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13 hours ago

Axios Denver

☕ Good morning, and welcome to a wintry Wednesday.

  • Today's weather: A frosty mix of freezing rain and snow with highs near 29°, the forecast shows. Accumulation of less than a half inch is expected.

Situational awareness: You can now request free at-home COVID-19 tests through the U.S. government — four per household. Go here.

  • KN95 and surgical-grade masks also will be made available later this week at various locations across Colorado, including public libraries, fire stations and rec centers, with a limit of five per person a month.

Today's newsletter is 911 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: VC funding to Denver startups skyrockets
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Data: PitchBook & NVCA; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Local startup funding flooded the Denver-Aurora region in 2021, delivering 267 deals valued at a record-setting $4.3 billion — nearly 170% growth compared to the previous year — an Axios Denver analysis of Pitchbook data found.

Why it matters: Colorado continues to prove itself as a breeding ground for high-growth startups that could shake up some of the world's largest industries, and the Denver area is playing a pivotal role.

By the numbers: In the fourth quarter alone, Denver-Aurora saw $2.3 billion invested in 62 deals.

  • Boulder startups saw $1.8 billion invested across 127 transactions, while Colorado Springs saw about $209 million over 10 deals.

State of play: The primary industries attracting venture capital money in the area include health care technology, artificial intelligence, fintech, aerospace and cybersecurity, the Axios Denver analysis found.

  • Top investments were made in everything from early- to later-stage rounds, a sign that both the Denver area's brand-new startups as well as growing companies can benefit.

What they're saying: "We've seen venture funding up across the board nationally … and the Colorado trend is reflective of that," Seth Levine, co-founder and partner at the Boulder-based Foundry Group, tells Alayna.

The big picture: The VC industry successfully adjusted to the new normal, and even thrived, after an initial period of pandemic paralysis, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva writes.

What to watch

Bonus: Denver's biggest VC deals in 2021

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Here are the top 10 venture capital deals closed across Denver and Aurora last year, according to Pitchbook:

2. King Soopers strike negotiations deteriorate

Alfredo Solis, a deli manager who's worked at King Soopers the past four years. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A week after thousands of unionized King Soopers workers at nearly 80 stores across metro Denver went on strike, the two sides are even further from reaching a compromise.

What's happening: King Soopers was granted a temporary restraining order against the union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, by a Denver judge Tuesday.

  • The grocer claims that union members are harassing customers and blocking them from entering store parking lots and entrances, while Local 7 denies the allegations.
  • The judge's order now limits each picket line to 10 people and bars shouting within 20 feet of King Soopers employees or customers.
  • Meanwhile, the union has reported "little to no progress" at the negotiation table, where attempted deal-making resumed for the fifth day yesterday.

State of play: The ripple effects of the worker strike are far-reaching, with rival grocery stores reporting overwhelming demand and shoppers encountering empty shelves.

Of note: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is calling on community members to support the workers.

  • At the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration Monday, the mayor invited people to "stand with those workers" to let them know they "deserve livable wages" and "health care benefits."

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3. Why Democrats want the 2020 election debate

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Taking a page from President Biden and the national Democratic Party, Colorado legislative leaders are making the legitimacy of the 2020 election a key issue ahead of the midterms.

Driving the news: In a political power move, the Democratic-majority in the state House and Senate instigated a fight Tuesday on non-binding resolutions to "reassert the validity of the 2020 presidential election results."

The moderate House Republican leader Hugh McKean ​blasted the effort as a distraction from lawmaking — but his more conservative GOP colleagues took the bait.

  • At least 15 of the 24 lawmakers supported Republican amendments to thank the protesters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, urge the decertification of the election and stand with Donald Trump.
  • Only one Republican in either chamber — state Sen. Kevin Priola — supported the Democratic resolutions.

Why it matters: The willingness to renew focus on the 2020 election issue at the start of the legislative session demonstrates a turnabout.

  • Democrats initially dismissed GOP election fraud complaints outright, but now the party is highlighting them as a way to make their rivals look out of touch or extreme.

Keep reading … What they're saying

4. Nuggets: The latest news to know today

Passengers proceed through the TSA security checkpoint at Denver International Airport. Photo Robert Alexander/Getty Images

🛩 Denver International Airport ranked sixth nationally for the number of firearms seized at the transit hub, with authorities reporting 141 recovered — the most since 2018. (Denver Post)

🚨 An on-duty Aurora police officer hit and killed a pedestrian on Monday who Colorado State Patrol said was lying in the middle of the road before the incident. (9News)

🚫 Colorado's secretary of state filed a lawsuit against Mesa County clerk Tina Peters to prevent her from overseeing the 2022 election in the wake of an alleged voter security breach in Peters' office. (Denver Post)

Fresh job openings around town

Dive into a new role with our Job Board.

  1. Social Media Marketing Manager at Eko Health.
  2. Corporate Development Manager at Vantage Data Centers.
  3. Account Manager at Cience.

Want more opportunities? Check out our sponsored Job Board.

Hiring? Post a job.

5. ✅ Your destination checklist

A view from the gondola in Telluride. Photo: Santi Visalli/Getty Images

It's not unusual for Colorado to land on travel destination lists.

  • A new ranking of the "best mountain towns" published by Boulder-based Outside magazine is no different.

Why it matters: Here in Colorado, we take mountain town rankings seriously — because if half of the list is not in our state, something's not right.

State of play: Among Outside's top 24 places, Colorado appears just twice.

  • Telluride ranks third — behind Jackson, Wyoming, and top-spot Park City, Utah — for being "not just some manufactured ski-resort village but an actual community."
  • Durango lands in the 19th spot for its "four seasons of adventure," including rafting, hiking, skiing and mountain biking.

The rub: We can rattle off a dozen amazing Colorado towns that got snubbed in favor of more mediocre places.

Our favorites

Our picks:

📗 John recommends reading this book he just finished and this context.

🍺 Alayna is enjoying this beer from this local brewery.

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