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Why Are Millennials Flocking to Denver?

Millennials are flocking to Denver in such large numbers that they have officially outpaced the baby boomers in the city’s workforce—and the city’s robust startup scene has a lot to do with it.

Last year there were about 176,458 millennials living in Denver, compared to about 99,095 baby boomers, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

One reason why so many young entrepreneurs are headed to Denver is the opportunity to find colleagues, secure funding, and build networking opportunities through Denver Startup Week, the largest free startup conference in the nation. Another big draw is The Commons on Champa, a public campus for entrepreneurship that attracts new founders to its free workshops. The campus was founded by Downtown Denver Partnership, Colorado Technology Association and the City and County of Denver.

And it doesn’t hurt that companies that provide collaborative workspaces have made opening an office easier. WeWork is unveiling two downtown offices —WeWork Union Station and WeWork LoHi—in the coming months.

For young startups, Denver is the place to meet successful entrepreneurs who will mentor you after a cold call, and it’s not a surprise for most around here.

“If you have a business idea, and you want to get started, there’s not a better place to cold email or call CEOs and understand how to build a startup than in Denver,” says Colorado Technology Association CEO Erik Mitisek. “Almost all of them will call you back and engage. They know they’re on the backs of others who gave them a lot, so the cycle of gratuity runs deep in our community, which allows young companies to accelerate.”

Why Are Millennials Flocking to Denver? 2Mitisek, a Denver native and serial entrepreneur, has been inspired to build upon the foundation of the growing startup community by giving his time. He’s the founder of Denver Startup Week, Startup Colorado, Startup Community Fund, and BuiltIn Colorado.

“I spend two to four hours a week mentoring early-stage companies, and I do it every week regardless of how busy I may be,” says Mitisek, a mentor at Techstars, one of the largest mentor-driven startup accelerators. “For me the most important thing I can do is get young entrepreneurs to the stage to be successful. If I can give them a shortcut to build something great, it elevates the Denver community.”

After being inspired by Denver Startup Week two years ago, two female freelance photographers who are millennials made the decision to move to Denver and founded Artifact Uprising, which makes tangible goods out of digital photography.

“Two years later, they raised capital and were purchased by VSCO, the largest next gen tech company in San Diego,” Mitisek recalls.

Other ways Denver encourages millennial entrepreneurs is by providing them with access to funding. The Denver Office of Economic Development publishes a venture capitalist report that tracks where local startups are accessing capital and how much funding they’re receiving. For the past three years, the city has partnered with Rockies Venture Club, Catapult, and TiE Rockies to hold an annual VC pitch competition in which hundreds of young companies apply.

The Rockies Venture Club taught me valuable information about how to ask people for money,” says Chris Herr, founder of Gunlock and Denver Grant Writers. “That was the biggest resource for me to learn how to fundraise and do a pitch in a short time frame.”

In the pitch competitions, contestants get feedback on their business plans, says Paul Washington, executive director of the Denver Office of Economic Development. They provide between $1.5 million and $2 million annually to small businesses.

And as the next generation of startup founders grow out of their early stage needs and require access to Series A funding, the city is responding to the shift by pursuing more private partnerships to provide more grants, Washington says.

Companies are ‘hiring like crazy’

The big trend for young professionals, especially startup founders, is to move into the downtown area and get plugged into a community of entrepreneurs. Lately, the place to get free resources, space, and networking opportunities is The Commons on Champa, located in the heart of Denver’s Central Business District, not far from Union Station.

“We know that in order to build strong entrepreneurial communities, we need to build strong micro communities,” says Tami Door, president and CEO of Downtown Denver Partnership and co-founder of Denver Startup Week. “Before this building, entrepreneurs didn’t have a central space to meet up and receive mentorship.”

Reading Terminal Market, PhiladelphiaIn addition, some of the fastest growing tech startups are hiring millennials, even if they don’t necessarily have the exact experience that fits the job description. The idea is that companies like Ibotta are set on growing young people into their roles and providing opportunities to quickly move up the ranks.

