This year, Denver Startup Week is riding a wave of momentum in the local tech scene

6 min. read
Photographs from 2017’s Denver Startup Week. (Courtesy of the Downtown Denver Partnership)
Allison Saer

Denver Startup Week brings out tens of thousands of people every year and has become the biggest free event of its type in the country. Between Sept. 24 and 28 this year, more than 300 events will take place ranging from informational sessions on how blockchain technology works, to puppy-focused panels.

Allison Saer, senior manager of marketing and communications with the Downtown Denver Partnership, says the week provides a little something for everyone, with events catered to everyone from newbies to startup veterans.

A unique feature of Denver Startup Week is that it is completely and totally free of charge. For some of their events space is limited, like the “fireside chat” with Shark Tank’s Daymond John, but still free if you can register in time. One reason for this, according to Saer, is that they want to keep the event open and accessible to anyone interested, especially those who aren’t typically associated with startup endeavors.

“It's a really welcoming environment where everyone is collaborating, everyone's volunteering, everyone's welcome no matter where you are in the startup world,” she said.

Photographs from 2017's Denver Startup Week. (Courtesy of the Downtown Denver Partnership)
Allison Saer

Denver is in a unique position to host such an event because the city is well suited to foster a robust startup culture, according to Saer. She noted that the labor force and the number of startups in the city have grown tremendously over recent years. In 2010, Denver only had 411 startups — fast forward seven years, and Denver is home to 772 startups and is attracting a talented labor pool faster than ever.

That growth is definitely good news for the tech sector in the city, according to Matt Harbert, a senior associate with CBRE real estate group. He believes that Denver Startup Week has taken on an elevated sense of importance in this new tech climate.

“The significance of Denver Startup Week has grown year over year, with 2018 poised to be one of the biggest impact years yet,” Harbert said. “Now is definitely a notable time in Denver’s tech sector. We have seen so much momentum in the past year from major companies opening new offices or announcing headquarter relocations to Denver. For several years the data has shown that top tech talent is located in and around Denver and that our labor cost and office rents are extremely competitive compared to other major tech markets like San Francisco. But while the data has been available, when you actually see high-profile companies making strategic moves to Denver, it provides a whole new level of validation. It tells other companies that a move to Denver is a safe and advantageous bet for continued growth.”

Harbert has been impressed by the range of parties interested in Denver Startup Week and said it has changed since its beginnings. Originally, he said, Denver Startup Week was geared towards smaller operations. But due to the success of Denver's startup culture, these days, everybody wants to be involved. He noted that everyone can benefit from the week, including tech giants and those who are looking to get their operation off of the ground. He also said the event is increasingly becoming the envy of other cities who would like to see similar growth.

“We are a connected city, we have DIA, we have public transportation, our workforce is growing,” Saer said. “As Denver’s companies grow and as some of the country’s best and brightest companies look to our center city for relocations and expansions, we need to be proactive in our efforts to provide these companies with highly-skilled, upper-level tech talent. This means not only recruiting talent from larger, more seasoned markets, but also ensuring that the 150,000 students who attend colleges and universities in the Denver metro area are well-equipped to make an impact on our workforce.”

Organizers for Denver Startup Week hope Denverites use that connectivity to their advantage, as most of the events will happen downtown, and they have partnered with LYFT to give discounted rides to and from the event. The code for that can be found on their website.

Saer encourages residents to stop by the Commons On Champa to get advice on how to begin a startup, how to improve your startup or how to work with a startup. Jacqui Dietrich, strategic manager for the Commons on Champa, said Denver's "give first" culture makes the city unique and able to support a robust tech and startup industry. She said the Commons is a place where people can receive support and education about how to build their business no matter what level of expertise they have.

“Denver is unique in that entrepreneurship requires a tremendous amount of risk taking, and Denver tries very hard to be a very strong community and support system. We have an accessible ecosystem for entrepreneurs and have professionals trying to make the kind of infrastructure needed for entrepreneurs to access the kind of educational and capital they require,” Dietrich said.

She believes Denver also has an added layer of growth because the city supports "underserved entrepreneurs." It's these entrepreneurs who are really driving the growth in the tech in Denver's startup world, she said, and that in and of itself is a victory for the Denver community.

“Underserved entrepreneurs, which tend to be women, people of color, military veterans, new Americans, sustain our ecosystems, and we are really intentionally working to make those resources more accessible and more culturally relevant to those entrepreneurs,” Dietrich said.

Although Denver is doing a tremendous job at initiating those types of businesses, especially compared to other cities, Dietrich said we're in the "infancy" of Denver's startup scene growth.

When: Events run from morning until late night Sept. 24-28. Informational sessions generally go from 8 a.m. until 5 pm. After hours are filled with opportunities for networking and a good time at block parties and bar crawls.
Where: Saer says almost all the events are downtown and within walking distance of each other

The full schedule can be found here.

And while you're at it, come see us! Denverite is hosting a panel at noon on Wednesday. It's called Local News Startups: A Changing Journalism Ecosystem and it's being held at the Basecamp, 1245 Champa St. Ashley will be on the panel along with Colorado Sun editor Larry Ryckman and Colorado Independent managing editor Tina Griego. Our moderator will be Gabrielle Bryant, president of the Colorado Association of Black Journalists.

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