Last week was Denver Startup Week, the Mile High City’s celebration of all things innovation. Rightfully so, this is one of my favorite weeks of the year and Spire’s been a big supporter since it began.
According to the Colorado Technology Association (our beloved temporary roommates), more than 6,000 people took part in DSW. At our champagne-soaked Spire Startup Soirée, there were at least 1000 people. Crazy! It wasn’t always like this…
When I started working in this industry in 1995, our geekfests were organized by the Rocky Mountain Internet Users’ Group or Terry Freeman’s Internet Chamber of Commerce. They were held in small conference rooms at sub-par hotels in Aurora or Northglenn or in the dank backrooms of seedy goth bars like Cafe Netherworld. We were lucky if someone ordered a Domino’s pizza or a 6 foot hoagie from Blimpie. And, our attendance topped out in the teens, on a busy night.
Now, look at us! DSW was concurrently held at more than 50 venues with huge corporate sponsors, big name speakers, expensive schwag, gourmet food, high-end booze, and, in the case of Spire’s party, a mechanical bull. I could ramble on about how it was so much better way back when. But you know what? It wasn’t.
In the early days of Colorado’s tech scene, we lacked the resources, the support, the interest, the talent, the diversity, the estrogen, and just about everything that we have today. We were outcasts. Nobody wanted to work with us. Nobody wanted to do business with us. Launching a start-up was difficult and gaining traction was even tougher. We weren’t the Homebrew Computer Club, but we certainly were on the fringes. But eventually, that all changed. After some false starts, slowly but surely, innovation became mainstream.
Today, in Colorado, we have a full-blown ecosystem in place. We have trade groups that are actually effective. We have packed Meet-Ups and gatherings. We have numerous tech-focused publications. We have government support (especially after Denver solves that bogus software tax issue).
We have top educational institutions geared toward entrepreneurship and coding. We have educational training programs like gSchool, nurturing skills specifically needed by startups. We have co-working spaces, incubators, and accelerators. We have initiatives like GoCodeColorado and Startup Weekend that inspire people to start businesses right then and there.
We have qualified talent. We have quality service providers. We have good people who’ve been there and done that. We have great successes and and great failures to aspire to and learn from.
And it’s not just in Colorado…
Throughout America, and the world, unexpected tech meccas are ushering in a new wave of technological innovation and prosperity. And despite what Bill Gurley thinks, this is different than the last time tech was en vogue. Back then, we thought we were gaming the system, we thought it was all about money, and we thought we couldn’t fail. Now, we know it’s about passion. We’re prepared to work and we understand that success is far from guaranteed. And we’re not daunted. We’re organized and we have roadmap to follow.
If we are indeed in a bubble, at least it’s a realistic bubble. And it’s a bubble that has and will continue to produce products and ideas that make our world a better place (yes, I said it). All Hail Tech Bubble 2K14!