Author: Dallas Heltzell

Startup Showcase to feature Jared Polis, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker

BOULDER — U.S. Rep. Jared Polis will mark Thursday’s observance of Startup Day Across America by touring several startup businesses in Northern Colorado and the Boulder Valley. His day will culminate with a joint appearance with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker at a Startup Showcase event in Boulder, where several new companies will display their products and services.

Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., launched the national observance in 2013 as founders of the Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. According to the bipartisan effort’s website, their goal is to give local entrepreneurs around the nation “an opportunity to educate their representatives in government about the challenges they face and discuss how federal policy can support their efforts to test new ideas, create new products and grow their businesses.”

Polis’ day on Thursday will start in Fort Collins with morning visits to Sidekick, a startup that retrofits bicycles with electric power, and Jessup Farm Artisan Village, where patrons can get everything from coffee to a haircut. He’ll be in Loveland at noon to tour Decibullz, which makes custom-fit ear buds.

He’ll move south to Boulder on Thursday afternoon, first visiting ThinkTopic, a tech startup that specializes in research and development.

The Startup Showcase, which Polis and Pritzker will attend, will be held from 2:30 to 4:15 p.m. at Blacklab Sports, 3550 Frontier Ave., Unit D, in Boulder. Startups scheduled to attend and showcase their businesses there include Aleph Objects, Onx Sports, Zybek Sports, Isplack, TreadLite, Ridgelogic, Edntech, Kickfurther, Woot Math, Nice Recovery, Flytedesk and Juiceplus.

At the urging of national organizers of Startup Day Across America, more than 70 members of Congress traveled around their districts and states last year to visit with entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators and other leaders in the innovation economy.

Those wishing to attend or participate in the showcase in Boulder must register online.

CSU researchers to study Swiss firm’s attempt to fight Zika virus

FORT COLLINS — Researchers at Colorado State University will conduct federally sponsored tests of a Swiss company’s citrus-based insecticide to see if it’s effective against mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

The research is being sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. CSU researchers, working under NIAID’s preclinical services program, will test the repellency and insecticidal properties of nootkatone, an insecticide produced by Evolva (SIX: EVE), a company based in Reinach, Switzerland. Data from the studies will supplement Evolva’s research to fulfill Environmental Protection Agency requirements for the commercial launch of nootkatone in the United States.

Zika is one of a number of mosquito-borne viruses, which include both dengue and chikungunya, that are transmitted by two species of mosquito. The World Health Organization and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared the virus a public health emergency because it is associated with potentially severe neuropathogenic and neurodevelopmental conditions in humans.

CDC research already has shown that nootkatone repels and kills a mosquito that can transmit Zika and yellow fever, as well as the black-legged tick that transmits Lyme disease.

Evolva also produces the sweetener known as stevia. Nootkatone can be extracted in minute quantities from the skin of grapefruit or the bark of the Alaska yellow cedar, or produced on an industrial scale from brewing via yeast fermentation.

Innosphere-sponsored competition to aid Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan

FORT COLLINS — Innosphere is collaborating with Fort Collins on implementing the program goals of the city’s Climate Action Plan, according to officials of the city and the locally based technology incubator.

Under the agreement, Innosphere will help the city find the new innovation to meet the plan’s goals concerning water, buildings, mobility solutions, energy and waste reduction.

Innosphere also will organize a competition currently being called “Innovate Fort Collins.” The competition will open July 21, and its finalists will present Sept. 28-29 at Colorado State University’s 21st Century Energy Transition Symposium. The winner will be able to test and demonstrate the technology solution within the Fort Collins grid.

“We want to build on the successful model of these competitions, but the twist to this one is that being successful means you get to deploy your innovation in a real-world situation — which is worth way more than cash,” said Innosphere chief executive Mike Freeman. “The winner will be able to collect real data on how the product is performing, get insight into a real-world customer on how they’re using the technology, and create a “reference account’ and be able to say, ‘This is a significant, known entity that deployed our product successfully.’

