Is Everything Better in Boulder?


 Yet another article to add to the list of reasons for by Colorado. People ask me all the time why things are different here in Boulder. My answer is that every single one of us that lives here knows that we are lucky. We know that we are blessed to get to live in such a gorgeous place. I still look up at the mountains and express my gratitude daily. Yes, I made the choice to live here and I am constantly thankful for the opportunity.

Read more here at The Men's Journal


Roaming around Boulder, Colorado, is like stepping into Richard Scarry's busy, busy outdoor town. Everywhere you turn people are doing sporty things.

I didn't realize how busy Boulder was until I visited on a recent Sunday. The town buzzed under a benevolent autumn sun. In the creek next to the public library, a fly fisherman toyed with a brown trout holding in an eddy. Lycra-clad cyclists whizzed by in pairs and trios. Sharing the same path were runners by the dozen. On a nearby lawn, two women moved through Planks and Cobras on orange mats. On Broadway I passed more cyclists and a guy roller-skiing. Colorado Avenue was closed for a bicycle race, so I swung northeast to 47th Street and watched a bearded hipster tow a wooden canoe with his mountain bike. Up Boulder Canyon Drive, young climbers clipped chocks to their racks before red-pointing a sun-warmed route. Everywhere I went, grown men and women paraded about in bike shorts, technical jackets, and yoga pants. The dudes could have stepped out of a Patagonia catalog. The dames looked like models for Title Nine.

As the afternoon waned, I parked and walked across the Chautauqua Lawn, a grassy approach to the dramatic stone slabs of the Flatirons, where the Rocky Mountains end like cleaved bones on a butcher's block. Surrounded by dozens of hikers, I stopped to catch my breath and take in the view. Behind me the Rockies took their final bow. At my feet the Great Plains swept east.

And between them sat Boulder, the healthiest town in America.

The data doesn't lie. In the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which measures the nation's physical and mental fitness, Boulder claimed the title of America's healthiest community in two of the index's first five years. In 2015, Gallup-Healthways changed its criteria to include only the nation's 100 largest cities. Boulder, population 105,000, didn't make the cut, so the official winner was Sarasota, Florida, which has an obesity rate of 21.4 percent. Boulder was like, "City, please." Twenty-one percent? Boulder's obesity rate is 12.4.

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It would be easy to dismiss Boulder's low body mass index as a product of its college population, but the townies here are arguably fitter than the gownies. And its residents' healthiness is just one way that Boulder stands apart. A 2013 study found that it had more startups per capita than any other U.S. metro area — which helps explain why unemployment here is a scant 2.6 percent, just more than half the national average.

That outlier status didn't happen overnight; it emerged from a rich mix of subcultures. Sure, altitude mattered. So did the beautiful natural setting. Money helped. More important, though, was the town's embrace of new ideas and oddball lifestyles. The question now is whether Boulder can maintain that open-minded attitude. Health and fitness were a by-product of Boulder's culture, but now they're becoming one of its main draws — and the town's historic acceptance of the different and the strange may be running into uncomfortable limits.

The first thing you learn about Boulderites is that many of them started out somewhere else. "People typically have success elsewhere and then decide Boulder is where they want to live," said Seth Levine, managing director at Foundry Group, a venture capital firm that's the Kleiner Perkins of Boulder's booming tech community. After making his finance bones in New York in the 1990s, Levine considered a lucrative job in Asia. "I realized that wasn't the life I wanted," he told me. "I was looking for more balance." Balance, in this case, meaning more time to climb rocks and play Ultimate Frisbee.

That's a common Boulder tale. Ari Newman, founder of Filtrbox, is a partner at Techstars, a business incubator that puts startup founders through a three-month accelerator program. Newman moved here from Silicon Valley in 2002. "I knew full well I was making a trade-off," he said. "I was trading economics for overall health and happiness."

Boulder's lifestyle remains a powerful recruiting draw, but now the investment, marketing, and tech talent have reached critical mass. Google will soon expand into a campus for some 1,500 workers at 30th and Pearl. In 2006, advertising guru Alex Bogusky moved Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the hottest shop in the business, to Boulder. Venture capital and tech firms cluster along Walnut Street near the bike shops and Nepalese restaurant. "This used to be a Subaru town," an old friend told me. "Now it's an Audi town." And it's becoming a Tesla town, the Palo Alto of the Rockies.

In Boulder, outdoor activities aren't merely hobbies. They're self-defining.

"At a cocktail party in New York or San Francisco, people ask, 'What do you do?' and they're asking about your job, your social and economic status," Newman said. "People here ask, 'What do you do for fun? Are you a marathoner? Do you ski? Ride?' It's about who you are as a person, not what you do."


