How 3 Colorado tech pillars approach hiring, innovation and more

April 27, 2017

Here at Built In Colorado, we’re big fans of small startups. But we also care about supporting some of the larger, more established players in Colorado tech, too. We caught up with some of Colorado’s largest and longer-running companies to learn what makes them a pillar of Colorado tech.

 

Arrow Electronics has more than 18,000 employees around the world, including 2,000 in its Centennial office. The company got its start in New York in 1935, but Matt Anderson, Chief Digital Officer, said since moving the headquarters to Colorado five years ago, the company has become even more innovative.

As a large tech company, how do you keep entrepreneurship and innovation alive within your team?

Arrow started off as a small radio repair shop with one location 80 years ago. We’ve successfully pivoted over the decades, growing into a $23 billion global Fortune 500 tech company that helps the biggest names in technology and startups alike get their products to market quickly and cost-effectively. That can only happen in a company that encourages its employees to try new ways of doing things, and that has an appetite for some level of risk and failure.

At Arrow, we’re incredibly fortunate to have an executive leadership team that encourages us to take risks, fail fast and then get back up and keep on pushing the boundaries of where what’s practical meets what’s possible. That really helps to foster a culture of innovation.

It also helps that we’re forging innovative partnerships with companies like Indiegogo. This is helping Arrow — historically a B2B company — expand into new product and service offerings geared specifically to startups and entrepreneurs.

What's your take on Colorado's tech environment?

Colorado has an incredible tech scene. That’s part of the reason Arrow decided to relocate its global headquarters here five years ago. There’s a ready-made pipeline of great talent, and Arrow is always in the market for top-notch engineers, IT pros and digital marketing experts to help us continue growing.

At Arrow, our mission is to work “Five Years Out,” and it’s definitely easier to embrace that forward-looking mindset when you’re in the middle of one of the most exciting tech scenes in the world.

How has the rise of startups in Colorado affected your approach to attracting and retaining talent?

We realized that, on the surface, a corporate job can be a tough sell over the perks of startup culture.

Particularly with the team I oversee (the digital team), we’re focused on creating a workplace that has the best of both worlds — the fun, collegial and entrepreneurial atmosphere of a startup with all the benefits that come from working for a Fortune 500: competitive salary, matching 401(k), transportation benefits, great healthcare options and a free on-site gym, to name just a few.  


Zayo Group has more than 4,000 employees worldwide and roughly 650 across its Colorado offices. Kay Henze, senior vice president of Dark Fiber Solutions for the Rocky Mountain Region, shared more about the company, which got its start in 2007 and has since grown to be a power player in Colorado tech.

As a large tech company, how do you keep entrepreneurship and innovation alive within your team?

At Zayo, entrepreneurship is at the heart of our business and culture. It begins with our recruiting focus on talent that is curious, motivated and resilient — eager to learn, not afraid to take risks and overall persistent.

As that talent grows and shows they have a long runway before them, we encourage them to take on big challenges, even very early in their careers, by encouraging people to move into stretch assignments that may be outside of their traditional field of expertise.

Organizationally, we’re structured with segments that operate and are measured as startups with end-to-end P&L and balance sheet responsibility.

Each and every employee of the company receives equity-based compensation that is tied to their individual, segment and overall company results.

We create an entrepreneurial work environment in our Colorado office locations, with great open work space in the heart of the Boulder and Denver communities.

Finally, we are very active and involved in the university, startup and business community with events and activities that are available for Zayoites to participate in on a daily basis. All of these actions drive a very engaged culture that embraces and supports entrepreneurship.

What's your take on Colorado's tech environment?

The tech environment in Colorado is thriving. It’s exciting to be at the epicenter of that growth and to be one of many businesses that has successfully transitioned from a true startup to a growing and prosperous business that is giving back to the community and state.

There is a very vibrant tech ecosystem that includes accelerators, top-ranked universities, venture capital firms and organizations that connect established business leaders with up-and-coming leaders. This ecosystem has also attracted a very strong talent base of entrepreneurs and risk takers who thoroughly enjoy the quality of life that Colorado has to offer.

The culmination is that Colorado has a well-deserved reputation for innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.

How has the rise of startups in Colorado affected your approach to attracting and retaining talent?

Colorado’s startup community has been a benefit to Zayo’s recruiting. There is a broad talent pool of candidates in the state who are willing to work hard and take risks. Our universities, accelerators like Galvanize and growing array of excellent community organizations are nurturing this talent, with programs and curricula designed for entrepreneurs, engineers, designers and developers. These have supported all of our recruiting efforts and helped to fuel our entrepreneurial culture.

 

Greenwood Village-based eBags got its start in 1998 after a few former Samsonite employees wanted to sell luggage online. The company — which today has 125 employees — was recently welcomed back into the Samsonite family, after having been acquired by the company for $105 million earlier this month. CEO Mike Edwards shared more about the company’s role in Colorado tech.

As a large tech company, how do you keep entrepreneurship and innovation alive within your team?

We’ve created processes to continue to innovate new technologies and innovations, including a partnership with iterate.ai to test emerging technologies. We allocate a certain percentage of our capital to testing and development and make sure we never back off it. In the first year alone, we tested dozens of companies and implemented eight. Our culture has never really moved off our foundation, which was built by entrepreneurs who had a common vision and didn't take no for an answer.

What's your take on Colorado's tech environment?

It’s strong and growing. It’s now a viable competitor to the west and east coasts.

How has the rise of startups in Colorado affected your approach to attracting and retaining talent?

This hasn't really impacted us. We have a strong culture, and many of our team members have been with the company for 10 to 19 years. We attract many new employees from referrals from existing employees and have a unique set of perks to retain employees, including food truck Tuesdays, paying employees to travel and an aggressive 401(k) program.

 

Photos via featured companies.

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