Category Archives: community

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Denver Startup Culture

tl; dr;

Is Broken, but fixable.

the long form:

I got into a Facebook fight with a CEO the other day. He was mad i said a blog post on his site was click bait (which it was, but the popular term is content marketing). I was mad because it doled out praise for “making Denver Startup Week happen” to a group of people that certainly did participate in the week, but only 1 was a member of our actual team that drives the event, AKA “Making it happen”. As a member of the team that makes it happen i was a bit insulted. Not that i was not included, but that my work was being ascribed to others. Coincidentally in an effort to quantify my time, I track it (not 100% well, yet), this year i spent approximately 160 hours on Denver Startup week. Had I billed for that time it’d be over $10,000. That’s not a small investment on my part, it’s larger than several sponsorship levels in fact. I don’t say that as a “I do more than you” just as a statement of what i  do, and it’s relative value.

The next day (i kid you not) i see a blog post by builtin Colorado that says there’s no coworking in LoDo. When in fact I helped launch Uncubed, which started in RiNo but has been in LoDo (15th and Blake) for mmm 3 years now, and has existed longer than built in Colorado. Several other places were mentioned as “nearby options”, all are commonly written about in Builtin and/or Tech crunch because they raise money (which to be clear is totally fine).

That’s the crux of what I think is broken in our community. A focus on money raised. On exits. Not on who’s building and running businesses. 

I think raising money is fine, I think selling your company for tons of money is fine, i think talking about those things is fine. They’re obviously economic drivers, they creates jobs, etc. They’re sexy and attract attention.

But.

We’re making our focus around the “Denver startup community” solely about who’s raised how much, how much did the company sell for. We talk about how much VC money flooded Denver in a given time period, but we’re ignoring those companies that form, and continue to exist that don’t take VC money. Uncubed Started with no money from anyone but the three founders. 360|Conferences, started with nothing at all. Last year we had revenue of about $250,000.

We’re not talking about companies that have been around years, are profitable, are doing things. Sure they’re less ‘sexy’ and often (but not always) employee fewer people, but they’re contributing to the Denver community just as much (and I feel more) as the latest well funded Tech Crunch darling, that may or may not even exist next year.

So, all that said, I think that’s now the goal for my blogging efforts. I don’t know if that will be here on my blog or if I’ll spin up something new. I’d like to get a few folks to help me cover things. There’s more to the story of Denver’s amazing startup scene than is being talked about, and I think it’s time we fixed that.

Want to know more, stay tuned. Want to help, let me know.

360|iDev 2015, What an amazing thing we did.

So i just finished my big event of the year, 360|iDev and wow. What a rush (as always).

TL;DR; So honored to share a room with so many awesome people being awesome. Making amazing things, being parts of amazing teams, etc. I honestly feel this event not only has a positive impact on my life each year, but also does on others, which is humbling to say the least.

There’s an amazing photo pool here.

Now the long form.

I start planning 360|iDev the moment the preceding event ends, so yes, I’ve already begun work on next years event.  A 4 day conference with 55 speakers, 400 attendees and a handful of sponsors isn’t something that comes together in a few weeks.

There were a few good, and one bad thing this year. One of the things I like about doing 360|iDev is that we bring about 400 people into Denver, more than 85% of whom aren’t local to CO. Many who aren’t local to the United States. Sure when compared to city wide events, that’s nothing, but to me it’s a big damn deal.

360|iDev is my bread-n-butter. It keeps enough money coming in, my wife hasn’t forced me to get a job… yet, LOL. I get to see people from around the world that i may only see once (maybe twice if I’m lucky) a year. I get to show off my home town (by claim, if not birth), and show everyone why Denver is so awesome, why it’s where I’m where I am.

There was a lot of great stuff this week, much of it conference specific, so I’ll talk about it on the conference blog, but some of it more personal and Denver specific.

Lunch (good)

Last year we ate lunch outside the hotel because yeah $50/person for conference lunch is stupid and well hotels are often stupid. One place however can’t handle 400 ppl, no matter what they think or say. Lunch last year wasn’t awesome. Long lines, long waits, etc. As experiments go, it failed.

This year I had 3 (4 on Tuesday because of Civic Center eats) options for attendees. Lunch tickets were available for each place, people picked what they wanted to eat. It was awesome to see groups form on the fly each day to explore someplace new. We spread the lunch tickets, so no single vendor had more than 150 people a day. So far (bills are still coming in) it looks like i spent half as much this year as last, and had 3x more options for people. That’s awesome!

The only thing that went a bit sideways was my failure to account for vendors not being open on weekends. Out of 3 only 1 was open on Sundays. Oops.

