3 new Boulder startups to look out for this quarter

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Published on May. 29, 2014
3 new Boulder startups to look out for this quarter
The vibrant community of Boulder is known to be a startup hub that attracts new and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. The Kauffman Foundation found Boulder to have the highest high-tech startup density of any metro area in the United States in 2013. Built In Colorado caught up with a few founders to find out why it’s the place to be and how Boulder is a fit for their startup journeys. 

Varsity is a four-month old startup founded by Devon Tivona and Lianne Haug, recent graduates from the computer science program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Varsity is a mobile application that matches activities to students through a personalized feed of events, clubs, and classes based upon their interests.
Where did you get the idea for Varsity?
"We discovered the need for Varsity quite naturally," Tivona said. "Both Lianne and I were heavily involved students during college—captains of teams, editors for magazines, and presidents of clubs. Yet we were surrounded by thousands of students that constantly struggled to find meaningful ways of engaging their campus. Lianne and I are both builders and technologists by nature, so we saw a digital solution to this need."
Why do you do what you do? 
"We are building Varsity because it matters," Tivona said. "Universities are in trouble: the value of degree is plummeting, the cost is increasing, and the product remains unchanged. Fifty percent of graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Tuition has increased five times faster than the consumer price index for the past two decades. Curriculum and faculty no longer differentiate college, lectures can be uploaded to YouTube and academic knowledge is a Google search away. Our work will prevent drop-outs, connect young people with their passions, and ultimately help shape students into the people that they aspire to be. That is why we get up in the morning to work on Varsity."
What's in store for you this summer?
"This summer we will be working with several Colorado universities to prepare launches of our application across the state when school is back in session," Tivona said. "This means we are spending a ton of time on the road talking to universities, a lot of time with future student users getting their feedback, and tons of time iterating on our product based upon these tests. We also applied to Techstars and we are waiting to hear back (cross your fingers for us)!"
Why do you think Boulder's a good fit for your company?
"Lianne and I are 22—very young for the average startup,"Tivona said. "The mentorship and the resources that our community provides helps make up for our supposed lack of experience. Without Boulder, I don’t think it would be possible for us to do what we do. Recently, during Boulder Startup Week, Lianne and I had a conversation about how special of a place Boulder is for what we are doing. It is a community full of people who genuinely care and are always willing to lend a helping hand. Not surprisingly, we can’t go a day without having a conversation with someone that ends with the phrase 'How can I help?'”
The Cotery, which was fouunded in June 2013 by Char Genevier, Tricia Hoke and Jed Seigle, allows clothing designers to design and sell unique, cut-and-sew garments, without any of the up-front cost.
Where did you get the idea for The Cotery?
"Right now, it's incredibly complicated and expensive for emerging clothing designers to take their designs from an idea to a tangible product," said Genevier. "I have friends who have spent thousands of dollars getting patterns made, buying screen printing equipment, and dealing manufacturers, often resulting in a ton of unsold inventory if they miscalculate demand for certain styles or sizes."
Why do you do what you do? 
"I love enabling creation," Genevier said. "The common thread between all the companies I've founded is that they give people the tools to bring their ideas to life. Giving clothing designers the opportunity to see their designs become tangible products and to actually make a profit selling those products is what got me started. Knowing many of them couldn't do it without The Cotery is what keeps me motivated."
What's in store for you this summer or down the road? 
We're currently in private beta with plans to launch within the next month. 
Why do you think Boulder's a good fit for you company?
"While you don't typically think of Boulder/Denver as a fashion mecca, there is actually a growing design community that is acutely feeling the pain of getting their designs to market," Genevier said. "They have an uphill battle, trying to compete with LA and New York designers for manufacturers' capacity and retail buyers' attention. We can provide them with an easier, less risky way to go to market. On top of that, Boulder's startup community has a 'give first' philosophy that has enabled us to very rapidly build a network of mentors to help us through the trials and tribulations of building a business."
Useful, founded in 2012 by Jay Crain,  Eric Reid, and Ben Brightwell, brings the gamut of design, development and domain skills to the field service industry from a team that's been building apps for smart devices, since there's been smart devices. Their "Mobile-First" approach sets them apart from the existing desktop and web apps that have been in the market for years that are trying to "retrofit" mobile into their solution. The company raised a small seed round last fall and are raising a larger second seed round now.
Where did you get the idea for Useful?
"I've always been an enterprise guy, building software and apps for businesses," Crain said. "After the launch of the iPhone I immediately started thinking about the impact on mobile workforces. I knew the software market was going to fundamentally change for field service organizations. After researching the market, we saw room for innovation and an opportunity for disruption with the old legacy players in this market. So, we decided to create something more Useful."
Why do you do what you do? 
"I love building innovative things from scratch that solve business problems, especially products with features no one has ever seen before," Crain said. 
What's in store for you this summer or down the road? 
"First and foremost, supporting our fast-growing list of customers, and second, launching the 2.0 version of Useful," Crain said. "We've learned so much about the market in the last year and have received great feedback from a variety of customers; we are really excited to bring all of that to life in Useful 2.0."
Why do you think Boulder's a good fit for your company?
"We love being a part of the startup community," Crain said. "We are surrounded by forward thinking people - investors, advisors, attorneys, accountants, partners and customers - who have supported our launch and growth in becoming a successful company. Being located on Pearl Street is really important to us too. It is the epicenter of the community, and we are constantly bumping into others and sharing ideas and problems opportunistically."
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