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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.

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.

Denver Peak Academy’s employee program saves city $22.5M over 5 years

Called the “School of Innovation” by Fast Company Magazine, Denver Peak Academy has helped the city’s employees save the city $22.5 million over the past five years, and is on track to save it $5 million this year. The city said that for every $1 spent on the program, it’s saved the City and County of Denver $5.

The academy was launched in 2011 by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock during a budget shortfall. The academy has trained 6,500 employees and led to 2,300 employee-led innovations ranging from reducing the time it takes to obtain a business license to 20 minutes rather than two hours and cutting the time of a DMV visit to 20 minutes from the 80 minutes it previously could have taken. 

“Through innovative thinking, employees are now able to do more with less, while bettering our customer-experience,” Hancock says. “Peak has become a revered national model adopted by some of the largest municipalities in the country, and we look forward to continuing our forward progress here in Denver.” 

The academy is a four-and-a-half day curriculum that includes problem solving and behavioral economics allowing the voluntary attendees to examine inefficiencies and speed up work processes. Since the program launched it’s been adopted by over 150 cities across the country and globe. The academy said that includes Brussels, Belgium; Ottawa, Canada; San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Kansas City and others.

“Denver Peak Academy provides employees with the tools to be a catalyst of positive transformation. As a result, our employees  continue to build Denver into the best city in the world,” says Denver Peak Academy’s Director Brian Elms. “We are excited and inspired that other cities are adopting Denver Peak Academy principles to empower their employees to improve their cities as well.”

Who is the best CEO in Denver? Here's one pick.

The best-rated CEO of a public company in the US is Craig Jelinek, CEO of Costco. The best-rated CEO in Denver, however, scoring higher than Jelinek is Convercent’s Patrick Quinlan, according to Owler's inaugural Top-Rated CEO Rankings. The rankings are based on more than 250,000 insights gleaned from members of the crowdsourced business intelligence platform. 

“Owler’s first annual list of top-rated CEOs is the only official ranking that provides a true market view of America’s best-loved leaders,” contends Jim Fowler, founder & CEO, Owler. “These executives received high approval ratings from employees, suppliers, partners, and even competitors, to beat out 99.4 percent of other CEOs featured on our platform. They truly are the best of the best in the global marketplace.” 

While CEOs of numerous private companies scored as high as 99.9 on the points system, Jelinek accumulated a rating of 94.9 points, according to Owler. Quinlan, CEO of Convercent, an enterprise compliance management and analytics software firm, outscored Jelinek with 96.1 points out of 100 possible. Other high-ranked CEOs in Denver were Ombud’s Thad Eby who scored 94.3 points; and Cloud Elements’ Mark Geene, who scored 93.3 points, and Ping’s Andre Durand who scored 92.5 points.

The rankings include all CEOs across 50 cities covering 25 industries, according to Owler. In order for CEOs to receive a ranking they must have at least 10 ratings. Owler asked employees, followers, competitors, and other general users to rate CEOs. Ultimately the company says it analyzed approval ratings of the top 5,000 most-rated chief executives. 

This gives the company more insight into how company leaders are seen in a region. For instance, Owler notes that Denver’s CEOs had an average score of 65.5 points. As such Denver struggled to make it into Owler’s Top 30 Cities list, coming in at number 27. Owler says that suggests Denver’s business leaders aren’t as well-liked as in other cities, like Nashville, where CEOs had an average approval score of 82.4 points. 

Results for Denver’s CEOs can be found here: https://www.owler.com/ceo-ratings.htm?cityName=Denver
 

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.

Galvanize, Women Who Code Partner to Increase IT Opportunities for Women

Late last month Denver-based Galvanize partnered with Women Who Code (WWCode) to increase opportunities for women in technology positions through access to education, resources and other pathways.

"Galvanize's continued support for WWCode demonstrates a commitment to empowering women to become leaders in the tech industry,” says WWCode Vice President of Partnerships Jennifer Tacheff. “This partnership helps to propel our catalytic work of providing training and skills for women to level up in their careers, so they can innovate and continue to shape the future of tech." 

Through the collaboration Galvanize is now recognized as an official WWCode school.

“We are thrilled to be an inclusion partner of WWCode, whose mission to inspire women to excel in technology careers is one which we wholeheartedly support,” said Galvanize CEO Jim Deters. “At Galvanize, we are committed to investing in technology and education that is accessible to anyone — specifically the traditionally underrepresented — with the determination and drive to learn the skills they need to transform their lives.”

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. 

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.

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.

Turning the Corner offers insights on retaining tech talent

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

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

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

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

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

Denver launches JumpStart Academy for startups

Denver is further cementing its reputation as a capital for startups with its recently launched JumpStart Academy. The academy is focused on second-stage growth, to help startups reach their next stages. 

The new academy is aimed at training, mentoring and providing opportunities for entrepreneurs. It builds on the other startup tools and resources Denver offers including the Commons on ChampaDenver Capital Matrix, Denver Startup Week and Denver Venture Capital Report.

The academy's initial class includes six local founders with the potential to attract capital and create jobs. Each of the companies in the inaugural class, including HyprLoco, LockState, Maria Empanada, Sugarwish and TurtleWise, have graduated from local incubator or business accelerator programs.

The new academy was launched by the Denver Office of Economic Development, the University of Denver's Project X-ITE and Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. "With the powerful expertise of both the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network and Project X-ITE to draw on, we're listening to these firms, and responding to their needs with a curated curriculum that positions them for their next round of funding," explains OED Executive Director Paul Washington.

During their six-month training at the academy the founders will receive customized training, mentoring and introductions to help their startups grow.

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

Agility Recovery adds offices nationwide with new ReadyComplete suite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gates rejoins Innovators Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado Technology Association wins Microsoft STEM grant for Denver students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Code Colorado's 2017 challenge launching Feb. 1

The Go Code Colorado challenge is about to kick off in 2017. The state will announce the goal of this year's challenge on Feb. 1 at an event at the Golden Triangle Galvanize

It's the fourth year for the challenge. The event that brings together entrepreneurs, business partners and developers to harness the wealth of public data to create apps aimed at solving problems. 

Secretary of State Wayne Williams will kick off the event which will include thought leaders from across Colorado who will talk about what's happening in the tech/innovation sector with their community. It will be the first of numerous events in Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins and Grand Junction that will culminate in choosing winners at an event on May 24.

"Two teams from each challenge site will move on to a mentor weekend in Boulder to further flush out ideas with tech leaders, lawyers and entrepreneurs from across the state," says Go Code Colorado spokesperson Brandy Whalen. "Ultimately, 3 teams will take home $25,000 for the best app concept." The funds will help the teams make the concept a reality. 

The event is proving popular. "Last year we had around 200 people divided amongst 35 teams," Whalen says. 

In 2016 the teams were asked to create an app and business concept that helps businesses build a competitive strategy. The winners were Foodcaster, Regulation Explorer and Hively. "All three winning teams from last year are actively working on business and app development," Whalen explains. Foodcaster integrates foot traffic and cellular service data, food truck parking regulations, Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook to help food truck owners find optimal locations and times. Regulation Explorer aims to streamline the permitting process for oil and gas exploration. Hively is using employment data to help businesses make better hiring decisions.

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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