Local Community (good)

One of the things being downtown has afforded was the opportunity to spread some money around vs. bottling it up in a hotel chain. This year we spread about $18,000 to local restaurants in the downtown area. I think that’s pretty awesome, i know i’m not a rain maker, but i think any time I can give money to local businesses, that’s a great thing. Not only am i not paying for over priced hotel food, but I’m boosting (in a small way, sure) the local economy.

While small, i think every dollar helps. I think as a conference organizer, it’s my job to not just dump money into the pockets of a massive hotel chain. It’s my job to better the city that is hosting my event. Whether that’s financially or even just from exposure like not keeping everyone indoors all day and night.

Police (Bad)

During lunch on Tuesday, the attendees ate lunch at Civic Center Eats. A few attendees were enjoying their meal on the grass when some Denver PD officers came over. Sadly instead of assuming these folks weren’t criminals, vagrants or some type of malcontents, they treated a group of international visitors to Denver like criminals, demanding they all present ID while telling them they were sitting in the wrong grass. Not cool Denver PD, not cool. I get we’re trying to revitalize the grass in the park, but maybe wrap that section in tape, vs. the handful of tiny ass signs. Also maybe, just maybe assume people (wearing conference badges, even!) aren’t trying to kill the grass or break the rules and start with “Hey guys, can you move elsewhere, this grass is off limits for now.” vs. oh i dunno, accosting people eating their lunch, making them all present ID before letting them go.

back-side-black-textAs someone who brings people from around the world to Denver, i’m not super thrilled that happened. Small incident, yes? bad experience for people in Denver the first time ever, yup. In the end we all joked about it, but is that really what Denver wants people to remember about it?

I have much respect for law enforcement, I know their jobs are hard, but that’s not an excuse. Be better please Denver PD.

If you’re one of this years’ attendees, thank you, really, truly, thank you. Being able to do this event, and make even a small living is huge! I can’t thank every single speaker, sponsor and attendee enough for being a part of something so truly amazing. Conferences are hard, harder still when balancing making a living, with making an awesome experience. I already can’t wait until next year.

GoCode CO 2015 (Year Two)

I just finished the AAR (After Action Report) Meeting, so now I figure it’s time to put my thoughts down, on this, my second year being a part of such a fun project.

tl;dr; GoCode CO 2015 was better than it’s predecessor, and a huge success. Both of which are kind of expected, you always want to improve, and we did.

I was much more involved this year over last. That was good, last year I felt under utilized, and never really involved beyond, “Show up and be put to work”, so it was nice to actually be involved. The team changed from last year to this, and while I enjoyed last years’ team, I think this year’s team really crushed it. We enjoyed working together, laughed a hell of a lot, and dealt with issues with style.

I was tasked not just with Challenge Weekend (I ran Ft. Collins again this year) but with all event logistics. Four events, two of which were weekend long events, two more party/reception/gala style, was a stretch and a fun challenge.

This year I’ve tried to branch out a bit and take on some event consulting work between my own events. Overall it’s been fun, but definitely a lesson in time and resource management.

I won’t go into granular details of each event, that’s not needed, they all went well, nothing went sideways, or at least overly sideways. My adopted city Ft. Collins took 2 out of the 3 winning spots, which is awesome. I’m sure my team is over hearing me crow about Ft. Collins, sorry all, can’t help it. :)

That said, this year every single team really brought their A game. The Apps were polished, the presentations (mostly) amazing.

It’s been very fulfilling to be a part of something like this, 5 cities around CO (Ft. Collins, Grand Junction, Durango, Co. Springs, Denver) sending 2 teams each to the final event. It’s awesome to see this kind of thing at the state level. Colorado is lucky to have such a cool project, striving to make CO even better than it is.

Oh and I will say, our current Sec. of State is a hoot! I got a chance to chat and hang out with him during Challenge Weekend (i think he hit 3-4 out of 5 cities, that’s impressive), and a little during the final event. Both times he was super cool to talk to. Hard to not like someone who laughs that much!

Event Consulting

I just wrapped up RWDevCon, which by all measures was a huge success. Kudos to Ray Wenderlich and his amazing team.

I handled logistics, and Ray’s team put together an amazing two days of tutorial based content.

For my part, things went well I think. Nothing too crazy came up with the hotel, the other group didn’t interfere with us at all. We didn’t run out of food, or have a projector crap out :) All win’s

This was my first “conference consulting” gig. I really enjoyed it and think I gave great value to the client (Ray).

I’m really excited to help make other events in the community awesome!

Also, I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined the AltConf 2015 team, so that’s gonna rock! I’ve sponsored, and volunteered in the past and this year I get to have a more direct role, which I love.

See you at AltConf! Or any of my 360|Conferences events; 360|intersect, 360|iDev or [360|iDev min] :)

 

2014 in review.

I know, everyone does one, blah blah. This is mine. Read it or don’t :) But I think 2014 was a pretty big year personally and professionally. It saw me recover from a massive blunder in 2013 to the tune of about $80k. It saw me cancel my first event, and sign on to do event consulting on an event I’m excited about. It also saw lots of travel, and bonding with friends near and far.

