Oct 4, 2021 - Business

Why Denver's tech industry carries a chip on its shoulder

Photo illustration of a San Francisco trolley climbing Pikes Peak.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The theme song for this year's Denver Startup Week might as well be Aretha Franklin's "Respect."

"I got to have (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)"

State of play: The annual thinkfest that starts today is celebrating its 10th year, just as the Denver metro is minting "unicorns" — startup companies with valuations over $1 billion.

  • Louisville-based JumpCloud, a platform for remote work, is now valued at $2.6 billion after a recent round of investment.
  • Denver's SonderMind, which connects behavioral health patients and providers, hit the $1 billion mark this summer.
  • DispatchHealth, a Denver-based tech firm, reached $1.7 billion in March.

Yes, but: Denver's tech industry still feels like it doesn't get the kind of respect it deserves, particularly from the navel-gazing crowd in Silicon Valley.

That lament was apparent in a Clubhouse chat hosted by Startups Across America in June that featured leaders of local tech and venture capital firms.

  • Chris Erickson, co-founder of Range Ventures, said he often gets a variation on the question: "What happens when everyone goes mountain biking at 3pm?"
  • Others suggested the disregard is related to lower salaries offered in the Denver area.

The other side: Local startup leaders had the last laugh.

  • "A lot of people think about Denver as a lifestyle choice instead of a career choice," said Megan Guy, co-founder of King River Capital. When in fact, "you can have both."

"You can be just as ambitious, accomplish what you want, and much more easily have the quality of life that you want," Erickson added.


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