When Jim Deters approached Chris Onan with an idea for a community workspace to house Denver's entrepreneurs and innovation class, it's safe to say Onan was skeptical -- and even suggested that Deters was dabbling in some of Colorado's finest medical cannabis.
But Deters was persistent and persuasive, ultimately convincing Onan to jump on board with the project and in October 2012 Galvanize
was born. Denver's startup community quickly embraced the concept of a centralized, customizable business ecosystem tailored to the needs of a company with dozens of employees or the solo entrepreneur who's simply looking for a professional workspace.
In about a year, Galvanize had hooked so much of the local startup community that its location in the Rocky Mountain Bank Note building at 1062 Delaware St. was approaching maximum capacity.
So the Galvanize crew set out to open not one, but two new facilities in Colorado. They'll swing open the doors in the next 10 months on a second Denver location on Platte Street and another just west of the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.
"We've been fortunate," says Onan, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Galvanize with Deters and Lawrence Mandes. "The growth was quick."
The original Galvanize in the Golden Triangle neighborhood is today home to roughly 120 business and individuals, creating a vibrant atmosphere that's a standout not only in Denver's tech scene, but nationally. In 2013, it was profiled by brand-name outlets like Time and NPR.
A rendering of a new Galvanize building in downtown Denver.Pearl Street in Boulder, Platte Street in Denver
Both the Boulder and Platte Street locations will offer the same amenities as the original Galvanize.
For a monthly fee and no lease, community members will have access to spaces ranging from workstations to suites as well as conference rooms, phone booths, a game room, lockers, a café and bar. (Businesses housed in Galvanize are known as "community members," rather than clients or renters.) At the original Galvanize, a roving seat at a desk starts at $299 a month, reserved desks are $449 a month and suites are more expensive.
"We want to make life easier for the tech entrepreneurs," says Onan. "We want to create an environment that's flexible and can grow or shrink as needed; and to give you access to new technology and likeminded tech folks just like you."
It's about maximizing productivity, and mitigating the risks of entrepreneurialism, he adds. "We want to make it less painful to fail," says Onan, citing big leases and myriad expenses that often come with owning a business."
Galvanize will cut the ribbon on the Boulder building this spring -- the target is May -- with Platte Street opening for business around January 2015. Onan expects the new buildings to fill up quickly, based on the popularity of the original Galvanize in the Golden Triangle.
Located at 1644 Platte Street and adding up to 78,000 square feet on four floors, the second Denver Galvanize will be close to twice the size as the original building. The Central Platte Valley address was actually intended as the initial location for the original Galvanize, but the founders jumped at the opportunity to take over the Denver Bank Note building when it became available.
The Platte Street building will be an opportunity to enhance and improve upon the original model from the ground up, Onan says.
Eventually, Galvanize will expand beyond the borders of Colorado, he adds, without elaborating. Past speculation by Deters has included New York, San Francisco and Austin.
A dynamic startup vibeJim Deters is the founder and CEO of Galvanize.
"It aligns well with startup businesses," says Mike Branam, Vice President of Sales and Operations for RentBits
, a Galvanize community member, describing the atmosphere of the first Galvanize building. "It's agile, fast-paced, fluid and dynamic."
Beyond the layout in the work area, with the open Atrium surrounded by two levels of suites and desks, Galvanize is also conducive to collaboration in its full calendar of after-hours events and a great schmoozing venue in Gather
, the in-house café and bar.
"There are a lot of ideas around here and there's a lot of value in taking those ideas and putting them toward operating a business," says Branam, whose company specializes in online advertisement and services for the rental property industry.
RentBits operates out of one of Galvanize's suites and benefits from the ability to close a door for privacy, while still being able to get out and mingle, be inspired by and even serve as a mentor for the myriad tech entrepreneurs and digital innovators working in Galvanize's open spaces.
RentBits, which was founded in 2006 by Dan Daugherty, moved into Galvanize in 2012 from the Denver Tech Center. Unlike DTC, the original Galvanize and the coming Platte Street facility, about three miles away, offers companies and their employees a central location. Branam estimates that a quarter of RentBits' 15 employees either bike, walk or take mass transit to work every morning.
Community and beyond
Galvanize is more than just innovative office space. Also under its umbrella is gSchool
, which offers intensive coding classes. The curriculum is comprised of classes for designers and developers delivered at a pace that mimics to the business world.
Classes are eight hours a day for six months, and gSchool offers a money-back guarantee: Graduates get their $20,000 tuition back if they don't get a qualifying job offer.
Whatever it is, expect the news to be good. In two short years, Galvanize has deftly positioned itself as a leader, locally and nationally.
If Galvanize accomplishes its long-term mission, it will continue to make it not only less painful for entrepreneurs to fail, but also more likely they'll innovate and succeed, says Onan. "I think we'll look back in 10 years and say it was fun to play a part in the tech boom."