Category Archives: Denwhere?

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.

Some common fails in events

So I went to an event over the weekend, and frankly it was a 100% absolute shit show. No lie, it was packed to the gills with fail.

And there wasn’t any reason for it, other than poor planning. Like I said, events are easy.

In no particular order, here’s a few pointers to make sure your event rocks.

  1. Have an ID checking line? don’t have vendors checking IDs, have them looking for marks and/or wrist bands. It slows everything down needlessly and pisses off everyone. Why did i wait 30+ minutes in this line if i could have waited 30+ minutes AND ended up with a beer!
  2. Prepare vendors, make them aware of expected attendance, even if it’s a wild assed guess. Overage is never fun, but it’s better than shortage. Donate it, give it away free the last 30 minutes, whatever you want to do, but running out of your product in the first 40 minutes of a 6 hour event…. big fail, and 100% avoidable. I will never give my money to that vendor now.
  3. Free events are hard to gauge expected attendance. Add in weather, location, etc. It’s tough. Guess high. An event in a public park? An event with an active user base? Guess high. Have an RSVP list, use it as a gauge and bump by several factors (depending on when you cut it off, or whatever makes it “stop”).
  4. Is the event largely to move something of yours? Have enough of them!!! My main reason for going to this event (Other than being supportive of a cool sounding event, and the people who organized it) was to get a certain product that was advertised as “Come here and get it at the pre-sale price” and by the time I found the booth (Still in the first hour the event was open) the product was gone, sold out, but I could put my name on a list in case they get more, or i could not give my money or support to you ever again.
  5. Having food trucks? Have more. Food trucks are tough. Pick trucks that can move food fast, and have as many as possible. Prepare them for attendance, then remind them every time you communicate with them so that they don’t forget or ignore you. This event had four (That I recall), and each (remember this is the first hour of a six hour event) had a line almost 100 people long… in 40 minutes.. wonder how long the food lasted?

I had RSVP’ed online which entitled me to my first beer bring free. I spent about 20 minutes in line to get my ID checked, after asking those around me what the line was for, and sending my wife up to the front to investigate. Then another 15 to get my Beer ticket. I couldn’t buy more beer tickets from this booth, it was just to get my beer ticket, so my wife was going to have to wait in the beer ticket line which looked at least as long as the ID check line. We walked to the beer tents, those lines were each about 70+ maybe 100 people and was also checking IDs. I opted to not have my free beer, then we walked the row of booths on one side, first one that looked like tasty food, “Sorry guys, we’re sold out”, Oh ok, weird this thing just opened. Get to the food trucks, hundreds of people in lines. We’ll eat later. Head to find the thing I want to buy, almost can’t find it (there was a tent with hair dressers and shit in it, and when we shoulder our way to the booth, “Oh sorry, all sold out”

Next year it won’t be on my calendar, I certainly won’t recommend it to others. Totally avoidable.

Would you like to mentor teams Competing in GoCode CO?

UnknownIf you didn’t know, i’m helping organize events for the GoCode CO campaign. It’s a pretty cool thing that the Secretary of State is organizing. It starts with hackathons taking place all over CO. Actually there’s a kick off event, but the fun starts with the hackathons.

I’m running the Fort Collins event (feel free to sign up!!) but there’s going to be events in Boulder, Durango, Grand Junction, and Colorado Springs as well.

The hackathons are the weekend of the 21st. Teams will compete around building apps around state data. Solving problems that exist now.

Here’s where you come in. We need mentors for a check in event that follows the hackathons. April 5th at the awesome Convercent office we’ll be bringing the winning teams from each city together to spend the day talking to mentors from all corners of startup’ness.

We’ve got a sign up form, here. We need about a dozen or so more mentors than we have at the moment. We want to make sure each team has the opportunity to talk to lawyers, business people, sales people, tech people, etc.

Unlike other hackathons, the winners don’t go home at the end of Sunday, done. With money and possible State contracts up for grabs, the teams that win the hackathons are just starting a journey that ends May 9th.

To make sure the teams are as supported as possible, this mentor checkin day is a big deal. If you have something you can share with aspiring new startups, please sign up, there’ll be snacks and coffee, I promise :)

If you’ve got any questions, just let me know.

City Build Denver, let’s build this!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to sit down to a family style dinner of about 100 strangers, in Civic Center Park… at sundown.

IT WAS AWESOME.

It was City Build Denver, and the event was CallaborEAT. It was great. Nicole and I took a Car2Go down to the park, and they had created this magical set up in the middle of the park. rope lights, long tables, hot cocoa and tea stations, a big table of cupcakes.

They brought in speakers  from all over the place, including the Civic Center Park Conservancy, a three people Non Profit in charge of programming for the park. They talked about the importance of taking back the park, planning events at the park, etc.

We also heard from people talking about tactical urbanism and more, all about building up and making Denver better.

It was a great time, with great food and meeting new people. I’m really excited to see what CityBuild does and hope i can be more involved.

At the end, we walked home. Because Denver is great and very walkable, which was also a topic, getting around Denver and making the city more walkable, after dark and any other time.

Keep up the good work! Let’s make Denver Awesome!

So Yeah, Denwhere?

I neglect my personal blog way too much. There I said it judge away.. That said I’m still not signing up for Tumblr.

Ok anyway on to why I sat down to write this post. Denwhere?

360|Conferences brings me a lot of joy, it let’s me work on lots of things, and give a lot of my time to Denver. Out of that has come Denwhere? (Yes there’s a ? at the end, it’s a joke on a joke, and really does make for a cool name). I started Denwhere? as nothing more than a website with a google calendar as a way to provide a single place for events in and around Denver to be listed on a master calendar. It went pretty well, then I stopped updating it.

Recently though, it’s begun an evolution from one trick pony website (admittedly, with a bum leg), to an organization. An organization that is a non-profit. An organization that has taken over running Ignite Denver. An organization with lofty goals, and a means to actually meet them. An organization I’m prouder than shit to be a part of.

Denwhere? has one main goal; foster, encourage and support events in Denver that hit on any combination of these three tenets. Community, Entrepreneurship, and Education.

To that end, we’ve got a lot of things in the works, obviously growing and making Ignite Denver even more awesome, is one. A Festival of Books and Epic Farmers Market are two more. Both likely in the summer/fall of 2014.

This year we’re organizing Denver NodeBotsDay, and the Law Hackathon. Both coming up fast! Both FREE

We’re also helping make the Denver Bee even more epic (I know ‘epic’ is played out, but it really does sound good), which is a tall order, I admit, but still.

Denwhere? is still very much in it’s infancy, but we’ve got big plans. We’ve also got room for more voices at the table. Whether you want to volunteer at an event, help organize one, have an idea for an event you’d like to run past us, or just want to say hi. Drop us a line.

Denwhere? isn’t exclusive, elitist, or closed to new people or ideas.