Colorado Tech Roundup: News From PivotDesk, Sierra Nevada, Vestas

7/25/14Follow @MichaelXBD

Here is a quick roundup of some news from Colorado startups and tech companies, featuring PivotDesk, Sierra Nevada Corp., and Vestas.

—PivotDesk’s new partners: PivotDesk wants to shake up the commercial real estate industry. Now they’re trying to do it by reaching out to new, unexpected allies.

PivotDesk, which is based in Boulder, CO, this week went live with a new tool for commercial real estate brokers called Cultivate. The website is built atop PivotDesk’s site that enables startups that have extra, unused office space to share their offices with startups that need space.

Cultivate has features that give brokers a role in the office sharing process. They can use the site to help small clients find space or to help tenants fill space. PivotDesk says Cultivate also gives brokers data about how clients are growing and helps them maintain relationships with clients after a lease is signed, which of course can be important the next time a startup looks for a larger (or smaller) office.

PivotDesk’s original vision when it came out of Techstars in 2012 was to give startups a way to negotiate directly with each other, which essentially removed brokers from the process. PivotDesk founder and CEO David Mandell believes commercial real estate is ill-suited for startups—the industry relies on long-term leases that lock a startup into an office, while the startup could dramatically expand or shrink during the course of its lease.

Mandell said in an interview earlier this year he didn’t think that idea would appeal to brokers, but some began to see it as a tool they could use.

“Traditionally, we haven’t really focused on the broker community, but they’re starting to reach out to us now, so we’re trying to put together a bunch of tools that are focused specifically around brokers and how we can help them and their business,” Mandell said.

In April, PivotDesk expanded its service to 23 new markets, bringing the total number of cities to 29. The company also raised a $3.8 million Series B round to support the growth.

—Vestas adds jobs: The once becalmed wind turbine industry continues its rebound in Colorado.

Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas announced this week it is going on a major hiring spree. The Denmark-based company has four factories in Colorado, where it builds turbine towers, blades, and nacelles, which house the turbine’s gears and generator.

Vestas is looking to fill 800 open positions, which would bring the number of Colorado-based employees to 2,800, according to a spokesman.

The growth in headcount is driven by increased demand for Vestas’ turbines. In June and July, the company announced four new orders for projects in the U.S. that will need 370 turbines. The projects, in Minnesota, North Dakota, New Mexico, and Kansas, will generate 740 megawatts of electricity.

The news shows the once-troubled company—and the wind energy industry as a whole—continues a rebound that began in 2013. Early last year, Vestas laid off hundreds of workers in Colorado, but the extension of a federal tax credit has increased demand for turbines.

—Dream Chaser big in Japan?: Aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corp. announced this week it has reached an agreement with a Japanese space agency that could result in the country using Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft.

The Dream Chaser is a reusable-crewed space plane that SNC is building in Colorado with the hope of winning a NASA competition to replace the Space Shuttle. Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing also are competing. Unlike the Dream Chaser, they are designing capsules.

NASA is looking for a vehicle to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, but SNC could have the option of selling the vehicle to other countries or operating the program privately. The first orbital launch of the Dream Chaser is scheduled for November 2016.

SNC and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency will work to develop potential missions and the possibility of launching and landing the Dream Chaser in Japan. They also will consider how to incorporate Japanese technologies into the vehicle.

SNC already has similar partnerships with the European Space Agency and the German Space Agency.

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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