Denver Startup Year: From 2012 to 2013, the Impact of Denver Startup Week

The first Denver Startup Week, held last fall, helped raise the city's profile as a destination for entrepreneurs, startups and those who have the cash to invest in them. Now that the industry is in the middle of the second annual Denver Startup Week, taking place at dozens of venues from Sept. 16-21, what do entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and others have to say about the past 12 months, and where do they see the market heading in the future?
"I've thought of Denver Startup Week as a big coming-out party," explains Jim Deters, Founder and CEO of Galvanize, the lauded incubator-like shared office space and investment fund that works to foster and promote Denver-area startups.
Deters says that last year's Denver Startup Week was a significant milestone in the evolution of the market for new companies in the Denver area, and that it played a large role in boosting the image of the city as one that's friendly to both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. 
"I thought it (Denver Startup Week) was a huge eye opener," Deters explains. He says the impact resonated far beyond the Denver city limits.
The first annual Denver Startup Week ran from Oct. 22-27 2012, including a wide range of activities and events geared toward showcasing Denver's startup-friendly environment. It encompassed mixers and socials aimed at creating connections across Denver's startup scene. It wasn't all business -- fun was also on the menu. One after-party at The Beauty Bar featured "Chicken & Waffles & Beer." Oh, and naturally, the first drink was on the house to carousers who mentioned Denver Startup Week.
For 2013, similar events promise to connect entrepreneurs with businesses and businesses with financiers. For example, the startup "crawl" on Sept. 18 is open to any company with a "sweet suite," "cool cubes" or "a kickass kegerator." Yes, please.
The difference a year makesJim Deters is the founder and CEO of Galvanize, a startup incubator complete with a shared office space and investment branch that works to foster and promote Denver-area startups.
"Denver wasn't talked about on the radar as a startup community" before last year's Denver Startup Week, explains Galvanize's Deters. "I think we have come a long way."
Deters points to the progress inside of Galvanize as evidence of the momentum created by last year's startup week: He said the incubator now counts 400 members and 120 startups, and that firms like Thoughtbot, RentBits and many others are hiring dozens of new workers.
Perhaps even more importantly, Denver is now regularly mentioned in national roundups of startup-friendly locales. For example, tech advocacy group Engine and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation recently ranked four Colorado cities -- Boulder, the Fort Collins-Loveland metro area, the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield area and Colorado Springs -- among the top 10 cities in a national survey of locations with the heaviest tech startup activity. And USA Today recently reported that Denver/Boulder was the No. 9 site in a list of top cities for technology.
"I think we are much more prevalent on the map," says Justin Anthony, CEO of RiNo-based BrightNest, which provides tools and tips for home maintenance. The business was recently acquired by Angie’s List for more than $6 million in cash and stock. Anthony says Silicon Valley is a bit of a bubble, where it's difficult for entrepreneurs to test out ideas on regular folks. Denver, meanwhile, allows companies to get their fingers "on the pulse of mainstream America."
After the first Denver Startup Week, "I heard a lot more people talking about it and getting into it," Anthony says, noting that the event seemed to help create more resources for startups and more awareness in the area.
"Denver Startup Week is a great initiative led by some passionate people," Anthony says. "We still have a long way to go, but I definitely think there has been a lot of progress."

"An awesome celebration"Startups' logos decorate the wall at Galvanize.
Andre Durand, Founder and CEO of  identity management provider Ping Identity, agrees that Denver Startup Week last year provided a significant push for the Denver startup scene. 
"What we started last year and what we're building this year seems to be very substantial for the Denver community," he says. "The startup energy has actually been here for some time, and it just needed a venue in which to show itself."
And Durand notes that this year's Denver Startup Week appears on pace to extend the momentum generated by last year's event. He points out that the popular SXSW and TED events didn't become fashionable overnight. 
"It's an evolution, absolutely," says Durand. "I think consistency is going to be very important."
Back at Galvanize, Deters too believes the 2013 edition of Denver Startup Week will eclipse last year's event. "This year is going to be even more tremendous," he says. "The fire is getting huge. We're heading for a massive momentum." Deters said that a wide range of people are traveling to Denver for the event, including venture capitalists from Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. It's going to be an awesome celebration of our progress during the past year."

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.

Read more articles by Mike Dano.

Mike is a freelance writer and executive editor of FierceMarkets Telecom Group.
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