It's an alluring mind-set. I once embraced it myself. Ten years ago I moved my family to Boulder for an academic-year fellowship at the University of Colorado. We loved the life so much we didn't want to leave. We'd never been healthier. Our kids played outside. My wife hiked every day and took up telemarking. I snuck out to ski before work. We rented a house built like a national park lodge. Foxes, elk, and wild turkeys wandered through our yard. The sun never seemed to stop shining.

Boulder changes people. Noncommittal joggers move to Boulder and become marathoners. Weekend cyclists become triathletes. Although my own family ultimately left Boulder after two years — drawn back to Seattle by family and lifelong friends — I know plenty of people who can't quit the place. "If you could live anywhere, why wouldn't you live here?" said Hillary Rosner, a Boulder-based science writer. A couple of years ago, Rosner landed a teaching gig at Syracuse University, in New York. She loved the college. The town? Not so much. "The weather's terrible and everyone seemed unhappy," she said. "Other than that, Syracuse was great." After a single semester, a change in her husband's job prompted an about-face to Boulder.

It's like the fisherman's bumper sticker: The worst day freelancing in Boulder is better than tenure in Syracuse.

How does a nirvana like Boulder happen? In this case, you can credit four waves of migrants: the eggheads, the climbers, the hippies, and the runners.

When Colorado doled out the spoils of statehood, Denver got the capitol, Cañon City was given the prison, and Boulder landed the state university, which nurtured a local society that valued freethinkers and new ideas. After early tech businesses like Ball Aerospace and StorageTek set up shop in the area, CU provided a rich, scientific talent pool. Rock climbers, drawn by world-class routes in Eldorado Canyon, started arriving in the 1950s. While the dirtbag lifestyle was being forged in Yosemite — make a little scratch in winter and live frugally to climb all summer — Colorado legend Layton Kor established the practice in Boulder.

The hippies followed in the summer of 1968. They spent a couple of months smoking grass on Chautauqua Lawn and decided to stay. From that gathering emerged the cornerstone figure, Mo Siegel. In 1969, Siegel and some friends harvested herbs in the hills above Boulder and sold them to co-ops in the town's burgeoning natural-foods scene. In the 1970s, he turned that idea into a company called Celestial Seasonings and made a fortune selling herbal teas to America. That attracted other entrepreneurial hippies, like Steve Demos, who started the WhiteWave tofu company here on a $500 loan. Today the $3.6 billion business includes Horizon Organic and Silk soy milk.

Then came the runners or, rather, the runner: the godfather of Boulder's modern fitness culture, Frank Shorter. In 1970, Shorter was a skinny Yale grad who moved to Boulder, elevation 5,400 feet, to test his crazy ideas about training at altitude. Two years later his victory in the 1972 Olympic marathon inspired a wave of runners to move to Boulder. The road cyclists arrived soon after. In 1975, Siegel helped launch the Red Zinger Classic, a bike race named for his bestselling blend, as a way to promote bicycle transportation. Top prize money drew top riders. They came, they raced, they dug the Boulder scene — and they stayed.

The runners and cyclists picked up on the philosophy that the climbers and hippies had laid down in the Sixties: Living for your passion wasn't just OK, it was the right and natural thing to do. They put down roots and built a supportive infrastructure that continued to lure athletes to the town. Shorter brought a generation of runners here. After the Red Zinger years, Olympic medalists Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney lured other top cyclists. Scott Jurek, the ultramarathoner who recently broke the Appalachian Trail speed record, moved to Boulder in 2010, lured by his friend Anton (Tony) Krupicka, two-time winner of the Leadville Trail 100. "The climbers, the runners, the triathletes, and the world-class yogis — that energy and motivation really draws across the lines of different sports," Jurek told me.

In fact, fitness is culturally valued in Boulder in much the same way wealth is esteemed in New York and political power is revered in Washington, D.C. In Boulder, fitness has become the common currency of success.

Researchers have found that two factors play key roles in a person's level of physical activity: modeling and social support. Modeling is simple. People learn behavioral norms by observing those around them. If you see your neighbors running and riding day after day, then you're more likely to try it yourself. Social support in Boulder means your friends meet for a ride rather than a beer — or, rather, a ride and then a beer.

Wake up early enough and you can see those dynamics at play in the Wednesday Morning Velo, a.k.a. the banker's ride. Slightly past 6 a.m., bicyclists in tight shorts and clickety shoes flock to Amante, the north Boulder coffeehouse that doubles as a rider's hang.

"Where we headed today?" one silver-haired gent asks.

