All the buzz in the world of tech startups and venture capital these days is focused on who the "New Silicon Valley" might become. Indeed, leading VCs and founders have been vocal about the idea that Silicon Valley is approaching its peak as the world's tech hub. This month, The Economist published an article suggesting that technology innovation is becoming more globally dispersed, clustering into various markets according to industry (e.g. Shenzhen for hardware, Phoenix for transportation).
If that is the case, Boulder has certainly begun to establish itself as a spoke on this global, multi-market tech hub. While it may not have the size of other "spoke markets" like New York or London (and perhaps that is one of its attractive features), it does offer many of the ingredients necessary to create a successful tech market.
- Capital: One of the most well-known Boulder VC companies is the Foundry Group, but there are others including High Country Venture, Boulder Venture, Sequel Venture Partners, Greenmont Capital Partners, and Lacuna Gap Capital, who together account for a significant portion of the capital infused into Boulder's (and Colorado's) startups. Foundry Group's Brad Feld, together with David Cohen, David Brown, and Jared Polis, founded the venture accelerator Techstars right here in Boulder in 2007. Since 2007, Techstars has grown now to 1581 alumni companies; 90% are active or have been acquired with a total market cap of over $16B.
- Anchors: A good tech market needs a few giants to validate the field and attract other heavy hitters. For Boulder, this role is filled by IBM, Storage Tech, Sun Micro Systems, and Level 3 Communications, among others. They (and the above-mentioned investment capital) helped paved the way for startup success stories like Rally Software (recently acquired by CA Technologies), Zayo Group (who went public in 2014), Gnip (acquired by Twitter in 2014) and SendGrid (a Techstars alum that went public in 2017). Other giants are following suit. Google recently opened a Boulder location with 500 local employees and Amazon has secured a 37,000 SF office in downtown Boulder.
- Networking: Tech startups are notorious for huddling with their peers to exchange ideas and talent. With so many co-working spaces to choose from and a vibrant downtown business district that feels more mountain-town than metropolis, it is easy to cluster together Boulder's tech scene.
- Research Institutions: With a historical focus on science and engineering and a large university in the middle of town, Boulder is home to many research institutions. The University of Colorado is a known for its award-winning research centers, while others like the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), among others, produce critical innovations.
- Talent Pipeline: The institutions above not only pump out valuable research, but attract a highly educated workforce. For tech companies looking to attract top talent, look no further than Boulder itself. Top minds who can be recruited anywhere won't overlook the 300+ days of sunshine, which leads to our final ingredient...
- Lifestyle: Perhaps its most important feature as a "tech spoke", Boulder is considered one of the happiest places on Earth. Yes, lots and lots of sunshine (and not as much snow as one might think but shh... this is our little secret), business networking that takes place on the bike not the golf course, a terrific food culture, and a suitable place to raise a family.
The data indeed reveals that more and more companies (and VCs) are migrating to middle markets, as we have previously discussed. Being considered one of the top spokes in the world's new dispersed technology hub is just around the corner. Or perhaps, already here. For more on Colorado's various up and coming ventures, see BuiltInColorado.