Sep 22, 2022 - News

CEOs on how Denver can supercharge its tech hub status

Illustration of the Denver flag with a loading symbol instead of the sun.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Denver's sudden, pandemic-fueled status as a magnet for white-collar workers means salaries are growing at a rapid pace and startups are drawing billions in investment dollars.

Yes, but: The city still has room to grow to compete with tech hubs like San Francisco and Seattle, say those with hiring power and the ability to draw investments to Denver.

What they're saying: Local executives at a panel during Denver Startup Week had some insights on how Denver can mature and attract the best and the brightest.

  • Dianne Myles, CEO of Dope Mom Life, a creative consulting agency, was born and raised in Colorado. She said companies must support their communities by ensuring job and training opportunities are available to retain skilled tech workers. "What does it look like to develop the talent here? Get them in front of people they need to be in front of," Myles said.
  • Similarly, Niji Sabharwal, co-founder of AgentSync, which relocated to Denver in 2020, said he would like to see more talent develop locally, instead of bringing people from outside the state.
  • Lee Mayer, CEO of Havenly, an interior design firm, said the city needs to improve its consumer-facing tech. She noted Denver doesn't have legacy tech businesses that people immediately associate with the city, the way Microsoft is linked to Seattle. "While we have an incredible amount of talent going to a ton of other companies, I think that's one sector of tech that we just haven't really cornered."
  • Velocity Global CEO Ben Wright, who launched his remote workforce management company in Denver, said he wants state lawmakers to better support the local startup community.

Between the lines: "Young talent wants to be here … they want to be able to experience everything Colorado has to offer," said Kevin Riddleberger, chief strategy officer at DispatchHealth, a health care delivery system.

  • Mark Frank, CEO of online therapy service SonderMind, noted access to capital is different now than 10 years ago, adding the city's "on the map now in a very real way."
  • Frank and other panelists noted what the data suggests: It's a lot easier to convince venture capital firms to invest in Denver companies.

By the numbers: The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area added 14,477 tech workers from 2015 to 2020 — a 6.6% increase — while Boulder added 2,167 tech workers during the same time span.

What's next: Denver Startup Week will host its closing bash Thursday night at X Denver.

  • The event is free and starts at 6pm.
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