Category: Entrepreneurs / Small Business

Lightning Hybrids raises $2.3M in new funding

LOVELAND — Lightning Hybrids LLC has raised $2.3 million in new funding as the Loveland-based company continues to try and fuel growth.

The company disclosed the fundraising — a combination of equity and debt — in a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Lightning Hybrids CEO Tim Reeser could not be reached for comment.

The filing indicated that the total offering amount was $4 million, meaning more money could be on the way.

The new cash comes on the heels of a $2 million funding round last year.

Lightning Hybrids, 319 Cleveland Ave., makes hybrid systems for medium- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles. The company employs 44 people, mostly in Loveland.

The company has recently announced large orders from early customers, but spokeswoman Bonnie Trowbridge said she expects that a major announcement regarding a large brand’s fleet could come by mid-September.

Broomfield software firm App-X rebrands as Altvia

BROOMFIELD — Application Experts, a 10-year-old software company commonly known as App-X, has rebranded as Altvia in an attempt to better align its name with its services.

The company’s software helps private-equity and venture-capital firms streamline the flow of communication and information between fund managers, portfolio companies and limited partners or prospective investors.

The first part of the Altvia name, company officials said, is a nod not only to alternative investments, but also to height or ascension. Combined with the Latin via, meaning road or way, they said the new name reflects the company’s drive to help clients create “a path to the top.”

“We have a lot of wind in our sails in terms of momentum, and we felt like now was the right time to do it, to have the name of the company and the branding match what we’ve been doing all along,” CEO and founder Kevin Kelly said in an interview.

Kelly said Altvia is projected to hit revenue of between $4.2 million and $4.3 million this year, up from $2.7 million just two years ago. The company has 27 employees, all based at 590 Burbank St. in Broomfield, where the firm earlier this year nearly doubled its office space.

Kelly said he expects to continue adding two to four employees per year, as well as add offices in other cities known as more-traditional financial centers in the near future.

Altvia went through the Techstars startup accelerator in 2008, but took the course after that of bootstrapping the business rather than raising outside capital.

Kelly said Altvia is actively looking at options for expansion and doesn’t rule out raising capital in the future.

“But we’re a very viable growing concern as we are without that,” he said.

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.

Boulder-based Black Bear Energy raises $2.5M Series A funding round

BOULDER — Black Bear Energy Inc., announced on Monday that the 15-month-old Boulder company has raised a $2.5 million Series A round of funding to scale its model of helping large businesses and commercial real-estate owners integrate renewable energy into their buildings.

Local venture-capital firm Boulder Ventures led the round, with participation also coming from Black Bear seed investor Rocky Mountain Institute.

Drew Torbin

Drew Torbin

Kim Saylors-Laster

Kim Saylors-Laster

Black Bear CEO Drew Torbin said in an interview Monday that the company has already added two employees in the wake of the new funding round and is hiring for a third — a junior-level analyst — that will bring the firm’s employee count to eight. Black Bear’s employees are split between Boulder and Arkansas, where executive vice president Kim Saylors-Lastor is based.

Founded by Torbin in April of last year, Black Bear works as a buyer’s agent for large property owners, helping them identify energy-efficiency options that exist in their building portfolios and then seek out bids, execute contracts and oversee construction of the projects.

It’s the type of work that Torbin and Saylors-Laster did for Prologis and Walmart, respectively, in building the two largest on-site corporate solar programs in the United States. But Torbin said it’s also work that most companies don’t have the expertise to engage in, even though they know there is untapped potential in their portfolios.

The bulk of Black Bear’s work is in facilitating solar projects, but the company also does work in energy storage, fuel cells and lighting.

“We realized pretty quickly that the market had a latent demand for our services, and we’ve been working pretty quickly to work with these large customers ever since,” Torbin said.

Torbin declined to disclose revenue, but the company says it is already serving clients that represent more than 1 billion square feet of property.

“We’ve got a big pipeline, big and growing,” Torbin said.

Started last year with a $500,000 seed funding from Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room, Black Bear will use the new funding not only to add employees but also to continue the buildout of a software platform that will make the company more efficient in the services it provides.

“All of our best companies spring from the authentic experiences of our serial entrepreneurs,” Kyle Lefkoff, founder and general partner at Boulder Ventures, said in a news release. “Drew and Kim are the most experienced people in this market, and the overwhelming response of their customers to Black Bear Energy validates their unique approach.”

Fort Collins, Longmont to host Colorado Tech Tour stops

The Colorado Technology Association’s second-annual Colorado Tech Tour will include stops in Fort Collins and Longmont next week.

