Category: Government & Politics

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.

Fort Collins-based St. Renatus gains FDA approval for dental anesthetic

FORT COLLINS — St. Renatus LLC, a Fort Collins-based biopharmaceutical company, has received FDA approval for its first product, a dental anesthetic.

Kovanaze allows dental anesthesia to be administered through a nasal spray without using a needle. It is designed for use in procedures involving most of the upper teeth.

“For more than 100 years, the dental industry has delivered dental anesthesia using a needle injection. Now, through the efforts of a dedicated team, we have developed a revolutionary needle-free method for delivering pulpal anesthesia,” said Steve Merrick, St. Renatus’ chief executive.

Kovanaze is intended for use in dentistry as a topical anesthetic, delivered in the nasal cavity to achieve pulpal, or tooth nerve, anesthesia.

St. Renatus was formed in 2008 and has raised approximately $40 million in funding to pursue the development and approval of the nasal mist.

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.”

FAA’s new drone rules to ease burdens on commercial operators

The Federal Aviation Administration this week issued new rules that will become effective in August, easing some regulations for operators of drones used commercially.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta called these new rules a “first step,” as regulators work on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.

Tom Dougherty

Tom Dougherty

Tom Dougherty, an attorney with Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP in Denver, said the new rules largely will replace the FAA’s Section 333 Exemption and Certificate of Waiver or Authorization processes for obtaining approval for commercial small unmanned aircraft operations.

Chief among the changes is elimination of the requirement that the operator have an FAA airman’s certificate, or pilot’s license. Given the time and expense associated with obtaining a pilot’s license, this requirement was a barrier to entry for many commercial operators, Dougherty explained.

Now, an operator must hold a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate with a sUAS (small unmanned aircraft systems) rating, which can be obtained by passing an FAA-approved aeronautical knowledge test, or by holding a current pilot certificate and completing an FAA-approved sUAS online training course.

The aeronautical knowledge test will be available through FAA-approved knowledge test centers around the country on the effective date of the final rules, and the online training for current pilots will be available at www.faasafety.gov.

Other aspects of the final rules include:

• Use of a visual observer is no longer required, but is still advised;

• Drone operations from a moving vehicle are permitted in sparsely populated areas;

• Drone operations 400 feet above ground level are permitted if the drone remains within a 400-foot radius of a structure and no higher than 400 feet above the structure;

• External loads are allowed if the load being carried is securely attached and does not adversely affect the flight performance of the drone;

• And intrastate transportation of property is allowed, but may not be conducted from a moving vehicle.

Many existing rules remain in place, Dougherty said. Commercial drones must still remain clear of other aircraft and not be operated in a careless or reckless manner. They must weigh less than 55 pounds including payload. Drones must remain at or below 400 feet above ground level; fly no faster than 100 mph; operate within certain visibility and cloud clearance requirements; and be subjected to a preflight safety check by the operator.

Hickenlooper’s Brazil trip includes stop at Level 3 data center

BROOMFIELD – As part of his four-day trip to Brazil this week, Gov. John Hickenlooper made a stop at Broomfield-based Level 3 Communications’ data center in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Wednesday.

Hickenlooper traveled to Brazil as part of a delegation of 54 Colorado business, academic and civic leaders attending the 2016 Biennial Summit to Brazil to help showcase Colorado’s business environment to foreign investors.

Hickenlooper toured Level 3’s toured Level 3’s data center, network operations center and distributed denial of service scrubbing center in Sao Paulo to learn more about the company’s cybersecurity services.

Level 3 owns 17 data centers in Latin America, including three in Brazil. The Sao Paulo scrubbing center, opened earlier this year, mitigates against cyber attacks to help customers recover from malicious activity. It’s Level 3’s ninth such center worldwide.

“Seeing firsthand Level 3’s data center gave me great insight into how they identify, research and detect malicious cyber activity,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “It also reinforced how the efforts we have underway in the state of Colorado will help protect global businesses of all sizes against increasing cyber threats.”

Hickenlooper’s trip continues today and Friday and includes a tour of Projac, Latin America’s largest audio-visual production center, and a visit to Espaco NAVE, a startup incubator.

