What city is the entrepreneurship capital of the United States? Where does one find the densest enclave of concentrated, up-and-coming startup culture? Silicon Valley? Palo Alto?
Nope. It's Boulder, which boasts twice as many startups per capita versus any other American city; this pole position has been a long time in the making: "Since 1960, it has quietly nurtured nascent industries, including natural foods, computer storage, biotech, and now Internet companies." While Boulder is famed for its emphasis on work/life balance, make no mistake; its citizens take the 'work' part of that equation seriously.
The University of Colorado plays a foundational role in the local startup ecosystem as well. Its Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative provides a fertile, supportive environment that brings together both experienced mentors and entrepreneurship-minded students. It offers an entire online community, StartupTree, dedicated to nurturing new businesses in a collaborative environment.
Boulder is not the only Centennial State locale in which new businesses are thriving. Built in Colorado brings together over 50,000 of Colorado's tech cognoscenti. Its teeming Jobs Board, offering hundreds of positions at of startups around the state, speaks to the startup economy's statewide strength. Many of the jobs are in Denver, home to home to annual entrepreneurship summit Denver Startup Week, and where entrepreneurs now enjoy a more mature investment and hiring climate than just a handful of years ago.
Evidence of this maturation can be seen on a wider scope and scale as well, as measured by the rewards being reaped by earlier investors across the state. In 2016 alone, while Colorado enjoyed an influx of $780 million in funding, a staggering $35 billion was monetized in successful exits.
That's good news, but the better news is that the acquisitions that marked this windfall did not necessarily mean these businesses left the state to get assimilated into the corporate headquarters of out-of-state behemoths. Value created in Colorado is staying in Colorado.
"The way I describe Colorado to outsiders is that there is a continued trajectory upward … ," said Kirk Holland, a managing director at Access Venture Partners, a Colorado venture capital firm with a sweet spot for Colorado companies...Colorado has really gotten on the map. You're seeing companies continuing to build staff here. The Googles of the world. It's not just M&A. Silicon Valley is realizing how great a place this is and pointing their arrow to Colorado."
With a rich history, a vibrant present, and a promising future, all signs indicate Colorado's time in the entrepreneurial spotlight has only just begun.