Home to the world-renowned Aspen Ideas Festival, Colorado is no stranger to innovation. But in recent years, that innovation spurred increased entrepreneurial activity, which is why Twentyseven Global, a software engineering company, opened their new office in Denver.
Headquartered in Kansas City, Twentyseven Global has devoted a large portion of their business to meeting the technology needs of startups, so Denver’s growing community made the city a clear choice. “The whole corridor has a vibrant entrepreneurial culture; Denver was a natural place for us,” said Twentyseven Global CEO Steve Roatch.
Colorado now has one of the highest rates of entrepreneurial activity in the country, according to the Kauffman Foundation. And the cause of this shift is a hot topic of debate. While Entrepreneur Magazine claims that Denver’s affordable housing and lack of congestion is one reason why the city is attracting tech startups, much of the growth is due to the work of the Governor and former Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
An entrepreneur, Hickenlooper set out to make Colorado the “the best state in the nation to do business by supporting entrepreneurs” through initiatives like the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN). Among the hub’s resources and events, COIN has held funding competitions with names like “Glorious Failure,” celebrating the risk and failure that is part of business creation. He has also helped usher in legislation, like the Advanced Industries Accelerator Act, to encourage funding .
An active angel investor, Roatch acknowledges that early funding is still a challenge in Denver and many other cities. “Like most places there seems to be a lack of seed capital. There’s a lot of money in series A and early venture capital, but angel investors have moved out of seed funding.” That didn’t preclude successful exits last year. According to a Built In Colorado report, the 28 digital exits in 2013 generated more than $1 billion across the state.
The energy and innovation that comes from working with startups inspires Twentyseven Global. Their software products for startups, known as Factory 27, have served companies offering loyalty rewards, travel, healthcare and even nonprofit fundraising.
“The typical problem startups have is about risk mitigation. We are risk mitigation for the technology component,” offered Roatch.
It is an ecosystem he knows firsthand, and one with whom he continues to engage through industry groups and his new neighbors. The firm's office is in a collaborative workspace called Industry Denver, nestled within a burgeoning innovation district that is part of the Brighton corridor revitalization. Roatch believes proximity to growing companies offers enormous benefits. "The whole idea is collisions. Putting a bunch of young people together in a co-working space gives you that energy… and lets collisions happen.”
Surprisingly, Colorado has a higher concentration of collaborative workspaces and entrepreneurial meet-ups than California or New York, according to the Colorado Innovation Report. For Steve Roatch, the quantity and quality of these events is another asset. “One of Denver’s strengths is that they are incredibly collaborative and supportive – investors to Colorado Tech Association to more established IT shops – are willing to help,” said Roatch. “And what’s unique to Denver is that senior IT leadership is out attending the events. You’ll run into a CEO from a major corporation at an event.”
Twentyseven Global is hiring in Denver—current openings include a Solutions Architect and Project Manager.