“That’s why the technology has to be in a stage where it’s ready to be deployed,” Freeman said. “We’ll give preference to younger companies just bringing innovative ideas to the competition, but we’re looking for the best innovation whether it comes from a startup or an established company.”

“We are excited about this opportunity to work with the city of Fort Collins and the Rocky Mountain Innosphere on this challenge,” said Maury Dobbie, assistant director of CSU’s Center for the New Energy Economy and symposium chair. “Our sixth annual symposium is all about finding solutions related to the energy transition of our country, and one of the ways we’re doing that is through collaboration with industry and government.”

The collaboration between Innosphere, CSU and the city was “kind of an amazing alignment that happened,” said Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, chief sustainability officer for the city of Fort Collins, who unveiled it Thursday night during an Innovation After Hours event at Innosphere. “When we developed our Climate Action Plan in March 2015, it set some of the most ambitious goals in the world, but we needed to figure out how we were going to move the needle toward those goals. We live in an incredibly innovative community, so it’s important for us to leverage that talent and create economic opportunity.

“So the stars aligned with CSU hosting that 21st Century Energy Transition Symposium,” she said. “This used to be called the natural gas symposium, it reflects the transition in energy for the 21st century. CSU wanted to include some sort of competition, and that was perfect because we’d been talking about that with Innosphere. We had an ‘a-ha!’ moment.”

According to the vision behind the competition, the problem to be addressed will change every time the contest is held. The first competition will focus on expanding charging options for electric vehicles.

“We’re offering the city and our infrastructure as a platform to test these solutions,” Thiel said. “A lot of this information we don’t know. For instance, we have some of the biggest proportion of electric-vehicle use in the country. But on a hot August day when people are cranking up their air conditioning, they also have to come home and charge their electric vehicles —.so how can we handle that without overloading the system? The reality is that charging patterns are much more diverse, so how do we utilize that information and adjust the way we plan?”

City officials have modeled electric vehicle use with the assumption that charging is occurring mostly at home at 5 p.m., but mounting evidence shows that actual charging patterns are much more varied.

“We have a lot of $10 problems we need to solve, but we realize the government can’t fund it alone and come up with all the ideas,” Thiel said. “However, the city can throw $1 into that solution and then leverage partnerships to meet it.”

The collaboration with Innosphere and CSU “is not costing the city anything other than staff involvement to try to identify the problems we’re trying to solve,” Thiel said.

Cost has been one of the points of contention since the city came up with the Climate Action Plan. Its goals include reducing carbon emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 and 80 percent by 2030 with a desire to be carbon neutral by 2050. To reach the 2020 goals, about 50 percent of the reduced carbon emissions outlined in the Climate Action Plan would need to come from electric sources.

For Innosphere, Freeman said, the collaboration with Fort Collins “really builds on the partnership we already have in the areas we know best — finding technology and innovation and matching them up with what Fort Collins will need to implement the plan.”

To sign up for the competition starting July 21, go to www.innovatefortcollins.com. More information about the city of Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan is online at www.fcgov.com/climateaction. Registration is open for the CSU symposium at http://naturalgas.colostate.edu/symposium-2016/.

Weiser, Feld among tech leaders signing letter blasting Donald Trump

BOULDER — The outgoing dean of the law school at the University of Colorado Boulder and the co-founder of a Boulder-based technology accelerator are among 145 tech-industry chief executives and others who have signed an open letter describing the damage they say a Donald Trump presidency would do to the U.S. economy.

Phil Weiser, who had served five years as CU law school dean and heads the school’s Silicon Flatirons Center, and Foundry Group managing director Brad Feld, who co-founded the Techstars accelerator that works to nurture technology startups across the area, nation and world, signed the letter detailing their opposition to Trump, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. Also signing the letter were Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, along with eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, CEOs of companies including Tumblr, Yelp, Slack and Qualcomm Inc., a pair of former Google executives and scores of other “inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, investors, researchers, and business leaders working in the technology sector.”

