Category: Startups

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.

Bour leaving Innovation Center of the Rockies

BOULDER — Tim Bour is leaving his job as executive director of the Innovation Center of the Rockies, a nonprofit entrepreneurial support organization in Boulder, to become a director for 4iNNO LLC in Cincinnati where he will help science and technology companies grow.

Bour will start his new job July 5.

Tim Bour

Tim Bour

“I thought this was a good opportunity,” Bour said. “I’ll be working in a consulting role, combining some of the things I did at the Innovation Center with 4iNNO’s concepts of open innovation and lean startup methodology.”

4iNNO works with Fortune 100 companies and helps clients bring in new ideas from the outside to boost their revenue. 4iNNO also has offices in New York City, San Francisco, Princeton, N.J., and London.

Bour had been with the Innovation Center of the Rockies since September 2007. Early on during his tenure at the center, Bour focused on the commercialization of university inventions. Starting as a commercialization partner of the University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office in September 2007, he developed similar relationships with the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, the University of Denver and most recently the University of Wyoming. The Innovation Center under Bour’s leadership later developed programs for early stage companies in a variety of industries such as natural and organic, software, renewable and sustainable energy, bioscience, nanotechnology and aerospace.

Bob Gill, chairman of the Innovation Center’s board of directors, said an interim director will be chosen from the existing staff, and the board will begin a national search for Bour’s replacement.

Soundwall eyes growth with new CEO, $3M funding round

BROOMFIELD – Settled into its Broomfield headquarters after a move from Boulder last year, startup Soundwall Inc., closed recently on a $3 million funding round and saw cofounder David Hose return as CEO as the company works to get its “connected canvases” for art in front of more customers at brick-and-mortar retail locations.

Hose replaces Aaron Cohen, who was hired in late 2014 and will stay involved as an advisor for Soundwall. While remaining chairman of Soundwall, Hose had spent a yearlong stint as interim CEO of music-streaming service Rhapsody until late last year.

David Hose

David Hose

Now back leading the way for Soundwall, Hose said a major focus of the new funding round will be on ramping up sales and marketing, specifically getting customers to see the company’s products in person rather than just online. After a small launch in 2014, Soundwall increased sales in 2015 mostly through online sites.

Soundwall makes a canvas that is a speaker and is connected to the Internet, enabling it to do things like play music from a mobile device or play back the artist’s voice describing the painting. The company earlier this year added a “floating aluminum” version to its product lineup that is more modern and sleek looking than Soundwall’s original framed product.

“This year we realized that people who get it love the product,” Hose said. “But it’s hard for people to figure it out online, so we’re working out a strategy for that.”

Soundwall, which has an office in New York, will still keep higher-end pieces on display in galleries in places like New York and London. But Hose said the company plans to make a big push to get its canvases into more boutique retail stores as well.

“We’re going to find places where you’d expect to see magical, beautifully designed product,” Hose said.

The new funding round follows a $4 million round raised in late 2014 largely for product development and building out the company’s team, which Hose said has grown by 10 over the past year to about 20. John Malloy of California-based BlueRun Ventures led the previous round, while the lead investor of the latest round was not disclosed.

Soundwall, which had been operating out of the former Sutherland’s lumberyard site at 3390 Valmont St. in Boulder, moved last year into space in 530 Compton St. in Broomfield. Hose declined to disclose revenue. But he said Soundwall can produce about 200 of the handbuilt canvases – which can sell for $800 to as much as $20,000 – per month per shift at its new space, and said he’s working on adding a second shift. The aim, he said, is to continue to add employees this year.

“Our goal is to add to the Broomfield economy,” said Hose, who cofounded the company with Sven Coppom.

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

13 local firms named to Colorado OEDIT’s ‘Companies to Watch’ list

DENVER — Nine companies based in the Boulder Valley and four in Northern Colorado are among the 50 Colorado Companies to Watch for 2016 that were announced Friday evening.

Seven of the companies are based in Boulder: Agribotix Inc., Astra LLC, Avid4 Adventure Inc., Purely Elizabeth, Quinn Snacks, SnapEngage and Kindara Inc.

Sustainable Supply in Broomfield and Liqid Inc. in Lafayette made the list.

Companies in Northern Colorado include Canyon Bakehouse and Good Day Pharmacy in Loveland, CPP Inc. in Fort Collins and All Phase Restoration in Windsor.

The 50 winning firms are second-stage companies. They were honored for innovation and economic impact. Chosen from more than 1,000 nominations, the winners represent a range of industries and are recognized for their success and potential for growth, community involvement, philanthropy and corporate culture.

