Telling the Story of Colorado Innovation, from Molecules to the Moon

3/28/13Follow @MichaelXBD

Great communities deserve great journalism.

It’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my career. And even with all the drama surrounding the media’s alleged decline, even with all the fretting over what will—or won’t—replace it, that truth remains.

Why? Because there are too many great stories that need to be told, and there are so many important stories people need to hear.

It could be the uplifting tale of an underdog’s surprise triumph, a juicy investigation of misbehaving politicians, or the heartbreaking story of a tragic murder.

I spent the early years of my career as a reporter telling those stories. But, as I’ve learned over the past few years as a business reporter, many of the most important stories come from the business pages. Fortunately, they often are stories people want to hear, as they start or run businesses or pursue careers. Many are happening right here, in and around Boulder and Denver.

If you’re reading Xconomy Boulder/Denver and are from either city or one of their neighbors, you probably know a bit about this already. But if you’re not from here and haven’t heard about what’s going on in Colorado, you should pay more attention to those cities you pass through on your way to the slopes or trails.

The reason why is that there is an amazing number of great stories about people, businesses, technology, and communities.

They’re about entrepreneurs that try to change the world, startups that want to revolutionize industries, and investors that seek ways to contribute to companies that last. They’re also about researchers toiling in labs, teachers mentoring students, and academics and the business community embracing each other.

Refreshingly, most of these stories are success stories. And many of them came about despite local innovators facing tough competition from around the world—and some of the hardest economic conditions seen in generations.

Some of those stories are being told in the nation’s leading newspapers, tech blogs, and cable news channels. Reporters have done a good job with those stories, but there are so many more they’re missing.

Like the story of the Sierra Nevada Corp., which is building a spaceship in an industrial park in Louisville, a small city outside of Boulder. The project, named the Dream Chaser, would fill in the gap created when NASA retired the Space Shuttle. It could help the U.S. retake the lead in the space race and be used by private companies for for-profit missions.

But the dream doesn’t stop there. Together with partners at the United Launch Alliance, a rocket developer based south of Denver in the city of Centennial—and some ambitious former NASA executives and scientists—SNC’s work could make Colorado the home of the commercial human spaceflight industry.

They’re also missing the ways life science researchers in Boulder and Aurora are trying to invigorate the area’s biotech industry by creating new ways for academics and emerging biotech companies to collaborate. Nobel Prize-winner Tom Cech leads one of the efforts, the University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute. Cech returned to Boulder after almost a decade in charge of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and along with groundbreaking work on how chromosomes work, Cech’s group is trying to break down the boundaries that have long separated scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

Another thing you might not know: Cech is one of the five Nobel Laureates affiliated with the University of Colorado. Collectively, they have shown that RNA is a biocatalyst, created the Bose-Einstein condensate, created laser-based precision spectroscopy, and started laying the groundwork for quantum computing. Not bad for a party school, huh?

There are more stories, in industries like robotics and energy, and disciplines like earth and atmospheric sciences, that even few locals seem to know.

Finally, there are the software startups, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists that are making Boulder a model for entrepreneurial communities around the world. Xconomy will have plenty about the startup community and companies emerging from TechStars, the famed startup accelerator that graduated its first class in 2007. As we launch, you can read about Denver’s attempt to build its own startup community using what it has learned from Boulder, which is the subject of our first feature article.

Those are some of the great stories coming from our great communities—but what about the great journalism?

Xconomy’s ambition is to provide just that. By launching a bureau covering Boulder, Denver, and Colorado, we want to embed ourselves in the communities and tell stories no one else has told. We believe our vantage point will let us take a deeper look at what’s going on, and we also will try to build connections with the people that make these communities unique, innovative, and special. Ultimately, our goal is not just to tell great stories, but to make the story of our new home greater.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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  • Marilyn Walker

    I’ve lived in Boulder 40 years, as a student, science professor, small business owner, and now tech entrepreneur. It has always been a small city on the leading edge of thought and innovation. I’m looking forward to your news on all that’s happening here in technology.