Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

Ryan Martens on Councilperson Macon Cowles’ Ignorance of the Boulder Startup Community

Like many here in Boulder, I felt that Boulder City Councilperson Macon Cowles’ recent remarks about our startup community were both ignorant and offensive. A group of entrepreneurs posted an OpEd this weekend responding to those remarks in the Daily Camera (it’s worth nothing the diversity of those entrepreneurs vs. Councilperson Cowles’ flatly incorrect characterization of Boulder entrepreneurs). Ryan Martens – a long time Boulder entrepreneur and community activist – felt the same way and asked to borrow this spot to post some of his own thoughts on the diversity of the Boulder entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as the many ways that entrepreneurs in Boulder are giving back to our community. His post follows.

I was very discouraged to see councilperson Macon Cowles’ comments from Boulder’s city council meeting the 2nd week of August. “Boulder’s startup economy brought a lot of very highly paid white men to the city, and they were pricing out families and others.”  He then followed up with the statement “I don’t think that’s what people want.”  His over simplified view that Boulder’s entrepreneurial community is the direct source of an affordable housing shortage is grossly incorrect.

Why attack the startup community? It is even more disappointing given the significant impact a collaboration between the City of Boulder and local startups could have in addressing complex social issues that face our whole community.

I’d counter his comment with facts:  The startup community is very present in positive ways in many aspects of Boulder.

During last year’sflood, startups pulled together to fund relief and contributed more than $200,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours during normal work hours.  Most participating startups weren’t even making a profit at the time.

The Entrepreneurs Foundation at the Boulder Community Foundation has contributed more than $2 Million for local non-profits during the past two years through donations of stock options at the time of initial offerings (a circumstance unique to startups).

I want to see our community working and collaborating at a level where we are increasing the economy while addressing issues around environmental sustainability and social equity. It is actually the social mission of my company, (a business I started in Boulder 11 years ago and now employees 250+ in Colorado) – to create Citizen Engineers who use their skills to do just that.  The lack of affordable housing issue has been brewing here just like it has in many strong economic cities in America.  It is complex issue tied to the income gap, a booming economy and smart growth strategies that started in Boulder the 1950′s with the blue line and the greenbelt. (Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of these land management solutions and benefitted greatly by learning from the architects of these models while I attended CU in the 1980’s – Thank you Al Bartlett!).

Thanks to the growing activism of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, programs such as Better Boulder are forming to help address the housing problem with a systemic approach.  I would encourage the City to reach out, to collaborate and be open to talented people who care about this community working towards creative solutions.

New programs such as Code for America Fellowship program is one such opportunity to reach out towards a creative solution.  This program places two or three full-time technologists on staff with a city government for a year specifically to engage the local citizenry to build a Brigade.   The Brigade goes on to develop solutions for municipal efforts.  Denver has benefitted from Code for America fellows and the City has applied again for fellows for 2015. Boulder’s startup community and my company support these efforts to wrestle with systemic issues such as affordable housing, while increasing citizen engagement in government through civic hacking.

I know the startup community well through work with the Entrepreneurs Foundation, Startup Colorado and other regional efforts, I have helped actively build community capacity along the Front Range and created a venue for corporate giving to Boulder’s Community Foundation.

Starting a contentious dialog by blaming a single component of our community isn’t constructive and doesn’t inspire solutions.   Let’s not take steps backward as a community in our level of engagement.  I know the startup community is here to work hard to make it better for all.

Please remember that community is not something we create, but something we need to recognize we are already in, that takes nurturing.

 

Ryan Martens

CU Grad, 1988 & 1991

Founder, Rally Software

CEO, Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado

Board Member, Startup Colorado

Prior-Board member Colorado Conservation Trust, Friends School and Knight Foundation

September 2nd, 2014     Categories: Colorado, Current Affairs    

Helping our Community with $100,000 from Foundry Group. Please join us.

