixth, will attract even more attendees.

After the deadline passes track chairs will evaluate the submission proposals and approve them for voting on by the community. Then the organizing committee will use the votes and comments to guide the selection and scheduling process.

Sessions in the past have included individual and group presentations as well as panels, workshops and social events. Organizers said that ideas focused on transferring knowledge to the community have the best chance of being selected. T

Innovators, entrepreneurs and others can register and submit proposals here: SUBMIT A TOPIC.

Two teams from Denver make it to Go Code Colorado’s next round

The annual challenge to use public data to create business insights in Colorado, Go Code Colorado, is getting ready for the mentorship weekend April 21-23. Two Denver teams, <div>ersity and Magpie Supply, are among the finalists. In all, more than 230 people participated in the Challenge Weekend events this year. 

“Each year, Go Code Colorado participation and enthusiasm increases across the state,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, whose office runs the contest. “The high-caliber app and business concepts created during challenge weekend will further encourage government entities of all sizes to make their data available to developers and entrepreneurs so its inherent value can be fully utilized.”

The first team, <div>ersity, is harnessing data to create a hiring tool that will help companies build diverse teams. The other team, Magpie Supply, is using data to solve transportation problems for farmers. 

Both teams will join the other finalists in the expenses-paid mentoring weekend. During the weekend,the finalists will have a chance to discuss their ideas with leaders from Techstars, Boomtown, House of Genius and others from Colorado’s tech and entrepreneurial community. 

After that, they will compete for three $25,000 awards, which will be decided in a final competition on May 24. The awards will help the winners move their ideas into the next stage as apps or startup businesses.
 

Denver takes advantage of a soaring economy with JumpStart 2017

Last week Denver introduced JumpStart 2017, its sixth annual strategic jobs plan for economic development.

JumpStart is more than an annual strategy, it is a statement of values for how Denver builds a local economy that secures our community’s legacy and maintains our city’s unique character in the years ahead,” according to Mayor Michael Hancock, who unveiled the plan, put together by the Denver Office of Economic Development (OED).  “In 2017, our eyes are squarely focused on taking the necessary strides to help ensure that all residents have the opportunity to benefit from Denver’s vibrant economy.”

As such, the plan focuses on increasing economic mobility and establishes anti-displacement strategies in certain neighborhoods. In 2017 that focus will include the neighborhoods of Montbello, Westwood, Globeville and Elyria-Swansea. The strategies are designed to help uplift ailing neighborhoods while reducing urban poverty. 

The mayor’s office said that the JumpStart is helping to create jobs in Denver. The previous year’s report aided the development of nearly 3,000 new jobs and assisted the city in retaining 7,000 jobs, according to the office. The strategies helped spur $111.4 million in capital investments and also funded the creation of 579 affordable homes. 

“With strong employment and wage growth, Denver has led the nation as one of the most vibrant economies,” explains OED Executive Director Paul Washington. “We’ve thoughtfully identified goals for JumpStart that we believe will make the most of the opportunities before us.”

The 2017 strategies include encouraging developers of projects financed by OED to hire low-income residents for entry-level positions. It also will support the creation of a maker space, a collaborative space to allow entrepreneurs access to manufacturing resources. The plan will also help create cooperative business ownership models in the targeted neighborhoods.

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.

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.


Commons on Champa looks back on its first full year at new campus

The Commons on Champa, Denver's center for entrepreneurship and innovation, recently released its 2016 impact report. The center reports that since launching its campus on the eponymous Champa St. downtown in 2015, it's served more than 23,000 community members.

The center has served those entrepreneurs through 450 programs and events it's hosted with 145 partners. That includes hosting 19 Meetup groups per month. The center also plays an integral part in Denver Startup Week and has hosted 4,000 people at events during that entrepreneurship juggernaut.

The bulk of those programs, 275, were hosted in 2016, according to the Commons. The programs were presented by 120 partners and 85 percent of them were free to the public. Through Denver's Office of Economic Development, the Commons also offered 326 hours of one on one assistance in helping people launch startups. 

To further support growth in Denver's innovator space, the Commons launched the InCommons Mentorship Program in 2016. That program connects entrepreneurs, innovators and disruptors with business leaders, innovators, and investors. It allows them to attend monthly mentor hours at the campus, join industry specific and subject matter forums and share online resources. It also gains them access to online, collaborative goal-setting tools. The offering already includes 240 members and 80 mentors and financial support from 20 partners.

As a capstone to its efforts in 2016, the Commons on Champa was awarded an Inclusion Challenge grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The campus will use the $400,000 grant in 2017 and 2018 to expand entrepreneurship focused on the inclusion of military veterans, women, people of color and new American citizens. It offers eight-week programs to help participants launch their businesses.

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

Denver Food Vision introduced for public comment

The first draft of the Denver Food Vision is open to public comment through the end of January. Officials aim to help the city further improve the food system, create jobs and improve access to healthy food.

Officials say Denver's food system includes tens of thousands of skilled food system employees, thousands of businesses and hundreds of nonprofits, school and community gardens. It also includes food pantries and emergency food access. Despite those factors, the city also states that nearly 20 percent of children experience food insecurity or hunger. The new plan aims to address all those issues.

"From farm to table, Denver's food system presents an incredible opportunity to strengthen the health of our communities, as well as promote business development and job creation," says Mayor Michael Hancock. "Through this community vision, we will have a solid framework in place to help guide public and private resources to build a stronger, more resilient Denver."

In developing the food vision plan, the city held 11 community listening sessions and 11 focus groups with food businesses that generated nearly 5,000 comments. The city also is seeking feedback and hosting two hearings on Jan. 12, one at Mile High United Way from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m and another at the Commons on Champa from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. People can also comment on the draft via an online survey. People can also email their questions and comments to DenverFoodPlan@denvergov.org.

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

Access Gallery launches 2017 with "Stick 'em up Chuck"

Access Gallery in the Art District on Santa Fe is aimed at helping those with disabilities experience art, including by making art. Its latest gallery show, "Stick 'em up Chuck," which opens Jan. 6 and runs through Feb. 3, is a prime example of accessible art by using stickers as the medium.

The works were inspired street artists and Gonkar Gyatso, a contemporary Tibetan artist, whose work uses both Buddhist iconography and pop images like colorful children's stickers.

"We wanted to see what we could really do with everyday objects that need little if any artistic talent," explains Access Gallery Director Damon McLeese. "We have a smiley face piece made of 10,000 smiley face stickers, a huge teddy bear, a fish and a car based on one of our ArtWorks artist drawings."

The exhibit is the culmination of the VSA Colorado and Access Gallery's fall residency programs in which the participants explored mediums that are highly accessible materials for those with significant physical and mental disabilities. They focused on materials that are inexpensive, easily transported and workable as well as sticky, tacky and tactile. Stickers, they found, met those needs.

"One of our volunteers hooked us up with a bevy of stickers and we decided to make an entire gallery show made of stickers," McLeese says. Longmont, Colorado-based StickerGiant provided the bulk of raw materials for the show.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
150 Creative Sector Articles | Page: | Show All
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