Run in conjunction this year with the Aug. 1-5 Tech Week — so declared by Gov. John Hickenlooper — the Tech Tour started last year as a media tour/storytelling platform to showcase the technology activity occurring in Colorado outside of just the Denver metro area.

The Colorado Tech Tour includes government partners such as the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the Colorado Workforce Development Center, the Colorado Innovation Network and Go Code Colorado.

“It’s basically for us to advocate and showcase all of the work that’s happening all over the state,” said Amy Regnier, director of marketing and events for the CTA. “We’re going out and telling the stories of tech in the state of Colorado.”

This year’s tech tour will start with a stop in Colorado Springs on Monday, Aug. 1, followed by Frisco/Vail on Tuesday, Grand Junction on Wednesday, Fort Collins on Thursday and Longmont on Friday. Panels of local business leaders will be open to the public at each stop to highlight the tech scenes in each region.

The Aug. 4 panel in Fort Collins will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at Innosphere, 320 E. Vine Drive. Moderated by Innosphere CEO Mike Freeman, the panel is slated to include Derek Haynes, CEO of Scout Marketing; Ashley Colpaart, CEO of The Food Corridor; Mark Kollar, founder of St. Renatus; and Marshal Smith, managing developer at Radial Development Group.

The Aug. 5 panel in Longmont will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Xilinx campus, 1951 S. Fordham St., and be moderated by Longmont Economic Development Partnership vice president Wendi Nafziger. Participants are expected to include Greg Kleese, site director at Micron Technology, and SensorNova founder Jake Galbreath, as well as officials from Xilinx and Zayo Group.

Brad Feld kicks off entrepreneurs-network campaign with $100K gift

BOULDER —  Brad Feld, a national venture capital investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, has committed $100,000 to kick off the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network Colorado’s new capital campaign.

The network is designed to support entrepreneurs, create jobs and stimulate economic growth in targeted regions of the country by leveraging the resources and intellectual capital of the Blackstone Group, a global investment firm based in New York.

Feld is a resident of Boulder, a managing director of the Boulder-based investment firm Foundry Group and a co-founder of Techstars, a national accelerator program for startups founded in Boulder that has its own investment arm.

BEN Colorado, formed in 2014, is funded by a $3 million gift to the University of Colorado Boulder, part of a three-year grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. BEN Colorado is hosted at CU’s Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship.

Blackstone identified Colorado as a vibrant entrepreneurial region needing better connections between its various high-growth industries and geographies.

The current network of BEN Colorado’s 70 companies employed more than 6,000 people and generated more than $1.4 billion in revenue last year.

“BEN Colorado exemplifies the transformation that can happen when local communities collaborate to tackle big problems,” said Steve Schwarzman, chairman, chief executive and co-founder of Blackstone. “Brad Feld shares Blackstone’s mission, and we thank him for his tireless efforts helping entrepreneurs build the innovative, successful companies Colorado needs to ensure future growth.”

Amy Stursberg, executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, said Feld has been an advocate of the BEN Colorado program since its inception, and this gift is the cornerstone in a campaign that will develop a sustainable program in support of furthering entrepreneurship and job growth in Colorado.

Learn more at:

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.

Investment firm buys majority stake in Firefly Medical

FORT COLLINS — Carlton-Harvey Group, a Georgia-based private-equity firm, has acquired a majority stake in Fort Collins medical-device startup Firefly Medical Inc., as the latter aims to significantly scale up sales.

Carlton-Harvey invested $2.5 million in Firefly, according to a recent regulatory filing, and Firefly co-founder Patrick Bols said Wednesday that there is also an undisclosed loan commitment aside from the equity portion.

Bols, who has served as chief executive for the past year, becomes chairman of the Firefly board with the new transaction. CHG principal Trevor Carlton, meanwhile, will take over as CEO of Firefly, and CHG principal Stuart Harvey becomes president.

Firefly, 320 E. Vine Dr., will keep its branding, and all eight employees who were with the company prior to the CHG investment will remain.

“Everybody still has a very important job to do here,” Bols said.

The addition of Carlton and Harvey, as well as a new sales manager, boosts the company’s employee count to 11, and Bols said the intent is to add two more employees this year and three to five more in 2017. The new cash infusion will be used largely to beef up sales and marketing, including internationally.

“The most important part of this transaction is we’ll now have seasoned executives managing the company,” Bols said.

Founded in 2013 by Bols, Steve Schmutzer and Keith Burge, Firefly makes a device called the IVEA that aims to replace the standard pole from which IV bags are hung in order to improve patient mobility, nursing staff efficiency and safety for both patients and caregivers.