In 2015, this year’s winners employed 1,913 full-time employees and are expecting to create 380 new jobs in 2016. They combined for $503 million in revenue in 2015 and are expected to earn $679.9 million in 2016.

The awards program was launched in 2009 by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in conjunction with the Edward Lowe Foundation and community partners from across Colorado.

Brad Feld, Amy Batchelor aim to boost diversity in tech with $100K matching grant pledge

BOULDER — Local venture capitalist Brad Feld and wife Amy Batchelor announced Thursday morning that they’re donating up to $100,000 of their own money to help in the Techstars Foundation’s efforts to increase diversity in technology entrepreneurship.

Specifically appealing to “anyone who has gone through a Techstars accelerator, done a Startup Weekend, participated in a Startup Week, receives Startup Digest or has been a mentor or investor in any Techstars company or program,” the couple is matching every $2 raised with $1 of their own in a push to raise at least $300,000 for the foundation by the end of summer.

Feld, a cofounder of the Boulder-based Techstars startup accelerator and a managing director of VC firm Foundry Group, and Batchelor, a philanthropist and writer, have long made boosting diversity in tech a mission to boost the proportion of women, minorities and other underrepresented groups.

The Techstars Foundation, meanwhile, was launched last fall with $500,000 in cash contributions from Techstars founders, alumni and others. The foundation made its first round of grants last month to organizations such as Astia, which helps fund women-led startups, and Patriot Boot Camp, a Boulder-based venture that provides entrepreneurial educational programming for military members, veterans and their spouses.

The latest fundraising push will not only add to the Techstars Foundation’s balance available for grant-making but also is aimed at increasing awareness around tech diversity and encouraging participation from the Techstars network, which now includes hundreds of startups around the world.

The Techstars Foundation plans to award a second round of grants in the fall, with the deadline to apply set for July 15.

“Amy and I decided to launch this challenge grant as part of a larger gift from us to the Techstars Foundation,” Feld wrote on his blog. “We hope you join us and support our efforts.”

Longmont’s 2nd annual Startup Week kicks off Monday

LONGMONT — Panel discussions and more than 75 presentations staged at more than 20 separate venues have been scheduled as part of next week’s Longmont Startup Week — and attendance is free.

The second annual event, to be held from Monday through Saturday, June 6-11, will feature keynote speakers, networking and mentoring, all focused on startup struggles and successes.

“Last year went extremely well, and this year should be even better with more than 100 speakers and panelists ready to share their expertise on a wide range of subjects,” said event director Jennifer Ferguson.

Discussions will cover a range of topics including traditional and nontraditional funding opportunities, intellectual property, social media, crowdfunding, finance, food trucks, team building, artists, women entrepreneurs, high technology, applying for government grants and developing a startup culture.

“It’s a misconception to think this is just about high tech,” Ferguson said. “It is really a diverse topic, because a startup can be a home-based product destined for national stores, a food truck, a consulting company, a music business or a software developer of educational products.”

This year’s event will include expanded office hours to help more businesses take advantage of  mentors’ expertise and experience, said Janine Ledingham, director of local business and startup community development for the Longmont Economic Development Partnership.

Mentoring office hours will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday at the Longmont Museum, at the same hour on Wednesday at the Plaza Convention Center, and from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at the Archethought Co-working Space.

Startup Week organizers have partnered this year with the Longmont Chamber of Commerce to present a vendor showcase from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Plaza Convention Center. Another addition are “Lunch Arounds” on Tuesday and Thursday, at which, Ledingham said, “attendees can sign up to have lunch with a fixed-price menu at various restaurants around Longmont and have topical conversations with a host who will facilitate the conversation.” Registration is required because the “Lunch Arounds” will have just 11 spots available per restaurant.

After-hours events are planned each night of Startup Week at various Longmont craft-beer locations including 300 Suns Brewing and Wibby Brewing. On Saturday, June 11, the event’s final night, Startup Week will participate in Rockmont 2016 at Roosevelt Park, hosted by Left Hand Brewing.

A schedule of events and list of sponsors is online at www.longmontstartupweek.com. Contact Ferguson at 303-525-3218 or jennifer@longmontstartupweek.com for more information.

Crunch Technologies to move into new digs in July

BOULDER — Crunch Technologies, a Boulder-based startup specializing in contract opto-mechanical and ultra-fast optical design, will move into a new production and development facility in July.

