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INNOVATION

 

No longer is incubating high-growth American companies the coveted, exclusive claim of Silicon Valley and Boston. Denver is one of a handful of exciting urban centers of innovation emerging around the U.S. and globally as well, connecting the spark of ideas with capital to launch tomorrow’s businesses. We have an abundance of the critical ingredients for a fertile innovation climate, and the amazing qualities that make Colorado unique and a preferred place to live and work all are in play.

Denver is a strong center of innovation and entrepreneurism with an excellent mix of capital, universities, an exceptional talent pool, a wealth of savvy startup CEOs willing to mentor their colleagues, and our appealing lifestyle. Local employers thrive amid an impressively interdependent network of investors and entrepreneurs.

Denver Startup Week, held annually in September and now in its fourth year, is the largest free public event of its kind in the country.

A 2013 report on Colorado’s fertile climate for entrepreneurs estimated that we’re seeing one new startup company in the state every 72 hours. Our state boasts the fourth-highest concentration of sole proprietors in the country, and consistently ranks in the top five for entrepreneurship. Small wonder that in Denver, the percentage of small business jobs as a subset of all employment here is a robust 44%.

 

Here are the key ingredients in Denver's innovation "recipe."

Economic gardening initiatives that focus on expanding existing firms with strong growth potential.

Accelerator initiatives, including shared space concepts, that focus on starting high-growth firms by turning startups into enduring companies.

Business plan competitions to identify companies with exciting ideas and high potential.

Workforce development initiatives that help small businesses find and train the talent they need to operate and compete.

Seed and venture funds that focus on startups and expanding firms.

Networking and collaboration initiatives that bring small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs together with large companies and universities.

International trade programs that help small businesses reach out to new global export markets. 

Statewide, 30 federal laboratories generating an estimated $2.3 billion in annual economic impact, giving Colorado one of the highest per-capita concentrations of federal research labs in the country.

Beyond its exceptional cluster of high tech startups and the energetic workforce it attracts, Denver is currently nurturing strong startup environments in non-tech industries as well, including casual restaurants; athletic and outdoor gear; health, wellness/fitness, and pet supplies and services.

OED published its first-ever Venture Capital Report in 2013, which summarizes the activity of investment and its impacts in Denver. OED also offers the Denver Capital Matrix, a directory of 400+ funding sources that have funded Colorado businesses.

The Rockies Venture Club is the oldest, longest running angel investing group in the USA and is now the sixth largest angel group in the country. For nearly 30 years, Colorado has looked to the Rockies Venture Club to connect investors, service providers, and entrepreneurs. 

Colorado offers several public/private sources of business funding, including the Colorado Venture Capital Authority and Colorado Capital Access. The region is also boosted by a number of organizations that support startups through advocacy, collaboration and resources. These include the Advanced Industries Accelerator Programs, the Innovation Center of the Rockies, and the Research Innovation Center (located on the campus of Colorado State University).

Closer to home, the Denver “Gazelles” are an elite group of 15 firms that have earned this distinction by growing exceptionally fast, both in job creation and through garnering venture capital. They have named by the Denver OED annually in batches of five in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Anyone sparked by the entrepreneurial spirit--from aspiring business owners to veteran CEOs--are encouraged to explore The Commons on Champa in downtown Denver. Created in a beautifully refurbished space in a theatre-district building donated by the City and County of Denver, The Commons serves as a unique public gathering place for the city’s diverse community of business builders. The Commons supports startups across all industries by emphasizing inclusivity and expanding access to entrepreneurship through high quality programming, advanced technology, networking and other resources at low-to-no-cost for all entrepreneurs. 

Programming includes mentor hours, meet-ups, an innovative business 101 series, keynote speakers, panel discussions, leadership spotlights, award initiatives, and industry-specific labs. Learn more here.

Co-locating startups with each other and the resources they need to grow is paying off big in Denver and the surrounding region. Two top examples are INDUSTRY and the growing network of Galvanize sites, rapidly filling to capacity and recipients of support from OED.