“Most of my energy is focused on mentoring people on my team who are being promoted into leadership positions,” says Luke Swanson, chief technology officer of Ibotta, a cash-back app that launched in 2011. “Frankly, for some people it’s their first job out of school, and it’s about showing them the ropes.”

And as capital is poured into the company left and right, Ibotta has raised $40 million Series C fundraising, moved into new offices, and hired hundreds of people.

“We’re hiring like crazy–60 net new employees in 2016,” says Bryan Leach, founder and CEO of Ibotta. “The average age of our workforce is 28 to 29 and predominantly female. We’re attracting people to Denver from places like Pittsburgh and Dallas.”

Another draw for millennials is the opportunity to give back to the community. A commonality among young entrepreneurs in Denver is they’re choosing to be there, so they’re going to make the most of their time by getting involved in the community.

“Everybody is doing something,” says Herr, a millennial and serial entrepreneur. “None of my friends have a stereotypical career. They may work six jobs, but they don’t work a 9-to-5. For instance, my friend and co-founder at Denver Grant Writers does grant writing, gives guitar lessons, and is on the board for a nonprofit and does research.”

So if you’re a millennial and gun-shy about moving to Colorado, the barrier to entry has been removed. The startup community has paved the way for young people to come do what they love and be part of the vibrant community they’ve always dreamed of. The only things left to do is quit your job, pack your bags, move to Denver and hit the slopes.

Photo credits: The Commons on Champa, Tech.Co/Flickr

 

 

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inspiration

5 Relationships You’ll Form at a Coworking Space

While many entrepreneurs are lone wolves, the value of making connections in the business world cannot be understated. Whether it’s at networking events or at the office, forming relationships is the best way to set yourself up for success. Fortunately, when you’re working in a coworking space, you’ll be surrounded with like-minded entrepreneurs that are happy to do some serious networking.

Coworking spaces are so much more than just somewhere to work. They are hustling, bustling epicenters of entrepreneurial energy that breed connections, passion, and success. After all, you are who you hang out with, and there are more than enough impressive people hanging around coworking spaces.

The Networking Guru

This person exists in every coworking space in the world. They have set up shop in a place like WeWork to shake hands, make connections, and set their business up for success. This person has thousands of business cards sitting on their desk, which they have positioned by the door so they can chit chat with every mover and shaker who walks past.

The Neighbor/Best Friend

When you’re in such close quarters, it’s hard not to develop a relationship with your neighbor. After all, you’re spending most of your time mere feet away from them. Getting to know people like this is incredibly beneficial to your productivity. Not only will you be happy you have a friend to work with, but their network will expand to yours, creating a super network the likes of which entrepreneurs have never seen!

The Informative Manager

Coworking spaces have a lot of amenities that you might not know about. Sure, a coworking space handbook is informative, but wouldn’t you rather talk to a human being? Community managers at coworking spaces know all the nooks and crannies of the office and can help you do everything from figuring out the community printer to pouring yourself an ice cold beer on a Friday afternoon.

The Friendly Staff Member

With so much space, the number of employees needed to maintain it is nothing short of staggering. Fortunately, these employees are some of the friendliest, most genuine people you’ll ever meet. Even just having a quick pop-in to discuss your latest vacation or an issue with your office can turn into a beautiful friendship that will last a lifetime.

The Office Crush

Love is a beautiful thing. Work crushes, doubly-so. Nothing gets you more hyped to come to work than that special someone waiting for you in the office. Sure, they might not know your name yet, but one day they’re going to ask you out, and it will be the best day of your life.

This article originally was originally published by Tech.Co, a vibrant media, community, and events organization for creatives, entrepreneurs, and technology enthusiasts.

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doing-good

Transforming Lives by Teaching Young People to Code

For Maurya Couvares, learning to code was a game changer.

“I was working in a law firm’s pro bono department, responsible for reporting out data on our pro bono programs,” she remembers. “And I was using clumsily using Excel to understand the data. A friend told me that if I learned to code, I could write a script that would do all the reporting for me in 15 minutes.”

