DENVER’S THRIVING START-UP CULTURE MAKES IT A HOTBED FOR MILLENNIALS
Las Vegas has casinos. New Orleans has jambalaya. Boston has baked beans. And Denver has start-ups. Over the last 5 to 10 years, Denver, Colorado, has been a magnet for entrepreneurs looking for a home base to start their new company. With that, it has also been a magnet pulling in millennials looking for exciting new work where they can make an impact.
- Denver is the second-best place in the U.S. to build a start-up, after San Diego
- There are 373 start-ups strictly in the downtown Denver area
- 7.5% of Denver businesses are start-ups
- There are 3,108 people currently employed in downtown Denver start-ups
- 90 start-ups launched in Denver in 2014 alone
It’s not hard to look at these numbers and see just how much start-up culture is influencing the city demographics as a whole. And in this post-recession era when unemployment is still an issue, it’s making a real difference. The Wall Street Journal shows this impact:
- The Denver metro area added more than 100,000 out-of-state residents from 2010 to 2014 — the fifth-largest domestic migrant influx in the country
- 3,200 start-up firms opened in Denver over the past four years
- The start-up culture gave rise to 165,000 new jobs in Denver
- Denver unemployment is at a small 4.1%, one of the lowest in all larger U.S. cities
Clearly Denver is becoming an epicenter of hot new jobs where employees can become deeply involved in a company from the get-go. That’s great for companies, and it’s great for employees — particularly millennials who thrive on jobs where they can make a difference and who are still feeling the effects of falling behind in their career progression as a result of the recession.
What Does Denver Have That Others Don’t Have?
You might be thinking, why Denver? Denver has a perfect storm of living conditions that make it a popular choice for young people looking to start a business. In particular, there are three characteristics of the Colorado capital that make it inviting, and it’s not just the gorgeous mountain views.
- Citywide support: In celebration of its thriving start-up culture, Denver began a free start-up week where it has panels, workshops, and keynotes from locals in all kinds of industries. There’s some great local food and drink, too. Also, this large community of start-ups and their employees means that there’s an ecosystem in place that works, including open workspaces where small companies share space.
- Realistic cost of living: The cost of living in Denver, according to Metro Denver EDC, is slightly (only slightly) higher than the national average; however, it’s significantly lower than the number one city for start-ups, San Diego. And if you compare it to cities like San Francisco, New York, and even Washington D.C., it’s practically a steal.
- Millennial quality of life is high: Who doesn’t like almost every day full of sunshine? Denver is heaven for outdoorsy folk with enough hiking, outdoor concerts, biking, swimming, and camping as you could dream of. But the more indoor-focused millennials won’t be left out. Denver is a craft beer mecca, and it’s getting more and more great restaurants and bars every day. Plus, there’s museums and top-notch sports teams. Essentially, there’s something for every millennial in the Mile-High City.
A Wide Array of Start-ups Taking Denver by Storm
There is no one industry overpowering the start-up culture in Denver, which makes it even more interesting. There’s everything from craft stores to outdoor adventures to tech and marketing. It would take another 100 articles to lay out each of the Denver start-ups making waves, but here are a few that show the wide range of companies populating the capital.
- Craftsy: Craftsy is an online portal for crafters and DIYers, where they can meet up with peers and take any of hundreds of classes in sewing, knitting, cake decorating, photography, cooking, and so much more. It’s one of the biggest success stories right now in the city, and it earned $50 million in funding last year. In 2010, Craftsy had five employees; now it has 270.
- Solidfire: Solidfire is an enterprise-grade cloud-based storage company that has some huge-name companies — PayPal and eBay, for two. Last year it earned a whopping $82 million in funding.
- Door-to-Door Organics: What better place than Denver to start an organic grocery delivery service, right? Well it seems to be working, because Door-to-Door Organics curates local, organic, farm-fresh foods and brings them right to your door. Last fall, the company got $25.7 million in series B funding.
- Photobucket: Photobucket is one of Denver’s oldest and best known start-ups, and the photo-sharing and storing service is still holding on, earning another $3.6 million in funding recently.
- Datalogix: This data analytics company was acquired by Oracle Corporation just after its round of series C funding of $45 million late last year, making it a major Denver start-up success story.
- Closely: To support Denver’s own local business, Closely is a suite of mobile and social marketing tools build specifically for very small local businesses that don’t have the resources of larger companies — and it’s already earned $7 million in funding.
- Ello: Ello is the antithesis of sites like Facebook that mine your personal data for advertisers. Instead, this new social networking site has serious security boundaries so your info stays safe. And people seem to be on board, as it just this year got another $5 million in funding.