Building in Boulder: Why Startups Climb Higher in this Mountain City

Apr 14, 2022

©Peter Pryharski, Unsplash 

By Sarah Perkins, Marketing Associate, Techstars Boulder Accelerator

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This past fall, my partner and I attempted to climb Gros Piton, a 2,619-foot mountain on the Western coast of St. Lucia. We made it about halfway, an hour up the steep, rocky terrain, taking in the colorful rainforest and Caribbean Sea views—an admirable feat, but with the high humidity and our light-headed states, we were likely to tumble the rest of the way down. Despite us being in reasonably good shape, it just wasn’t the right day for us. 

Why do I tell this tale of a couple of Midwesterners trying to summit a mountain before returning to our rum-induced haze on the beach? Because it’s a lot like building a startup—each step is important, tricky, and sometimes you need to tackle the goals in parts instead of one fell swoop. Sometimes you don’t reach “the top” at all. But each viewpoint is different and teaches us a lesson. A lot of people don’t even attempt the “Gros Piton” of startups—let’s not talk about the unsanctioned “Petit Piton” climb. 

You could say the Techstars Boulder team loves a good adventure. After all, Boulder is the city where the entire Techstars program was founded in 2006 with founders David Brown, David Cohen, Brad Feld and Jared Polis. To read more on the program’s almost 20-year (!) history, check out this timeline

The summer of 2007 was all about helping early-stage startups in Boulder scale, from the first Techstars class to the first Startup Weekend, which has since led to multiple Startup Weeks and about 50 worldwide in-person and virtual accelerator programs. You’ll now find Techstars programs as unique as each startup, such as our upcoming FinTech focus for the upcoming July program in Boulder or the “Farm to Fork” program out of Minneapolis. 

So … why Boulder? I could continue with the mountain imagery, but there’s no need to turn this into a cheesy motivational poster. There are many more reasons why Boulder is called “The Berkeley of the Rockies,” and it has much to do with the industrious spirit that has been prevalent in the area since its settling. Gold may have brought the entrepreneurial type out west, but you’ll find more data mining here these days than metal. 

Boulder was incorporated in 1871, and soon after, it became a hub for education and inspiration, with the University of Colorado’s establishment in 1877. With a railroad depot entering town in 1890, the 3,000-person population started to rapidly grow to the over 100,000 we know today. 

To speed up our history lesson a bit, within 80 years of its founding, Boulder became a hub for innovation—during the 1950s-70s, companies like IBM and Ball Aerospace were building the basis of the tech we know today in the foothills. It’s no wonder Boulder has been a boomtown for tech since, and with the start of Techstars here, we may like to take a little credit for its continued hotspot status. 

Today, you’ll find a plethora of quickly-growing companies, including delivery platform Veho (a Techstars Boulder alum), async leader Almanac and video maven Rewatch. We’d be remiss not to mention more of our Techstars alumni—you can find the full list of our portfolio companies here

In addition to the area’s strong educational foundation set back in the 19th century,  you’ll also find a venture capital ecosystem that encourages an entrepreneurial mindset and community, coupled with the important capital necessary to scale your startup. 

According to Access Ventures’ Colorado VC & Investment Report 2021, this past year was the comeback for VC funding in the Colorado community, ranking seventh in the nation for the total number of VC deals at 583 and funding provided at $6.8B. The focus on equity is one we strive for, with three of the top 10 deals in the state awarded to female-founded companies. 

But at the end of the day, as Access Ventures notes, “local seed stage firms still dominate the early-stage game demonstrating that the early, local markets are still a relationship game for now.” What better local relationship to make than with Techstars Boulder? After all, the report ranked us as tied for number one for most active Colorado investors, with 15 investments made in 2021. Our team and Techstars network lives by a “give first” mentality—which means we’ll not only invest in you, but encourage our network to support you, as well.  

Ultimately, the challenges of a startup can be felt anywhere—it doesn’t matter if you’re building on a remote Caribbean island or in the heart of the Centennial State. But having a tight knit community like Boulder’s behind you makes the journey a bit easier. Whether you are a “Boulderite” yourself or want to become an honorary one virtually, you’ll feel the magic of building with our community. And if you ever need us, we’re here for you—we’re just a quick drive or Zoom call away.  

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