Things that happened in 2014:

  • Once again helped organize Denver Startup Week
  • Helped organize and run GoCode CO 2014
  • Cancelled 360|intersect 2014
  • Recovered from 360|Stack 2013
  • Held what’s likely the last 360|Flex
  • Helped organize AltConf 2014
  • Brought 360|iDev back to downtown Denver. Sold out a month in advance
  • Held a successful and the first of many [360|iDev min] in beautiful Greenville SC.
  • Spent 10 days in Hong Kong with my Pal Tom.
  • Spent a week in Amsterdam with my amazing wife and friends (Mike, Judy and Samuel)
  • Took on my first event consulting gig
  • I found awesome people to take on Ignite Denver

All in all not a bad year, some ups, some downs.

Denver Startup Week, as always was a great pleasure to help organize. It’s a week long celebration of the entrepreneurial side of Denver, that’s growing each year. It’s an exciting time to be in Denver, and I’m thrilled and thankful to be a part of such an amazing community and City.

GoCode CO is the first of it’s kind, multi city, multi month civic hackathon. Organized by the CO Secretary of State, it was a big pleasure to be asked to be a part of the team that executed this event. On top of being involved in all the primary events I was part of the team that ran the Fort Collins hack weekend. It was great, I worked with a member of the Sec. State and got to spend a weekend in the basement of OtterBox. GoCode is back in 2015, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be involved. Oh and the winning team? From Ft. Collins… not that I had anything to do with it, but since I was on team FoCo, i get bragging rights :)

360|intersect 2014, was the biggest fail of my professional life. I had a line up of amazing people (some I knew, some I hadn’t yet met in person) ready to share their passions, but I couldn’t get people interested. Several things worked against me, so I learned and am excited for 360|intersect 2015.

360|Stack 2013 was a dud. It was 2013’s big fail. I didn’t make it clear what it was about, I moved my focus from Flex too soon, and as a result an event I had planned for hosting about 300, hosted 100 (40 of which where speakers). I started 2014, owing 80k to the hotel we hosted 360|Stack at. Not a great way to start the year. I also learned that community doesn’t always support.

360|Flex 2014, was not an experiment, but was exploratory. Was there enough interest in what was left of the Flex community to do a Flex focused event. While it didn’t lose money, it didn’t make any, and while my heart is with the first event I ever organized, and what was the flagship of 360|Conferences, i decided that 2014 was probably it for 360|Flex. We brought it back for a last hurrah and everyone enjoyed it, but I think that’s it.

AltConf 2014 is something I love. In 2013 I sponsored with money. In 2014 lacking much spendable cash, I sponsored with my time. I volunteered the entire week; helping set up, being the safety monitor, and generally making myself useful. AltConf started (IMO) as a thing that existed along with WWDC. Something you could come to if you didn’t have a WWDC ticket (or if you did) but wanted to be in San Francisco that week. AltConf is now it’s own thing, the team behind it has worked hard to bring in amazing speakers, and provide an amazing (free) event for folks and really while it still happens during WWDC week, that’s more of an “oh yeah WWDC is this week too”. I go to SF that week now, to be a part of AltConf.

360|iDev 2014 in Downtown Denver. This was a big deal. It’s not that we didn’t like downtown it’s that downtown is expensive. We had used the same venue that while great, wasn’t downtown, for a few years. The time came to make a change. Almost a leap of faith, would enough people come, to justify the much higher costs associated with being downtown? Turns out, yes. 360|iDev sold out a full month in advance. We’ve sold out the last 3-4 years, but usually only a week before, sometimes only a day or two before. This year we spent the last 30 days focused on making the event great, vs. selling tickets. It was a bit freeing.

[360|iDev min] have been a mixed bag for us. We went to Vegas a few years back, it was meh. Nothing specific was wrong, just not the place for us. This year we tried going someplace we’d never been. Greenville SC. It was great. We had an amazing line up of people who spoke at 360|iDev in Denver and folks who hadn’t so the content was fresh and meaningful. It went great. So great we’re working on the 2015 version. It’ll be better than 2014! Stay tuned!

Hong Kong is a long ass flight from Denver. That said the trip was worth all nearly 30 hours of travel. What an amazing place. You can read about my trip here, but suffice to say for this post, it was time/money well spent. Tom is one of my best friends and it was a great chance for us to re-connect and hang out.

Amsterdam is one of my favorite places. Helped by the fact that three people I adore live there. Nicole and I spent my birthday in Amsterdam. The upside of going in February, no tourists. It was amazing and not crowded with americans :). The downside, it’s cold. it’s winter, LOL. Sadly all we got was rain, no snow. It was worth packing the extra layers though. Any opportunity to hang out with Mike and Judy and Samuel I’ll take. Spending 10 days in a foreign place with my awesome traveling companion and wife Nicole was also pretty great. I can’t imagine us not traveling together.