Originally published Thursday on Medium.com, the letter quickly was reposted across other tech-related websites including Wired.com, MarketWatch and others. Fifty-two of the signers were listed as CEOs and 83 as founders or co-founders.

“We are proud that American innovation is the envy of the world, a source of widely shared prosperity, and a hallmark of our global leadership,” the letter opened. “We believe in an inclusive country that fosters opportunity, creativity and a level playing field. Donald Trump does not. He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline.

“We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.”

Reflecting an industry that taps India and Asia for much of its talent, the signers wrote that “America’s diversity is our strength. Great ideas come from all parts of society, and we should champion that broad-based creative potential. We also believe that progressive immigration policies help us attract and retain some of the brightest minds on earth  —  scientists, entrepreneurs, and creators. In fact, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Donald Trump, meanwhile, traffics in ethnic and racial stereotypes, repeatedly insults women, and is openly hostile to immigration. He has promised a wall, mass deportations, and profiling.”

Trump has called for policies that offer more incentives for companies to hire Americans instead of luring labor from other countries.

“We also believe in the free and open exchange of ideas, including over the Internet, as a seed from which innovation springs,” the letter continued. “Donald Trump proposes ‘shutting down’ parts of the Internet as a security strategy  —  demonstrating both poor judgment and ignorance about how technology works. His penchant to censor extends to revoking press credentials and threatening to punish media platforms that criticize him.

“Finally, we believe that government plays an important role in the technology economy by investing in infrastructure, education and scientific research. Donald Trump articulates few policies beyond erratic and contradictory pronouncements. His reckless disregard for our legal and political institutions threatens to upend what attracts companies to start and scale in America. He risks distorting markets, reducing exports, and slowing job creation.”

Although not endorsing Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton or any other presidential candidate by name, the letter concluded that “we stand against Donald Trump’s divisive candidacy and want a candidate who embraces the ideals that built America’s technology industry: freedom of expression, openness to newcomers, equality of opportunity, public investments in research and infrastructure, and respect for the rule of law. We embrace an optimistic vision for a more inclusive country, where American innovation continues to fuel opportunity, prosperity and leadership.”

A disclaimer added to the letter stressed that its signers were acting in a personal capacity and were not speaking on behalf of any organization, corporation or entity to which they are affiliated.

The letter also does not purport to represent the entire technology industry. In fact, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is on a list announced Thursday of people who are scheduled to address next week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, at which Trump will be officially nominated.

“Many people are uncertain in this election year, but most Americans agree that our country is on the wrong track,” said Thiel in a statement quoted in the Wall Street Journal. “I don’t think we can fix our problems unless we can talk about them frankly. That is why I am going to speak in Cleveland, and that is why I will support the Republican nominee.”

Local impact of Seagate’s 14% workforce cut unclear

LONGMONT — How employees at Seagate Technology’s Longmont facility will be affected by the data-storage maker’s plan to cut about 6,500 employees, or 14 percent of its global workforce, by June 2017 remained unclear Tuesday.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, Seagate (Nasdaq: STX) said its restructuring activities and global consolidation would help it operate within a gross margin range of 27 percent to 32 percent by the quarter ending in December.

Officials at the Longmont plant at 389 Disc Drive were unavailable for comment. At the company’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters, spokesman Eric DeRitis said late Tuesday that the next step in the process will be to evaluate the workforce needs of each facility.

In the Form 8-K filed Monday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Seagate also said it was taking a pretax charge of $164 million during the 2017 fiscal year, including about $82 million in cash for employee termination costs.

Seagate had laid off about 70 workers in Longmont in September, a month after the company acquired Dot Hill Systems Corp. At that time, Seagate had 1,400 workers at its Longmont facility, and DeRitis estimated that about 1,600 people work there now. When Seagate acquired disk-drive maker Maxtor in 2006, about 650 Maxtor employees in Longmont lost their jobs.

