Denver Ready to Open Doors to Entrepreneurs as Startup Week Returns
Want to know how big Denver Startup Week has become in just its second year? Maybe you should ask the fire marshals. They might have to drop by to make sure things don’t get too crowded, like they did at last year’s kickoff event.
Denver Startup Week starts Monday with a luncheon that stars marketing guru Seth Godin, with guest appearances by Mayor Michael Hancock and the CEOs of several Denver startups that are on the rise. Tickets for the event at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts are gone, and the waiting list is more than 200.
The demand for tickets is a good indication that people in Denver are excited about the event, which will run through Friday. More than 150 events focused on technology, business, design, and manufacturing are on the schedule, and organizers say more than 3,000 people had registered for events through last week. In all, more than 5,000 people are expected to attend at least one event during the week, organizers say.
Dozens of tech and non-tech companies, organizations like the Colorado Technology Association, and the offices of the mayor and governor are involved in Denver Startup Week, which will sprawl all over downtown. Someone has to hold it all together, and that group is the Downtown Denver Partnership.
The partnership is handling the business and management side of the event, said Tami Door, its president and CEO. That means finding sponsors, booking venues, and bringing in high profile speakers like Godin. The group also handled issues around liquor licenses, making sure events have the right insurance, and setting aside hotel rooms for out of town guests—and making sure no one runs afoul of the fire code.
Promoting Denver and its companies was one of the reasons why the Downtown Denver Partnership helped launch Denver Startup Week last year. People in Denver are aware it’s often overlooked as one of the country’s tech hotspots, and they want to change that.
The partnership realized it could play a part by getting people together. “We knew that this was here, but we wanted to help coalesce it and use it as a platform to build on and to tell Denver’s story,” Door said.
The first Denver Startup Week drew about 3,500 people out to more than 70 events. It was an impressive coming out party and earned a shout out from the White House. While official stats are hard to come by, DSW organizers think it was the largest free event that was focused on innovation in the country.
This year’s version should be much bigger, and organizers hope it becomes an annual fixture on the calendar the keeps growing. But they also want to ensure that it provides useful information for entrepreneurs and has panels and workshops on topics like how to find investors, run a lean startup, attract talent, and create a great corporate culture.
“That is definitely the game plan, to continue to increase the quality of events, build it out, and engage people from each community,” Door said.
The partnership also wants to contribute year round through its advocacy efforts. Door said it views itself as a liaison that connects different parts of the business community, the government, and nonprofits. It knows it can’t make companies successful, but it can use its influence to help solve problems and create a positive business climate.
“We want to remove all the barriers for individuals who want to start companies or who want to grow or collaborate with other companies,” she said.
At first glance, an economic development group like the Downtown Denver Partnership might seem like an odd partner for a bunch of startups. In addition to promoting Denver, the partnership also does advocacy work for its members, runs major events like the Taste of Colorado Festival, attracts retailers, and runs the group that keeps the 16th Street Mall clean.
What unifies all the things the partnership does is the goal of creating a downtown that’s economically vibrant and able to support businesses of any type and size, Door said. That means huge companies like Century Link and Xcel Energy that are big enough to have their names on skyscrapers, but more and more that also means startups that could have three employees one year and 30 the next.
“We want entrepreneurs to get started, excel, grow, and stay downtown,” Door said.
After all, 10 years from now one of those companies might have its name on a skyscraper.