RWDevCon is my first time doing event consulting. It’s gonna be a great event, i’d say grab a ticket, but it sold out already. Ray and the raywenderlich.com team are great, the content he’s got planned is amazing. I’m excited to run this event!

I started Ignite Denver in like… 2009? I honestly don’t know, we’ve done some 20 events so far. Ignite Denver was the first Ignite event in Colorado, and up until this year I’ve been the head of the organizing team (sometimes that team was just me and Nicole). I’m super stoked that folks like Terry Cabeen, Dan Stones et. al. are involved and want to take Ignite Denver to the next level. I’m excited to attend Ignite Denver and not be the sole driving force behind it continuing. I’m immensely proud of Ignite and the stuff we’ve done, it’s only gonna be more awesome in 2015.

All in all, a busy year. Not without it’s challenges, but a good year. I hope yours was good, or at least didn’t suck too bad. I’m excited for what 2015 has in store for us all. See you there!

Denver Startup Week 2014 Review (Part 2)

This year i had the pleasure to be in charge of our headline events for the week (basically the 6-9 slot each day), and it went pretty well. Last year three of us manned the top spot, and it was kinda chaotic, and stressful. In the end it all worked out, but was exhausting. This year i decided to be more relaxed. Matt and Kerianne were on the team and between us we divided the headline events and empowered each organizer to make their event rock, and scream when they needed us. It mostly worked.

So what fell under my ownership?

The opening night Party (Elyse and Maggie executed it). It was awesome. Nearly a thousand people in the Union Station main hall, DJs, interactive street arcade games on the ceiling (Courtesy of Oh Heck Yeah!) and lots of tasty drinks. The entire event was a blast, and everyone seemed to really have fun.

Insight Night (Executed by Terry, Rick and Jared) was one of my favorite events. For a few reasons really. Based on Ignite, run by members of the awesome Ignite Denver team (Ignite Denver 18 is coming up soon, get your ticket now!), and taking what’s great about Ignite, and what’s great about DSW and mashing them together. I’m excited to see Insight Night grow and become a major part of the week.

The Startup Crawl (Rocked, by Elyse) was finally awesome. Each year it’s tried to be this massive city wide showcase, and each year it becomes this massive city-wide boondoggle. Elyse decided to limit it to those companies actually in downtown, and offer up spots at Basecamp by Chase for others from farther outside downtown. It was awesome. I stopped a few places, and each had lots of folks enjoying the hospitality of some of our most awesome Denver Startups

Denver Founders Network (Chris and soon to be dad Josh) is easy to work with. It’s an awesome monthly meetup and they know their shit. They had a great panel lined up. It was fun to watch.

The only day time Headline event this year was the Startup Resource Fair. Which was like a Job fair (which was awesome, packed and amazingly attended) but for service providers. I think this year laid some great groundwork for that being a cool addition to DSW. Cari rocked it this year. For the Startup Job Fair, a packed room is a blessing and a curse, but for sure show’ed how hot the tech job market is in Denver. Derek and Josh killed it as usual. Who doesn’t like a job fair with a DJ!

Lastly was the closing party, at Galvanize. Brady did her usual awesome job bringing food, drink and the Denver Startup Community together. There had to be over a thousand people inside and out of Galvanize, and it was amazing. Bumping into people who had a great week, were pumped about the community, and excited about next year. I even ran into an old co-worker from CA, who moved to CO after I did, and now works for a company downtown.

 

Anyhow, kinda long, but wow, Denver Startup Week 2014, was all kinds of awesome and amazing and I’m proud of the work the team did this year. See you in 2015!

I’m Helping Organize RWDevCon!

So for a while now I’ve toyed with the idea of doing some event consulting. I’m good at what I do (at least I like to think so) and so I’ve thought it’d be fun to do it for others.

I’m officially working with Ray Wenderlich on RWDevCon (get your tickets now!), set for early 2015. I’m really excited.

Ray is an awesome guy (and his wife Vickie rocks!) and they’re huge parts of the iOS community. When he approached me with the idea of doing a small event centered around his website and it’s amazing authors, i jumped at the chance. It fits with what i love doing, events that are focused on community, not just doing an event to do an event.

Part of my 2015 plan is to get more involved, and helping organize other stuff is part of it, attending other stuff is the other. No I won’t be attending events that compete with me and trying to poach speakers, that’s shady. There’s lots of awesome events out there and I haven’t experienced them.

The first part of my plan is RWDevCon. I’m excited to see this kinda once in a lifetime (or year) gathering of the folks that contribute to making raywenderlich.com such an awesome asset to the iOS developer community.

Go grab your ticket now, see you in DC!