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.”
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.”
In 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