The 1,700-square-foot space at 4699 Nautilus Court, Suite 203, will allow the company to add “in-house opto-mechanical fabrication capabilities to the existing design and maintenance services for the ultra-fast laser community,” said Crunch Technologies founder Benjamin Langdon. “Early 2017 will bring new tools for laser users featuring open-source hardware and software. The new open-source tools will give users a truly global and cross-discipline collaborative platform to develop (Internet of Things) instrumentation.”

He said the company also would add a new ultra-fast laser platform based on simplified, modular designs next year.

Langdon launched Crunch Technologies was launched in August 2014 to serve the academic, national-laboratory and basic research markets.

Jason Kruse and Micah Loeb, brokers at The Colorado Group Inc., handled the transaction.

Woot Math raises another $1.3M to help kids conquer fractions

BOULDER — Local venture-capital firm Foundry Group has provided another cash infusion for Boulder education-technology startup Woot Math, which makes a suite of software applications aimed at boosting students’ understanding of fractions.

Woot Math, officially Simbulus Inc., disclosed recently that it raised $1.3 million in a new funding round that comes just more than a year after Foundry Group invested $1 million in the company.

Cofounder and CEO Krista Marks said this week that the money will be used largely to continue building out Woot Math’s tools and platform, though the company also plans to start bringing in revenue this fall.

Woot Math makes interactive instructional tools that students can access on Chromebooks and other mobile devices. Woot Math will also launch a new polling tool this fall that allows teachers to do real-time assessments in the classroom to gauge how well students are grasping specific concepts and where they might be stumbling.

The company is also working to convert pilot users of the platform from the recently completed school year to paid users for the coming 2016-17 school year. Inundated by requests to pilot the program last year, Woot Math made the decision to make its software free for the 2015-16 year. That led to the company having more than 8,000 teachers using the platform with more than 80,000 students across all 50 states, including significant usage in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts locally.

The software will be licensed to schools on a subscription basis for roughly $4 per student per school year.

“We’re having a higher conversion than we expected, so we are very encouraged with the conversion from free to paid so far,” Marks said.

Woot Math first launched its product in the fall of 2014 but prior to that had run a year-long efficacy study funded in part by a $180,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to test the effectiveness of Woot Math’s applications in about 350 students. In addition to the new funding round, Woot Math recently received a follow-on NSF grant of $750,000 that will enable the company to do a much larger study in the fall that includes roughly 2,000 students.

Based in downtown Boulder, Woot Math has seven full-time employees and five contractors, and Marks said the firm could add a couple of more over the coming year. Most of the company’s growth this year will be fueled by the team already in place, she said.

BizWest 500 highlights largest, fastest-growing companies

Purchase this new publication by clicking BizWest 500. For a preview of the content, here’s the first page.

Welcome to the BizWest 500, an ambitious undertaking that highlights the largest or fastest-growing companies throughout the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado (and the highest-paid executives).

This special edition of BizWest aggregates content that previously had been published over a span of many months, but it also represents a dramatic increase in the data that we publish on the region’s largest private- and public-sector employers.

In these pages, you’ll find:

• The Mercury 100 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the Boulder Valley, along with five profiles of interesting companies on the list.

• The Mercury 100 list of the fastest-growing private companies in Northern Colorado, along with five profiles of interesting companies on the list.

• A list of the Top 25 highest-paid executives of public companies.

• A list of the 50 largest public-sector employers, including municipalities, counties, universities, federal laboratories, etc.

• A vastly expanded list of the region’s largest employers — 200 companies listed, compared with 50 published last year.

• A list of the largest publicly traded companies based in our region. (We’ve stretched this a bit, opting to include a handful of companies that have shifted their headquarters to the Denver area or other nearby cities, but which retain a significant presence in our region.)

All told, these lists represent the largest number of ranked lists we’ve ever published in one issue, outside of our annual Book of Lists publication.

Most companies cited in these lists responded to our surveys. Others are included based on BizWest estimates, reports by economic-development agencies, news accounts or other sources. Data for the public companies and highest-paid executives lists came entirely from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

This endeavor represents many months of work by our staff, especially our chief researcher, Chad Collins. As with any undertaking of this magnitude, errors and omissions are likely. In particular, our lists of the largest private-sector and public-sector employers will continue to be refined and expanded. If you’d like to see your company included — or if you spot a mistake or other omission — please contact Chad at ccollins@bizwestmedia.com.

It should be noted that we’ve opted to include aggregated numbers for some employers, such as major health systems, as well as numbers for some of their constituent institutions, i.e., a hospital within the system.

If you have a suggestion for the BizWest 500 next year, please feel free to contact me at the number below.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or cwood@bizwestmedia.com.