MergeLane grad BallotReady campaigns to empower voters

BOULDER — The founders of BallotReady came to Boulder in February with the goal of their online voter guide providing comprehensive information on candidates and issues in seven states for this fall’s general election. By the time they graduated from the MergeLane startup accelerator 12 weeks later, they instead were ready to ramp up to 25 states.

BallotReady chief executive Alex Niemczewski said her Chicago-based startup’s time spent in Boulder earlier this year proved invaluable as it related to team development, marketing, scaling and fundraising strategies.

“I could talk about how wonderful they are for hours,” Niemczewski said of MergeLane in a recent phone interview.

Colorado’s importance to BallotReady didn’t end in April. The state is one of just four in which the website is covering primary elections this year as well, testing out strategies ahead of the big rollout this fall.

With Colorado primary ballots due June 28, Colorado voters at no cost can enter their address and party affiliation at ballotready.org and see a list of every candidate running in the primary for every race at the national, state and local levels — all specific to each voter’s individual ballot. From there, voters can find aggregated information on each candidate, ranging from previous experience to endorsements to news to stances on issues. For the general election in the fall, information on ballot measures will be included as well.

BallotReady’s value, Niemczewski said, is particularly in the local races, where candidates for races such as, say, university regents aren’t always as well-known and voters often resort to guessing or leaving portions of their ballot blank.

“We’re pretty inundated with information about the presidential candidates,” she said. “Most people are decided when they show up to vote for president, but they’re not prepared for the rest of the ballot.”

Founded by Niemczewski, Aviva Rosman and Sebastian Ellefson in late 2014, BallotReady partners with the University of Chicago’s nonpartisan Institute of Politics and boasts among its board of advisors David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Obama, and former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

BallotReady covered Chicago’s mayoral runoff election in the spring of 2015, spending about $180 and attracting 400 users. The site already has covered primaries in Illinois, Kentucky and Maryland this year. For the Illinois primary in March, BallotReady attracted 64,000 users, or about 2 percent of overall voter turnout. For the Kentucky primary last month, though, BallotReady officials said usage ballooned to 12 percent of registered voters in the state who accessed the site to view candidate information.

BallotReady still is finalizing which 25 states it will cover this fall, Niemczewski said, with an eye on swing states where races figure to be more hotly contested. General election info will begin going live on the site in September or October.

While other sites such as Ballotpedia and Change Politics offer some form of the same services, Niemczewski said BallotReady aims to set itself apart by covering every candidate on every person’s ballot and providing more comprehensive information. BallotReady users also can set preferences on the issues that matter most to them and compare candidates on those specific topics. The site aims to prevent bias by aggregating information on the web as opposed to providing summaries or recommendations. The site also lists candidates for each race in random order.

Niemczewski said the eventual goal is to “cover every race, every election in every democracy at some point.” Since BallotReady plans to always keep the site free for voters, the company is pre-revenue at this point. Niemczewski said the priority this year is making the site useful for voters, with a deeper dive into making money next year. She said the major avenue for revenue is tapping into the billions of dollars spent on campaigns every year. That could mean selling data on what voters care about in a given district to candidates, elected officials or advocacy groups, or other things such as selling ads or video spots on specific candidates’ profile pages.

MergeLane cofounder Sue Heilbronner said the team of cofounders is what attracted the accelerator to BallotReady first and foremost. But she said the user traction the site has already gained encourages her that the company will find a way to make money.

Funded so far mostly by grants from the National Science Foundation and Knight Foundation, as well as prize money from various pitch contests, Niemczewski said the company has raised about 75 percent of a planned $750,000 seed funding round.

MergeLane, through its discretionary investment fund, has committed a six-figure investment to the round.

“If (the user rate in Kentucky) is the kind of traction they’re seeing in their first month of operation,” Heilbronner said, “we have a high level of confidence that they’re filling a need that will have material business implications.”

Joshua Lindenstein can be reached at 303-630-1943, 970-416-7343 or jlindenstein@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joshlindenstein

Go Code Colorado finals set for Denver Center of Performing Arts

DENVER — Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office announced on Tuesday that the finals of the Go Code Colorado civic app challenge will be held at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts complex.

The event, in which 10 teams from across the state will vie for three $25,000 prizes, is slated for 6 to 10 p.m., May 26, in the Seawell Grand Ballroom, 1348 Lawrence St.