At the close of trading on Tuesday, shares of Seagate were up $5.26 or 21.83 percent at $29.35.

e-Chromic CEO Loren Burnett takes post at 10-4; wife replaces him

BOULDER — Along with its independence from its Arizona-based founding parent, 10-4 Systems Inc. has gained an experienced executive.

Loren Burnett, co-founder and chairman of Niwot-based e-Chromic Technologies Inc., has become chief operating officer and chief financial officer at 10-4, a Boulder-based provider of supply-chain technology for freight carriers, brokers and shippers.

Burnett’s wife, Richelle Burnett, meanwhile, has taken over her husband’s former position of chief executive at e-Chromic. Richelle Burnett, who cofounded e-Chromic, also is CEO of Boulder-based Madison Assessment LLC, a provider of computer-based assessment tests.

Founded as US e-Chromic in 2011, e-Chromic Technologies is a clean-tech developer of electrochromic thin film for retrofitting windows, using a technology created and patented by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.

Loren Burnett will act as chairman of e-Chromic, which he said in a phone interview Wednesday currently has three employees and is in the process of raising funding for expansion.

A mentor for Boulder-based technology accelerator TechStars, Loren Burnett also founded RLB Technologies, which commercialized technology from universities and research labs. In February 2010, RLB launched Madison Assessment.

Burnett assumed his new position June 21, the same day 10-4 completed its spinoff from Phoenix-based GlobalTranz. That move allows 10-4 to focus on product development and customer acquisition.

“I got introduced to 10-4 by an investor, and the opportunity here is one that comes along once in a lifetime,” Burnett said. “We have a huge opportunity to become the next billion-dollar company in the region.”

Burnett described 10-4’s mission as the “Uber-ization of the transportation industry, primarily focused on trucking. Uber  provided visualization. You know how, in your Uber app, you can look at your phone and see where the little cars are? Their software matches cars and supplies with people needing rides. It’s an Uber-like visualization to the trucking industry because we match supply — the carriers — with demand — the shippers.”

The software has limitless potential, Burnett said, because “there’s virtually nothing you can look at that hasn’t been delivered by a truck at some point or other.”

Founded in 2012 as a division of GlobalTranz, 10-4 has 55 employees based at 4888 Pearl East Circle in Boulder and is actively hiring, Burnett said. The open positions are “predominantly software engineers and integration specialists,” he said, noting that it’s a challenging process because “demand for software engineers in this area is outstripping the supply.”

Last month, 10-4 Systems — under the direction of president and chief executive Travis Rhyan — raised $13.9 million of series A financing led by GlobalTranz’s co-founder, Andrew Leto.

Report cites $50M-worth of unfilled software jobs in Boulder

BOULDER — Software companies in the Boulder area are struggling to find qualified applicants to fill open jobs even though they’re offering some of the highest wages in the country and operating in an area with the U.S.’ fifth-highest concentration of software developers, according to a new report.

According to the report released Friday from ACT, The App Association, about 460 software-development jobs are unfilled in Boulder, with an average salary of $110,000 — about twice the average overall salary in the area.

The report, titled “Six-Figure Tech Salaries: Creating the Next Developer Workforce,” is online.

Software developers contribute more than $600 million in annual income to the Boulder-area economy, the report found.

“Boulder has one of the highest concentrations of software developers in the country, but there aren’t enough to meet demand,” said Jonathan Godfrey, vice president for public affairs at ACT, The App Association. “This means that about $50 million in annual income is left on the table by companies unable to hire developers.

“The problem is that we aren’t teaching students the necessary skills from an early age,” he said. “Barely one in eight high schools teach AP (advanced placement) computer science across the country, which leaves many students unable to pursue it at the college level and qualify for these lucrative jobs.”

