CEOs on Colorado’s Advantages, Challenges, and Boulder vs. Denver

6/24/14Follow @MichaelXBD

Life is good in Colorado, both for tech startups and the people who run and work for them. At least that’s the opinion of five of Colorado’s leading entrepreneurs who sounded off about running tech companies in the state. They spoke last week at the Colorado Venture Summit in Denver.

The summit brought together CEOs from some of Colorado’s top startups and tech companies and partners from venture capital firms across the country. The goal was to help connect promising or thriving companies with investors who are not familiar with Colorado, according to David Gold, chair of the organizing committee. Gold is a managing director at Access Venture Partners, a Denver-area venture capital firm.

But it also gave the CEOs or former CEOs a chance to share their experiences. The panelists were Webroot CEO Dick Williams; Sovrn CEO Walter Knapp; Sympoz co-founder and CEO John Levisay; Layer3 TV co-founder and CEO Jeff Binder; and Jud Valeski, co-founder and former CEO of Gnip, which was bought by Twitter this spring. Valeski left the company when the deal closed.

Sympoz, which does business as Craftsy, and Layer3 TV are headquartered in Denver, while Sovrn and Webroot are based in Boulder and Broomfield, respectively. Gnip was founded in Boulder and will become the nucleus of Twitter’s planned office in the city.

Each of the panelists met two criteria: they helped found and build successful startups, and they also spent a number of years working outside the state.

That gave them perspective on Colorado’s strengths and weaknesses. They were pro-Colorado, as you’d expect from people who choose to keep their companies here, but they also shed light on issues startups and growing companies face. Here’s a recap of their remarks.

(For the perspective of three venture capitalists who are based outside Colorado, check out this article.)

Colorado’s advantages

Colorado’s strengths include cost and culture.

Employees, especially engineers, do not command the very high salaries seen in the Bay Area, plus there’s greater loyalty, Knapp said.

That last factor can’t be overlooked.

“Churn is wickedly expensive,” Valeski said. “The tax on your organization and therefore your execution is super high….[Turnover] is just low here, and that’s a very distinct advantage.”

There also are intangible benefits, like a different type of lifestyle. Levisay worked in both New York and the Bay Area, and his family decided to move to Colorado several years ago.

“This was a better place to build a life, and a fantastic … Next Page »

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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