Go Code Colorado charges developers and entrepreneurs to make use of public data available through the Secretary of State’s office to solve business problems and make better business decisions. The top three teams win $25,000 contracts with the state to build out their apps.

Two teams each from April challenge weekends in Fort Collins, Denver, Durango, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction won spots in the finals. Fort Collins teams have a solid track record, having been among the winners each of the last two years.

This year’s finalists from Fort Collins include SWO, an application mapping verified women-owned businesses using data from the Business Entities and Trade Names databases, and Energy Tech, a surface regulation navigator for oil and gas drilling sites.

Admission to the finals event is free and open to the public and available via online registration.

CSU, several area companies awarded $4.6M in state accelerator grants

Colorado State University and nearly a dozen businesses in Boulder, Broomfield and Weld counties on Thursday were among those announced as recipients of Advanced Industry Accelerator grants from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

A total of $4,634,779 will be awarded for the Proof-of-Concept and Early Stage Capital and Retention Grants to support Colorado’s advanced industries.

“We are thrilled to grant these innovative organizations with funds needed to help scale their technologies,” said OEDIT executive director Fiona Arnold in a prepared statement. “The Advanced Industries Program continues to be a great success, and it has attracted other state agencies, such as the Colorado Energy Office, to put funding and resources into the program to reach even more Colorado organizations.”

Colorado State University received three of the Proof-of-Concept grants, which are open to Colorado research universities, federal labs located in Colorado and other labs with valid technology-transfer offices. These grants are for pre-commercialization research and commercialization preparation.

CSU researchers were awarded $150,000 to develop an advanced filtration technology to safely and efficiently remove water from human milk, creating beneficial nutrients to promote neonate growth. They also won $55,732 to create a new product for the clinical treatment of large bone defects, and $150,000 to improve remote monitoring of animal health care and owner compliance to significantly improve pet well-being while reducing care costs.

Five businesses in Boulder and one each in Superior, Broomfield and Keenesburg were among 21 statewide to win Early Stage Capital and Retention grants, which fund companies that are commercializing innovative technologies to create viable products that meet a market need and can be created or manufactured in Colorado and exported globally.

Blue Canyon Technologies, 2425 55th St. in Boulder, was granted $250,000 to help it develop commercial, high-volume spacecraft components.

MMA Designs, 2555 55th St. in Boulder, was awarded $112,518 to aid in development of a deployable membrane antenna that could offer dramatic capability improvements over a wide range of frequencies.

Kapteyn-Murnane Laboratories, 1855 57th St. in Boulder, was granted $50,000 to address technical reliability issues with its fiber laser.

Nanoly Bioscience in Boulder was awarded $50,000 to aid in developing a technology focused on preservation of therapeutic efficacy and prevention of spoilage by eliminating the vaccine cold chain.

Sudhin Biopharma Co., 685 E. Heartstrong St. in Superior, was granted $50,000 to develop a patented technology for compact cell settlers which scale up the inclined-settler technology in a cylindrical and conical geometry.

IM Therapeutics, 11001 W. 120th Ave. in Broomfield, a clinical-stage biotechnology company, will receive $196,889 to aid in its discovery and development of products using a personalized medicine approach to the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

FWD: Energy, based in Zanesville, Ohio, received $250,000 to help it commercialize a combination of emerging technologies with the goal of producing high-quality graphite substitutes from scrap tires. The technology is being tested near the Weld County town of Keenesburg, and the company’s chief executive, Richard Sloan, told BizWest that if it is successful, FWD: Energy may locate a facility there.

Applications to OEDIT are reviewed by committees that consist of business, technical and financial experts as well as an industry-specific review. Final recommendations are reviewed and determined by the strategic oversight board, with guidance from the state Economic Development Commission.

The next grant-application cycle has been suspended to allow time for a review of the program to date, ensure that key program objectives are being met and to consider any improvements substantively and administratively. The next anticipated deadline is July.

The Advanced Industry Accelerator Programs (AIA) were created in 2013 to promote growth and sustainability in Colorado’s advanced industries by driving innovation, accelerating commercialization, encouraging public-private partnerships, increasing access to early-stage capital and creating a strong infrastructure that increases the state’s capacity to be globally competitive.