Prospects for Boulder students are slightly better than the national average, the report said, with 20 percent of high schools offering AP computer science. That still leaves the vast majority of local students without access to the course.

“To meet the needs of the global, high-tech economy, we must provide all students with access to a top-quality education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, no matter their zip code,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. “In Colorado, high-tech businesses are constantly scouting out skilled workers for good-paying jobs with room for promotion.”

Interactive maps in the online report show where software developer jobs are, how much they pay, and where to find openings. It also reveals which locations teach AP computer science and where computer science education needs are the greatest. Users can zoom in and out to see data by region, state, city, or congressional district.

According to the report, nearly a quarter-million job openings for software developers remain unfilled across the country. It contended that location doesn’t matter because 89 percent of software engineers work outside California’s Silicon Valley and four out of five top-grossing U.S. app companies are from outside that area as well.

Meanwhile, it said, barely one in eight high schools offer AP computer science courses.

The Washington, D.C.-based ACT, The App Association represents more than 5,000 app makers and connected device companies in the mobile economy.

Sierra Nevada in talks with United Nations about Dream Chaser missions

LOUISVILLE — Sierra Nevada Corp. may get yet another chance to chase its dream.

The Sparks, Nev.-based company, which has a space systems division in Louisville, announced on Tuesday that it is talking with an agency of the United Nations about using its Dream Chaser reusable orbital spacecraft to host payloads from U.N. member countries.

Sierra Nevada had lost out on one big contract with NASA in 2014 for use of the Dream Chaser, but won one with the space agency in January. The new memorandum of understanding with the U.N.’s Office for Outer Space Affairs would define one or more low-orbital missions for the company’s flexible space utility vehicle and transportation system.

Under the agreement, the U.N. agency and Sierra Nevada will work with member countries to develop an interface control document and payload hosting guide to allow payloads developed by participating countries to be hosted and operated on a dedicated mission, providing those countries affordable access to space, according to an SNC media statement.

Sierra Nevada “is honored to partner with UNOOSA under our Dream Chaser Global Initiative to offer access to space to a wide range of countries, from those with well-defined space programs and objectives, to developing countries who would like the social and economic benefits of a space program without the time and financial burden of developing the necessary infrastructure,” said Mark Sirangelo, vice president of Sierra Nevada’s Space Systems business area, in a prepared statement. “Our vison, in partnership with the U.N., is to provide U.N. member countries affordable access to space and a range of multi-mission opportunities using the Dream Chaser spacecraft to host a wide range of payloads. Countries will be able to customize their participation level commensurate with the maturity of their space capabilities and national desires, while engaging their universities, industrial companies and government laboratories, and most importantly, their people.

“We offer a complete turnkey solution for participants, providing not only the spacecraft, but all aspects of flight including mission planning and operations.”

The company in January received a contract from NASA to provide at least six cargo-delivery, return and disposal services to and from the International Space Station, using the Dream Chaser. It competed with four aerospace industry giants for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract to transport pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station through 2024.

Dream Chaser’s future had been in doubt in September 2014 when NASA snubbed Sierra Nevada and awarded $6.8 billion in contracts to Boeing Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies to build the next spacecraft that will send astronauts into orbit from American soil. But Sierra Nevada rebounded, unveiling a more versatile, unmanned cargo-only version of Dream Chaser with folding wings and an added cargo module attached to the back.

Boulder-based SAS Manufacturing opens plant in Englewood

BOULDER — SAS Manufacturing LLC, a 10-year-old Boulder-based manufacturing company that serves aerospace and other industries, has opened a facility in Englewood equipped with 3-D printers and automated milling machines.

SAS Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Special Aerospace Services LLC, bought the 12,500-square-foot building at 3737 S. Inca St. in 2015 from C&C Manufacturing, a nearly half-century-old business, and began upgrading the equipment and processes to meet the standards of clients in aerospace, aviation, energy, defense and the U.S. government.

