Boomtown Gains Traction As Colorado Tech Startup Scene Pops

Students of the Boulder, Colo., accelerator program Boomtown will get in front of investors and noninvestors alike at next month's Demo Day at the Boulder Theater.

The presentations represent a chance for the entrepreneurs of the nine Boomtown company participants to introduce themselves to the market.

It's the second class, which recently started its session, for the young accelerator program, which gives participants $20,000 in exchange for a 6 percent stake in the company. The entrepreneurs embark on a 12-week course that provides education on how to refine their technology and business, along with access to mentors and investors.

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The program's currently open to companies throughout the U.S., with a focus on the advertising, media, marketing and design industries. There's a particular interest in what Boomtown Co-Founder Toby Krout called companies at the intersection of advertising and the Internet of Things.

The program's first class of participants have so far been successful, with five of the six companies receiving follow-on funding.

Content Blvd. is one Boomtown graduate. The company is developing a platform aimed at connecting companies with media partners.

Company executives are currently in Boulder, but they will move back to West Hollywood, Calif., in the next three to six months once the product is built out, according to Content Blvd. Co-Founder and CEO Dan Ripoll. It's just a few weeks away from its first product release, he added.

Like most startups joining an accelerator or incubator program, Ripoll wanted access to investors. That was why Content Blvd. applied for the program after a Boomtown executive reached out to the company. The Content Blvd. team had originally been looking into joining a Los Angeles program, but was sold on Boomtown's specialty in media and ad technology.

"One of the best things for me, even though we haven't raised money yet, which is a bit frustrating, the value that I got from the program was the mentors," Ripoll told CRN. "If you take the time to reach out to people that you connected with -- you have to be the type of person to take advantage of that."

Co-Founder and CEO of health platform Truthly Alex Mark is currently part of Boomtown's second class. The company's site aims to help people make better health decisions by collecting health research and distilling it for people to understand.

Mark previously worked at TechStars, another accelerator with offices in Boulder, and said he understands firsthand the value of such programs for entrepreneurs.

"The main goals we had coming into the program was to solidify and grow the team and work on understanding our customers," Mark told CRN.

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Mark, along with his peers, enjoy a Boomtown curriculum that was improved upon and made more efficient from knowledge gained in the first class, Krout told CRN. The structure of the first week of class, for example, covers various lessons in tools used to create startups that had previously been spread across about eight weeks with the initial set of participants.

"We had some companies pivot [improve] their business models, pivot within the first couple days," Krout said. "If they're pivoting in week eight, they've lost a lot of time. … You can look at startups as just a series of pivots, so the earlier you pivot, the more efficient you are as a startup."

Krout and the rest of Boomtown see their curriculum and program focus as a differentiator in the pool of accelerators. But the other differentiator, he said, is its Boulder location.

Innovation amid a backdrop of mountains has long been the calling card of Colorado cities such as Boulder and Denver in attracting startups. And it's one of the reasons why the two boast growing tech hubs.

"Boulder is just thriving," Krout said. "Boulder is really an incredible place for startups right now. The intensity now is greater than it's ever been, and there's a lot more sophistication and we're attracting a lot more resources that we need."

The companies there also pose a relative value to investors compared to options in other markets.

"The economics look more interesting to investors in some of the middle markets," Krout said. "If you're out on the coast, the value for startups is a lot higher."

Inc. dubbed Boulder "America's Startup Capital" in a feature that ran at the end of last year. Investing activity in the state as a whole reached a five-year high last year, according to New York research firm CB Insights, when it grew 138 percent from 2009 to reach $930 million last year.

The bulk of that activity occurred in Boulder and Denver, with investments last year totaling $209 million and $274 million, respectively.