The gears started turning. A former teacher, Couvares realized that coding could make a big difference in the lives of students from underserved neighborhoods.

“Many young people I knew were super interested in technology, but had never met anyone who worked in technology, and had no idea about the different careers that are possible in the tech industry,” says Couvares.

That led to the founding of ScriptEd, a non-profit that provides real opportunity for young students in the New York City area. Its programs concentrate on teaching students coding skills and providing them with professional experiences.

What year was your organization founded?

ScriptEd was founded in 2012 in New York City.

How many employees are in your organization?

Our team has grown to 19 people, including two in our new office in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What building are you based in?

WeWork FiDi

What made you want to get involved in this kind of work?

Learning to code was more empowering for me than any other skill I had learned since school. I had worked in schools, both as a teacher and as an after-school program coordinator earlier in my career. And I thought of the students I had worked with, and the new possibilities that learning to code could open up in their lives. Even though demand for software developers was exploding, very few high schools offered computer programming courses. I saw a vital need to teach students real-world coding skills and expose them to highly-paid, high-demand careers in tech.

What makes your organization unique?

A lot of organizations teach students coding skills. What makes ScriptEd unique is our focus on coding careers—our work isn’t done until our students have a job in tech. Our introductory classes are taught by volunteer software developers who take time out of their day jobs to teach real-world coding skills in under-resourced schools. For our advanced students, our goal is to place every eligible student in a paid summer internship at a tech company where they can build professional skills and networks that will help them land a job in tech. We are looking for internship partners for this summer, and would be thrilled to hear from any WeWork members who are interested in creating a life-changing opportunity for our students.

What was a moment you were inspired by the work you were doing?

The most inspiring moments always happen in the classroom. At the beginning of the year, we’ll have a classroom full of students who have never seen a line of code before, and volunteers who have never taught a high school class before. Everyone is there to learn new skills, and I’m always deeply inspired by the hard work, fearlessness, and persistence that our community brings into the classroom.

What has been you biggest hurdle?

The biggest challenge I’ve come across as the cofounder and leader of a growing organization is finding the right balance between managing our growth and staying involved in the day-to-day operations. It’s so important for me to stay connected to the students and volunteers who make our work possible. I’ve made an effort to stay in the classroom. This year, I went back into the classroom to teach two days a week at one of our partner schools, and I hope to continue doing that as long as I can!

How do you and your organization want to change the world?

If we can also help make the tech industry more diverse by creating a new talent pipeline from communities that are traditionally underrepresented, that would be a big win for all.

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news

5 WeWork Members You Need to Know

Love beauty products? Then you’ll want to know more about Soko Glam, which recently sponsored its second annual Pop-Up Charity Sale at WeWork Nomad. All the featured products were handpicked by co-founder Charlotte Cho, author of The Little Book of Skincare. All proceeds benefitted Caring Kind, a nonprofit focused on Alzheimer’s and dementia.

WeWork Paddington member Jamie Gray recently had a brush with royalty. His company Buddy Burst―creator of eco-friendly promotional products―partnered with the global charity INTBAU by giving out its signature Seed Sticks at the organization’s World Congress. After the event, Gray was invited to present the product to the Prince of Wales at his private residence, Clarence House. Charles, founder of INTBAU, is a big fan of sustainable products.

Based in Denver’s WeWork Union Station, Inversoft has launched Passport, a modern identity and user management system. Passport helps manage features such as login, registration, security, password management, and more, helping free up developers to focus on their core product. Congratulations, Inversoft!

In Montreal, WeWork Place Ville Marie member James Stephan-Usypchuk of JSU Solutions knew that 2016 was going to be a big year for his company, but he didn’t realize just how good. When they tallied the numbers, revenue for the digital marketing agency specializing in Facebook ads had grown 450% over the previous year. He wrote about his company’s tremendous growth―and what he learned from it―in this article on LinkedIn.