The facility soon will offer clients a 24/7 online platform to view the status of manufacturing projects in real time, company officials said.

“Advanced manufacturing in the 21st century requires integrating the latest automated equipment into a production process that is open and transparent to the client,” said Heather Bulk, president and chief executive of SAS Manufacturing. “Our platform interface will give clients instant access to job status, material tracing and supplier certification data at every step of the process.”

The company in August is expecting delivery of a monoBLOCK 5-axis milling machine from DMG MORI, which it describes as “one of the most precise computerized numerical-control metal-fabrication devices in the world.” Subtractive metal milling remains an essential manufacturing process in aerospace and other sectors where source material traceability is critical.

By late summer, SAS Manufacturing expects to be able to handle projects related to rapid prototyping and 3-D printing, design and precision machining, assembly and component testing at the facility.

“The SAS team can take a client’s concept from design and prototyping to testing and production in a few weeks,” Bulk said. “That same process used to take months with a third-party manufacturing shop involved.”

Special Aerospace Services LLC has offices at 3005 30th St. in Boulder, and its engineers work onsite with clients. It and its subsidiary employ about 60 people.

$3.5M methane-emissions test site to be built at CSU

FORT COLLINS — A facility for testing new technologies for detecting methane emissions at oil and gas extraction sites will be built this fall on Colorado State University property somewhere in the Fort Collins area.

A team of CSU researchers won the $3.5 million, three-year federal grant to create and operate the national facility, the school and the Department of Energy announced on Friday. The money comes from the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, or ARPA-E. All the teams doing research at the site, including CSU’s, will be funded under the ARPA-E MONITOR (Methane Observation Networks with Innovative Technology to Obtain Reductions) program.

The facility will simulate a broad range of natural-gas production systems for testing technologies in real-world industry conditions. It will allow research teams from across the nation to test new technologies for enhanced sensing of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

“The Energy Department has invested in the methane-detection technology,” said principal investigator Daniel Zimmerle, a senior research associate at the CSU Energy Institute, in an interview with BizWest on Friday. “The cost of that detection has been lowered by an order of magnitude with some breakthrough technology. It used to be around $20,000; now it’s more like $2,000 or even $200. But what they need is a test facility to make sure those detectors are working.

“Our job is to assist in bringing these technologies to market,” he added. “We’ll help companies prove out solutions in a controlled environment prior to deployment in the field.”

The site will be located completely outside oil and gas basins, to allow for near-complete control of background and onsite emissions. But exactly where the facility will be built is yet to be determined, Zimmerle said.

“We are still working on that,” he said. “CSU has a number of properties in the Fort Collins area, and there’s some community-engagement process that we’ll have to manage as well. The site will be selected this summer, probably fairly soon.”

The facility will look “somewhat like a gas production site — almost like a movie set for an oil and gas facility,” he said, “There’ll be some gravel pads, a little bit of roadway — sort of the same type of construction that looks like putting a driveway into a rural home.

“The tallest part will be about 20 feet tall. We’re trying to simulate wind conditions and the air flow at a site.”

Bidding for the construction should take place in September or early October, he said, and the facility should be completed by mid-December because “construction is pretty minor.”

Joining Zimmerle’s CSU team will be Anthony Marchese, a professor of mechanical engineering; Jeffrey Collett, a professor of atmospheric science; Jeffrey Pierce, an assistant professor of atmospheric science; Clay Bell, a postdoctoral researcher at the CSU Energy Institute; Timothy Vaughn and Gerald Duggan, research associates at the institute; and Arsineh Hecobian, a postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric science. Partnering with the CSU researchers will be two representatives of Colorado School of Mines in Golden: Kathleen Smits, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Dag Nummedal, director of CSM’s Colorado Energy Research Institute.

The facility will consist of multiple sub-facilities that simulate different operations throughout the natural-gas industry supply chain: dry gas production, wet gas production, midstream compression, metering and regulating stations, and underground pipelines.