FFRFI don’t need to tell you about the devastation that has rocked Colorado over the past week. The rain started and it just wouldn’t stop. I’ve lived in Colorado for 17 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. People have lived here for their entire lives and haven’t. Our house and property only sustained minor damage (and we spent a few days without power and water; neither particularly difficult compared to what others are facing). It was heart wrenching to be glued to the news and local reports seeing pictures of our community – all around where we live; our neighbors; the places we go every day  - become ravaged by floods.

We have many friends who sustained real damage to their properties and homes (and like most people effected by this storm the vast majority don’t have flood insurance). A number have been forced out of their houses – some for months. Our house is only a few miles from the town of Lyons, which was completely cut off by the flood waters and totally devastated. The entire town will be shut down for months while they rebuild power, water, sewer and other critical infrastructure. Every single person in the town of Lyons has been forced to relocate. There is a message board at the evacuation center  with people searching for friends, family members and beloved family pets. It’s hard to imagine this kind of loss.

While Ryan, Jason, Brad and I started Foundry with a national vision, being part of the Boulder community was always core to the Foundry identity. We’re proud to call Boulder County home and fiercely loyal to our community. With this in mind Foundry is proud to join the relief effort by giving $100,000 through the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado to the Foothills Flood Relief Fund. These funds will directly help victims of this catastrophe.

With this gift we’re also putting out the call to other funds who have connections to Colorado (either because they are located here or through their investments in the state) to match our gift of $25,000 per partner. To Colorado entrepreneurs and business people who have built their companies in this community, please do what you can to help. And a special shout-out goes to the Denver Broncos, who today announced that they were donating $50,000 to the relief effort. While that money will make an impact, I believe an organization as tied to the community and as successful as the Broncos can do better ($25,000 per player?) The team has the strong support of fans throughout Colorado. Now their fans need support.

If you have any questions about EFCO or your company or organization would like to direct a gift through them to help with relief efforts, please email me. If you’re interested in helping out directly, click on the “Donate Now” button at the top of this post. And, of course, if you’re interested in joining EFCO I’d be happy to talk with you about that. Together we can help rebuild.

September 17th, 2013     Categories: Boulder, Colorado    

Branding Colorado

CO_Logos copyLast week at the conclusion of the COIN Summit Colorado released an new brand for the state. The new branding effort was lead by Aaron Kennedy (of Noodles fame) with the help of a brand ‘committee’ (I was a member) and, importantly, a large network of ‘brand ambassadors’ around the state. The process was an interesting one and was designed by Aaron to be inclusive of opinions and ideas from around the state. The idea was to identify a unifying brand that could represent Colorado across a wide variety of uses (both inside the state and outside). The result is the image in the upper left of this post and the tag line “IT’S IN OUR NATURE”. The logo draws from the green on the Colorado license plate, using updated but similar mountain/peak imagery but also including CO and Colorado (I guess for the avoidance of doubt about what we’re talking about).

I think it’s impossible to undertake an initiative such as this and find any kind of true consensus. And I suspect that people reading this will have mixed reactions to the new logo and branding. That’s kind of the nature of the beast. You should see the size of the three ring binder that I received as part of the Brand Counsel that reviewed all sorts of information from focus groups and brand brainstorms (now would be a good time to point out that the funding for this project was all private – the state didn’t pay for the fancy binders and formal letterhead, etc that I received). Personally, I like the new logo a lot and I think it was time for Colorado to update its image. I also like that the state will be consolidating around the use of this logo but also be allowing companies from Colorado to use the logo to tag themselves as Colorado proud (there are derivatives of the logo that signify that products were Made in Colorado or Designed in Colorado, etc.).

logo_black_text_white_background_SMALLI can’t help but point out the similarities of both the logo and the tag line to the Colorado Entrepreneurial by Nature initiative that I helped start with a handful of other local entrepreneurs (and that was announced about a year ago) – if you’re a Colorado business and you haven’t signed up and badged your website you can do so here. I think the similarities speak to the broad view of Colorado as a place where business and nature mix (and reinforce each other). And I’m really happy that the work that our small group did around EBN was validated by the much broader work of BrandCO.

Look for both the EBN logo and the new BrandCO logo to proliferate.

September 9th, 2013     Categories: Colorado