Colorado’s Apex Meeting: Startups Celebrate, Old Guard Shows Life

9/11/13Follow @MichaelXBD

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how to make enterprise companies more like startups. He suggested his company, one of the first photo-sharing sites, forgot that lesson during its ill-fated marriage with News Corp.

News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWS) bought Photobucket in 2007 for $300 million. Rupert Murdoch’s company sold it off in late 2009 for a reported $60 million.

Photobucket has lost ground to companies like Instagram, but it’s still around in Denver, and Munro said it is working hard to regain its edge.

“It really was an interesting exercise to make Photobucket innovative again,” he said. Virtually everything about how the company operates was put on the table.

Photobucket has had some success in recent years. It struck a deal with Twitter in 2011 to become Twitter’s native photo-sharing feature. It was a major validation for Photobucket, but in 2012 Twitter switched to a system it developed internally. Last year, Photobucket extensively reworked its software and is trying to regain its momentum.

Meanwhile, Quark, a startup founded in 1981, might be Colorado’s most cautionary tale of creative—or Creative Suite—destruction.

Quark was founded in Denver and made desktop publishing software. In the 1990s, QuarkXpress dominated the market for desktop publishing and revolutionized the graphic design industry.

Then its archrival Adobe released its “Quark Killers”: InDesign and the Creative Suite package that includes Photoshop and Illustrator. Quark has spent much of the past decade trying to recover.

Quark still is kicking and remains headquartered in Denver. The company doesn’t have a booth or speaker here, but at least one employee was walking around the convention.

Quark will launch QuarkXPress 10 in the next few days. The launch hasn’t gotten much press, but it appears the product is targeted to enterprise customers and has expanded beyond the desktop publishing market.

Meanwhile, graphic designers the world over dread Adobe’s frequent updates to the next version of CS, but they all use it.

A New Apex. The Colorado Technology Association rebranded its major annual event as the Apex Conference earlier this year, dropping the DEMOgala name it previously used. That follows last year’s decision to host the awards dinner and the conference on back-to-back days.

DEMOgala reliably assembled a good roster of speakers and interesting panels, which was nice for journalists and people who wanted to hear what’s going on. But the trade show needed some improvement.

There was a deliberate effort to improve that, CTA head Erik Mitisek said. It feels like it worked, with Apex featuring more (and more interesting) companies.

“We really wanted to evolve into a ‘state-of-the-state conference’ and showcase both enterprise and emerging companies,” Mitisek said. “We also focused on trying to thoughtfully blend the communities and build a floor that’s really relevant to our core themes.”

The companies also look like they are putting in more effort and money, and their displays are more polished and sophisticated. They are also more creative—this year’s booths include mini-golf, arcade games, and that carnival game where you test your strength using a sledgehammer.

Then again, the new venue could be the biggest difference. In recent years the conference was held in the cramped underground ballrooms of a different hotel. Everything at the Hyatt, this year’s venue, is above ground, and there’s natural light.

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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