Vimbly, an activity booking platform based at WeWork Empire State, just launched its iOS app. Use it to find out the latest and greatest things to do in NYC.

Photo by Lauren Kallen

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inspiration

11 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Measure Success

Whether you’re a scrappy startup, an established corporation, or somewhere in between, figuring out how to measure your success is incredibly important. With more and more startups hitting the scene, and as more entrepreneurs and freelancers decide to go it alone, learning how to measure that success is a skill everyone should have.

We asked WeWork members how they measure success in their own businesses, and they gave us some great insights on what success looks like to each of them.

Question: Other than sales, how do you measure success?

Getting insights from users

If it's early on, any insight you get from your early adopters is just as valuable as conversions. Sales will come when you learn enough from your users to iterate, or pivot, and refine your product offering or message.

Gauging my team’s morale

Your team’s morale, passion, and shared vision. If a team can get excited over potential, and work hard without necessarily getting paid immediately, I feel like that's a metric for being well on the right track.

Asking ourselves the right questions

I judge our progress, not our ‘success,’ because we're still evolving. We have a simple test that we do: Do we still believe in our fundamental hypothesis and vision? Are we closer to realizing that vision than we were yesterday? Are we having fun? Are we solvent? If we can answer yes to those four questions, then we should keep going. Otherwise something needs to change (or if we're insolvent we need to start interviewing).  

Paying attention to key metrics

Ways of measuring the success of a startup other than sales can vary exponentially from company to company, industry to industry, business model to business model, and even from one geographical region to another. That being said, there are a number of key metrics that all startups should be factoring in when measuring their success: scalability; valuation; client satisfaction levels (the number of positive reviews versus number of clients); employee number growth; employee satisfaction; social media following; new markets entered; financial runway (the longer the better); and number of successful funding rounds versus valuation achieved.

Balancing work and play

For me, success is being able to have fun at work and the freedom to go skiing. In order to be successful, I also need to be creative. My business needs to help other people and I need to have pride in what I do. I'm a big skier and outdoor enthusiast. It kind of goes with Chris Remus' blog Just Rolling With It, but he's a road cyclist and I mountain bike down cliffs.

Understanding the big picture

Voluntary engagement is a sure sign that supporters are authentically excited about the brand. When I'm excited about a brand I'll “buffer” them, meaning share them from my social sharing dashboard to multiple networks.  When people respond to a hashtag or call-to-action for your brand or campaign by using it on social media, you've done something right. If supporters attend your events, it's a sign they are genuinely interested in your mission, message, or what you have created or designed. While each of these are measured in any number of ways, only brands that understand the big picture will be able to use this interest as a leap in the right direction.

Knowing how you got the sale

I measure by repeat/renewal clients and referrals—that shows me I am offering quality services. The sale is fine, but it is more about how I get the sale that I like to measure.

It’s all about retention vs. return

Other than sales, we measure our success by retention versus churn—how many customers are using our service and for how long versus customers who decide to leave. It's important to understand why customers choose to stop using our service: Is it product related? Is it related to support or technical issues, or are they not using the product correctly and not getting its full potential?

Realizing size doesn’t always matter

How engaged a startup’s social media network is can prove to be a key metric. Note that I did not mention size, because a startup can have 1,000 followers or even 100,000, but it only matters if those followers are engaged and active brand ambassadors.

Remembering passion is important

A lot of smaller startups are at a stage where they're hyper-focused on gaining user traction and engagement on their respective platforms. From my perspective, that's only a fraction of the factors contributing to the success of a company early on. I feel that laying a strong foundation within your team and having a shared passion for wanting to create something bigger is where the actual success comes. If you have this internally, it will translate to the overall growth of your company.

Knowing great ideas take time

One should not forget that if you are early to the market you might be working on something that, while it has great prospects in the future, simply might not be on a mass audiences' radar. Think Facebook, AirBnb, Uber, Snapchat. Only a decade ago one could not imagine that we would sleep in strangers' beds, call friends via Facebook video, or broadcast our lives using filters and stickers.
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