Connections: How communities can make or break your tech startup

By Editor May 10, 2013

Why tech companies are flourishing in Denver

Charles Var, TrackViaBy Charles Var, SVP Marketing, TrackVia

If you want to start a tech company, the place to do it is Silicon Valley, right? While it remains the home for some of the country’s best-known tech companies and startups, the Mile High City is giving the Bay Area a run for its money with a recent string of successful high-tech startups emerging from the Rockies.

The question a lot of people have been asking lately, is “why Denver?”

Denver seems to have it all, ranging from a lower-than-average cost of living to an active outdoor lifestyle that draws people from all over the world. But what truly sets Denver’s tech scene apart from all others are a few fundamental ingredients; ingredients that other communities hoping to build a thriving tech scene would benefit from replicating.

Strong Local Community

The availability of great mentors and local support plays a critical role in encouraging new tech industry growth. Alongside TrackVia, we have a team of businesses that continue to fuel our community’s growth as a whole. The impressive roster includes well-known companies like Photobucket, Rally Software, Ping Identity, ReadyTalk, Cloudzilla, SendGrid, LogRythm, Forkly and hundreds more.

In addition to the companies that make up our startup scene, Denver has a large and active ecosystem of organizations and local events. These include the Colorado Technology Association, the Colorado Innovation Network and Denver Startup Week. All were created to foster and sustain the continued growth of our startup community.

For example, the Colorado Technology Association provides support to new and existing startups alike and has taken great strides to help TrackVia and our peers optimize performance in the global marketplace. The Colorado Innovation Network was created to lead and collaborate on programs, events and initiatives that will impact our innovation ecosystem. As a privately funded organization within the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the Colorado Innovation Network is in place to promote global leadership, grow companies, and create jobs. To showcase Denver’s spirit of entrepreneurism, Denver Startup Week is held annually to celebrate the great companies and innovations happening in the Mile High City.

For any city to truly become the next Silicon Valley, it takes more than a few startups with great ideas. It takes groups of people, organizations and events—truly the whole community—to foster the entrepreneurial spirit.

Startup Resources

A decade ago, areas outside of the Valley might not have had access to VCs and funding sources. However, as Denver’s startup and tech scene continues to grow, so do the firms and investors that want to support it. An April 21st article in the Denver Business Journal revealed a list of the top Denver-based venture capital and private equity firms. Major players investing billions of dollars annually include KRG Capital Partners, Access Venture Partners, Resource Capital Funds, Grotech Ventures, Excellere Partners, Meitage Funds, and Vestar Capital Partners. While a business born in the Valley might have access to a larger pool of big-name VCs, they are also competing with hundreds—or maybe thousands—of startups for capital.

In addition to access to capital, Denver entrepreneurs also have access to several tech incubators in the area. Programs like TechStars and Built in Denver were created to enable participants to tap into larger networks to share their expertise, knowledge and resources. Even the Metro Denver Economic Development Cooperation, an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Conference, wants to be a resource to locals. It has dubbed itself as ‘the nation’s first and only truly regional economic development entity in which many area economic development groups have joined together to represent, and further, the interest of an entire region.’

Additionally, local government is kicking in to help. Denver offers tax credit to companies that employ 20 or more people with above-average wages, and the State of Colorado’s Small Business Development Centers provide free counseling and training to entrepreneurs. The Denver Mayor’s Office and the Colorado Technology Association are both active advocates for tech sector growth too, and frequently lobby for tax and business laws that make it as affordable as possible for startups. In addition to access to Denver-area VC capital and private investors, local entrepreneurs have the resources it takes to get started.

Thriving, Skilled Workforce

A great tech idea and all the capital in the world does little good if you don’t have the employees to execute. Luckily, Denver has a highly educated workforce. More than forty percent of its population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Denver is also centrally located to several strong universities, including the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Denver.

In addition, in recent years, Denver has been the go-to place for workers looking to relocate from places like Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Boston. Data varies, but various sources estimate nearly a half million workers have relocated to Denver from California and other places since 2008.

The truth of the matter is that you can start a tech company almost anywhere in the world. And success still requires a great idea, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of old-fashioned luck. Still, a strong community, access to resources and a thriving workforce can and do swing the odds of success in your favor. They certainly have for TrackVia.

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After 15 years working in Silicon Valley for the likes of Intuit, Symantec, and HP, Charles headed east in 2008 to lead marketing and communications for Denver-based MX Logic. Following MX Logic’s acquisition by McAfee in 2009, Charles directed strategic marketing for the McAfee Content and Cloud Security division, raising awareness and demand for the company’s portfolio of Cloud-based email and web security solutions. His experience in Internet- or Cloud-based business solutions spans back to 2000 when he helped launch several of Intuit’s early online solutions, including QuickBase and QuickBooks Online. Charles earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism from Chapman University.