Firefly officially launched the device in May of last year. Bols declined to disclose revenue.

“Almost immediately we recognized that the IVEA is a solution that could transform the industry,” Carlton said in a news release. “It’s a great story and a great product, and we look forward to working with Firefly to make the IVEA the new standard of care in hospitals around the world.”

Correction: The original version of this story mis-labeled Carlton-Harvey Group as a Fort Collins-based firm. We regret the error. closes $1.5M seed-funding round backed by Boulder VCs

BOULDER — Inc., a 4-year-old Australian company whose founders recently moved the company to Boulder, announced Wednesday it has closed a seed-funding round of $1.5 million. raised $800,000 of the round in March.

The completed round was led by venture capitalists in Boulder, including Tahoma Ventures, Blue Note Ventures, Galvanize Ventures and Techstars Ventures. operates a content delivery network used by high-traffic web sites. The network is integrated with agile development workflows. gives engineers more control and flexibility to drive website performance and security.

Ari Newman, a partner at Techstars, said the group is excited to add to the Techstars Ventures portfolio.

“Their technology bakes website scaling in at the most fundamental level, and will change how the content delivery network industry delivers value going forward,” Newman said. “By bringing agile development workflows to the CDN industry, has integrated the last bastion of the web application delivery stack with agile development workflows.” in a prepared statement said it is adding to its sales and development teams. Additionally, the capital will allow the company to focus on partnerships with hosting providers, content management system providers, agile development tools and other complementary software-as-a-service products.

Boulder-based Ignyte launches $5M investment fund

BOULDER — Ignyte Lab LLC — a Boulder company that aims to help revenue-generating companies scale their operations — is raising funds for a new $5 million investment fund that it will use to invest in technology and natural and organic foods startups.

Ignyte founder Ryan Ferrero said in an interview that the Ignytion fund will make seed-stage investments averaging $250,000.

Ferrero will manage the fund along with a pair of veteran entrepreneurs who have joined Ignyte as partners, Bernee Strom, who recently moved to Boulder from Seattle, and Tom Miller of Peak Asset Management in Louisville.

Tom Miller

Tom Miller

Bernee Strom

Bernee Strom

Ryan Ferrero

Ryan Ferrero

The new fund will allow investors not only to invest in promising young companies. But the hope is that it will also expand the clientele for Ignyte, which often takes on operational roles with the young companies with which it works.

“What we’re doing is hitting the gas and accepting business submissions to scale ourselves,” Ferrero said.

Run for the past four years out of ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s offices in Gunbarrel, Ignyte recently moved into office space at the Sustainability, Energy, and Environment Complex on the University of Colorado Boulder’s East Campus at the corner of Foothills Parkway and Colorado Avenue.

In addition to Strom and Miller, venture capitalist Trapp Lewis — who is based in Singapore and whose resume includes stints with companies such as Alibaba and Yahoo — has also become an investor in Ignyte.

United Arab Emirates entrepreneur Wissam Otaky, meanwhile, is working with Ignyte as an advisor as his company, Hatcher, helps Ignyte deploy a software platform through which the company will better be able to manage its portfolio and portfolio companies’ operations, including everything from tasks to email to finances to file storage. The platform will also allow investors in the Ignytion fund, no matter their location, easier access to greater detail on portfolio companies and facilitate communications.

“When you’re managing a portfolio, there’s so many moving pieces on a given day,” Ferrero said. “You need to be able to coordinate and get tasks done efficiently.”

Strom, whose background includes helping launch, as well as several other companies, moved to Boulder last fall and connected with Ferrero in the spring. She said that with all of the startup accelerators already in place in Boulder, she found Ignyte’s model a good fit for her to help companies that are already post-product and post-revenue to grow.

“I decided my niche would be better to help companies scale,” Strom said.

Beau Burris, CEO of Denver-based Mame’s Crafted Gourmet LLC, which makes Mame’s Burritos, said Ignyte’s participation in his company has been invaluable in recent months as it starts to scale. Ignyte took a minority equity stake in Mame’s in December. Burris said the company grew over the past couple of years to more than $1 million in revenue, but needed help raising money and taking the next step.

“To go from a million-a-year business to 10 million-a-year, it takes some guidance I think,” Burris said. “I want the direct route there. I don’t want to be climbing all these side mountains on the way there.”

While Ignyte has worked with local companies to this point, Ferrero said the Ignytion fund would seek out deals all over the map.

“We would imagine the lion’s share of submissions will happen from here, but we are sourcing deals from everywhere,” Ferrero said.