05/12/2013 08:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Boulder Startup Week Returns This Week For Fourth Year

Tech consultant Ryan Marsh has wanted to leave Houston and forge a new path in a new city.

Marsh's work history has ranged from programming jobs, consulting gigs with large-scale energy and auto firms, a brief stint as a Starbucks barista, and time spent as a paratrooper in the military, an Agile software coach and a product manager.

Every job has contributed to where he is today and what he wants to do going forward: to help startups streamline their processes as they jump to the next level.

Marsh thought about the Silicon Valley area, but was not sure how favorable the taxes and environment would be for his family.

He heard a little about Boulder last year from a fellow attendee at the South By Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

"She was from Boulder and told me about Boulder Startup Week," he said. "At that time I had heard there was a company or two, a few high-tech companies in Boulder, but it started to seem like Colorado's equivalent of Austin."

Marsh this week will be making his first trip to Boulder -- free of charge -- as one of 24 people selected to be flown in to attend the fourth annual Boulder Startup Week.

"I'm really excited by the community feel that I got about Boulder," he said.

About 1,500 people are expected to attend Boulder Startup Week, a five-day event aimed at showcasing Boulder's startup community, providing networking and education opportunities and allowing for the recruitment of new members to the talent pool.

Starting Wednesday, downtown Boulder and its companies will play host to more than 50 events including meetups dedicated to best-practices

and tips; networking events anchored by food, drinks or activities such as yoga; office hours with startup experts; a late-night pitch session; and a "startup crawl" to 20 firms.

Additionally, groups such as Boulder Open Coffee Club, Boulder Beta and IgniteBoulder have scheduled meetings in conjunction with Boulder Startup Week.

Most of the events are free of charge, but require an RSVP.

"It's that sense of community and the fact that everybody can get involved and step up," said Rich Maloy, head organizer of Boulder Startup Week.

'Own little magic'

This year, organizers hope to broaden the fairly tech-centric Boulder Startup Week to other sectors, Maloy said, adding that Downtown Boulder Inc., the Boulder International Film Festival and Naturally Boulder will participate in a "startup popup tent" in front of the courthouse on the Pearl Street Mall.

Also new is the "Startup Express," a shuttle that will run between Boulder and Denver. The shuttle was developed in partnership with Denver Startup Week and also will run during the Mile High City's entrepreneur-focused event later this year.

"Boulder's got its own little magic going on, but we want to share the love," Maloy said.

Broader goals are to connect the various business communities along Colorado's Front Range.

The fourth iteration of Boulder Startup Week also involves further crossover events with the University of Colorado.

The connections between CU and the startup community have grown immensely in recent years, said Brad Bernthal, director of the Silicon Flatirons Center's Entrepreneurship Initiative, which hosts dozens of entrepreneur-focused events annually.

From June of last year to the end of May 2013, more than 7,200 people attended Silicon Flatiron's 56 entrepreneur-related events.

"Silicon Flatirons as well as other organizations across campus have really moved the meter during the last five years in opening up the campus to allow the startup community to congregate," he said.

Being involved with Boulder Startup Week -- a connection made via efforts led by student Fletcher Richman -- could be beneficial to CU's student body, Bernthal said.

"From the campus' perspective, preparing students to work in innovative industries is enormously important," he said.

Building the potential workforce for Boulder companies is a primary goal of Boulder Startup Week, said organizer Maloy.

His mission this year is to have at least half of the 24 flown-in visitors leave with new jobs.

'Opened our eyes'

Mathew Sisson, creative director at Boulder-based PivotDesk, was one of the successful transplants from the group of entrepreneurs flown out for Boulder Startup Week 2011.

"I moved to Boulder two months after startup week," he said.

Sisson's previous base of Burlington, Vt., had a startup community, but it was not as tight-knit nor as casual as Boulder's, he said.

"There was no mingling in between the other companies," he said of his experience in Burlington. "Here, you have all the startups next door."

In addition to his role at PivotDesk, Sisson was heavily involved in this year's Boulder Startup Week efforts and organized Thursday afternoon's Startup Crawl, during which nearly two dozen local firms will open their offices to Boulder Startup Week participants.

Rafflecopter, one of the participants of the Startup Crawl, was lured to Boulder by the city's cachet.

"We looked at San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Boulder and Austin; we just read so many good things online about Boulder," said Greg Goodson, co-founder of the 26-month-old software firm.

Two months after starting Rafflecopter -- a company that develops a platform for bloggers and companies to run online giveaways -- the founders landed the firm in Boulder and launched the company's first product during Boulder Startup Week 2011.

"We went from 'tell us what you think?' to last year having a bunch of users, but we weren't making money, to then having a big update about six months ago that essentially put us past the pre-revenue stage," Goodson said. "We're making money, we've really grown a lot and progressed a lot."

Rafflecopter's evolution was helped by its locale, he added.

"I think that's really opened up our eyes as far as the connections we've been able to make," he said.

'Hiring like mad'

Grown-up startup Gnip plans to tackle the factors that contribute to the highly connected Boulder startup community during its "Give Back, Get Back: A Guide to Boulder and OSS" event on Thursday evening.

The talk involves how the principles behind open-source software and the startup community in Boulder align.

"There's a reciprocity in terms of contributing to a community and a software community," said Jud Valeski, Gnip's CEO.

Officials for the social data firm have heavily promoted Boulder Startup Week to its workforce of 55 people. Valeski sees the events as opportunities for employees to further develop their skills and networks.

Employees are being told to "get out and go experience it," Valeski said. "Go digest what the community has to offer and what the people coming into the community have to offer and share."

Gnip also has backed Boulder Startup Week as a lead sponsor in hopes of growing the talent pool and landing a few new employees.

"We're hiring like mad right now," he said. "The more companies that start up here and have success here, that makes it a much more competitive environment."

Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or

If you go

What: Boulder Startup Week

When: Wednesday through Sunday

Where: Downtown Boulder businesses, Pearl Street Mall

Schedule: ___