I am back out in Boulder, Colorado, this week in regard to a new business I am planning. While here, I thought I would check what all the buzz about the Boulder startup scene is about. Over the rest of this week and next I will interview and highlight some of the hottest new tech startups here in the foothills of the Flatirons.
I first became aware of Boulder in 1997 or so. My partners and I, in a web hosting company based in Silicon Alley, NYC, had received an invitation to meet with some folks doing a rollup in the hosting industry. When we went to a scheduled meeting with them, there were two people in the room. One was an older gentlemen (I was only about 35 at the time, but he wouldn't seem so old to me now) behind a desk and the other was a long-haired hippie dude sitting up on a file cabinet. The older guy did most of the talking until I said that I wanted to take the money from my share of selling my company and move to Maui. At that point the hippie on the file cabinet jumped down and whipped out some photos from his carpenter jeans pockets, telling me "dude you need to move to Boulder." That hippie was a guy named Brad Feld and we have been friends ever since.
If you ask Brad, he will tell you I was wearing an ugly lime green sport coat. For the record, I think it was electric blue, but it was indeed ugly. We sold our company within 45 days or so and I went to work for the company Brad had founded. This was in the height of the dotcom bubble. Brad was part of Softbank Venture Capital as well. They had over 250 companies in their kiretsu and as a VP of business development I had a chance to meet many of them. Those were heady times and looking back they were the good old days indeed.
All of that time, though, Brad lived in Boulder (though in those years Brad lived on planes and hotel rooms more than anywhere else) and he never stopped evangelizing about what a great place Boulder was to live and work.
After 9/11 and the dotcom bubble burst I went out to Boulder to help my friend Rajat Bhargava launch StillSecure. Brad was on the board of StillSecure and his Mobius VC was the lead investor. I came to Boulder and worked there pretty much every week for a couple of years, though I commuted back and forth. At the time, the burst of the dotcom bubble had decimated many of the tech companies in the area, which were centered around Interlocken, right outside of Boulder. But, like new growth forests sprouting after a fire, new companies did spring up. Between IBM, the dotcoms that went out of business and the storage tech companies that sprang up and were bought out, there was a critical mass of talent in and around Boulder. To Brad and some of the other leading folks in the Boulder community's credit, this "startup community" was nourished and nurtured, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I stopped coming out to Boulder regularly at the end of 2009 when I left StillSecure. Since that time, Boulder has really exploded. It has taken its place among the leading tech centers in the world.
Between Techstars, of which Brad is one of the founders, and many of the serial entrepreneurs who have founded multiple companies in Boulder, there are a large list of successful Boulder companies. Today, Boulder is perhaps the second, third, or fourth best place (depending on who you believe) to found a startup. It is amazing when you realize that it is really a pretty small town. There are many towns and cities that enviously are seeking to duplicate the Boulder startup revolution. Why not? These companies bring the good high paying jobs that this country needs.
So what are the hottest startups in Boulder today? Stay tuned as starting tomorrow we will showcase the best of them.