Denver Startup Week Recap
This week, I joined over 10,000 other attendees at the fifth-annual Denver Startup Week, a weeklong series of panels and sessions dedicated to Denver’s startup community. So what’s it all about? Denver Startup Week is organized by the community to help Denver’s evolution into an entrepreneurial center. Through its educational sessions and events, it helps nourish all kinds of startups here in Colorado while simultaneously showcasing Denver’s business ecosystem. As an added bonus for us over at INK West, there are even a couple sessions within our very own office space at WeWork LoHi.
There are six functional tracks at Denver Startup Week 2016: Designer, Developer, Founder, Growth, Maker and Product. Each offers its own sessions throughout the week that attendees can choose from. While all of the tracks offer something a little different, every year, there are some key trends that transcend session boundaries.
A couple of different themes caught my eye this year:
The Denver scene is booming
As a recent transplant, the idea of Denver as a technology hub is something I hear pretty often, but coming from the more established Boston and New York markets, I still wonder: how does the Mile High City compare? If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Denver Startup Week, it’s that the city definitely lives up to its hype. During the opening breakfast, the Downtown Denver Partnership shared all kinds of exciting facts about the city:
- Denver startups raised over $420 million in venture capital in the last year alone.
- Denver was ranked as the third best place to launch a startup by 1776 and as the fourth best city for entrepreneurs by Investopedia.
- The number of tech startups in downtown Denver has increased by 13% in the last two years.
- And, most excitingly, Denver was ranked as the best place for business and careers by Forbes.
Diversity is key
Take a look at some of the session titles this year and you’ll catch a glimpse into another big theme of 2016: the growing diversification of the technology industry and what it means for businesses. Did you know that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile? How about the fact that companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile? This is in large part because a more diverse team offers different perspectives and can therefore develop solutions that address a wider market. I learned those stats during a session called “Why Diversity,” which focused on the economic benefits of a varied talent pool. Diversity as a business imperative—in addition to a social, ethical or regulatory imperative—was a key theme this Startup Week in 2016, and it’s going to be something the business world continues to learn about.
Work in a startup? You need a lot of hats
And no, that’s not a tongue-in-cheek statement about all the beanies and flannels I saw this week. One of the more interesting things I noticed about this conference was how many sessions were geared toward learning skills that traditionally take years to study and master: “Starting a Development Project without a Technical Background,” “Guerilla Style: Hacks for Making Low-Cost Video Content,” “Startup Product Management 101” and “Growth Hacking: How to Become a Technical Marketer” are a few that come to mind. With so many startups on the scene and only so much talent (and funding), it’s essential that those working in startups are able to play a lot of different roles within their company. And with how easy it is now to learn almost anything (one panelist brought up Lynda.com, on which users can master thousands of courses online), it’s no wonder so many people are opting to forgo traditional departmental silos.
All in all, I’d call my first Startup Week a success.
Still interested in learning more? Follow #DENStartupWeek on Twitter to get the latest insights from attendees, speakers and panelists, and consider coming out for 2017!