"Up to NCAR is what I heard," his friend answers. NCAR is the National Center for Atmospheric Research, one of the many federal research institutes that keep Boulder flush with scientific talent.

By 6:20 the joint is packed with bankers, lawyers, startup CFOs, and venture capitalists. There are so many riders that they have to split into three groups: threshold, tempo, and endurance.

This is networking Boulder-style. The town's business culture sees outdoor activity as a productivity aid, not a shirker's lark. A lunch-hour run or ride is encouraged (and many offices have showers and bike rooms). "At my last company, I had a powder-day clause," Newman told me. "Unless we were 24 hours from a major deadline, if there was more than six inches of fresh snow in the mountains, you could skip work and go skiing." Part of the Techstars boot camp often involves a weekly 7 a.m. hike with each company's board of directors. Bicycle meetings are common. "It breaks down the awkwardness," Newman said. "And you're riding together for more than an hour, so inevitably you get to talking about more personal stuff — families, values, philosophy. You just wouldn't do that in an office."

Boulder exercise is social exercise. The tone-setter is the BolderBoulder, the annual Memorial Day 10K that turns the entire town into a jogging party. More than 50,000 people — almost half of Boulder's population — run, jog, juggle, walk, and roll the 10K. Long before Americans raced Tough Mudders, color races, and rock & roll marathons, the Bolder­Boulder put the fun into the 6.2-mile run.

In this town, exercise isn't a chore — it's a reward.

"It's not perfect here, you know."

I heard that a lot. The comment usually came near conversation's end, and it invariably touched on Boulder's lack of economic and ethnic diversity. How ever white and wealthy you think this town is, it's even whiter and wealthier. You're four times more likely to encounter an African-American in Lincoln, Nebraska, than you are in Boulder. The zoning laws that preserve the town's human scale and open space also prevent most housing development. The fit, outdoor-loving, creative class is migrating to Boulder and squeezing out the working class, the dirtbag climbers, the Zen philosophers, and the ancient hippies nursing cappuccinos at the Trident Café. The homes that were once group rentals for marathoners now get snapped up in all-cash bids by ad execs or tech geeks and their $5,000 Colnago road bikes. According to Zillow, the median home price shot up from $490,000 in 2013 to $696,000 in 2015, and has soared more than 15 percent in the past year alone. With every listing that closes, Boulder gets a little fitter, whiter, and wealthier. This town once welcomed weirdos. Now it welcomes winners.

"It's a very driven culture," a local entrepreneur named Taro Smith told me. "There's no shortage of high-caliber, type A personalities, for good or bad."

The lack of diversity extends beyond race and economic status. Boulder's body-type norms are so extreme that those who don't conform can feel uncomfortable and isolated. Ohio native Kathleen Chaballa went to CU for grad school. She was healthy but not svelte. "I went from being average size for Ohio to being the fattest person in the room," she recalled. "The culture shock was intense."

Chaballa wondered if it was all in her head, until a heavyset friend came to visit. "There are no fat people in this town," her friend observed. "I feel like everyone's staring at me. This is a cool place, but I couldn't live here. I don't know how you do it." Ultimately she couldn't. Chaballa moved to Denver. "There are people of all shapes and sizes here," she told me. "It's a relief."

Here's the thing about Boulderites, though. Even the most comically fit, creative, and successful among them tend not to be assholes. "It's still a small town in a lot of ways," said Nicole Glaros, chief product officer at Techstars. "People look out for each other. If you're a bad actor, you won't get far."

Take Smith. The 43-year-old entrepreneur personifies the kind of person who now thrives in Boulder: one who notices the sparks thrown off by the town's subcultures and captures them to tender new business ideas. Raised in California, Smith came here in the early 1990s to attend college and ski, not necessarily in that order. After graduating, he hung around and co-founded a medical rehab facility. A few years later, in 2005, he and a college buddy, Brandon Dwight, opened Boulder Cycle Sport. Both had been competitive riders in their twenties. "Just what Boulder needed, another bike shop, right?" Dwight said when I later dropped by the store. "But we thought we could make it work." They did, based on their notion of creating community. "Cycling advocacy, group rides, junior cycling, sponsoring a professional cyclocross team — that was how it grew," Smith said.

Boulder is not for everyone. There's a piece of art on Smith's desk. It was a gift from his friend Paul Budnitz, the designer and entrepreneur behind the craft bikemaker Budnitz Bicycles, the designer toy company Kidrobot, and the social network Ello. Budnitz, too, once lived in Boulder. He lasted about two years. "I loved the beauty and a lot of the people," he told me. "But, honestly, I got inundated with the tech culture, people with a lot of entitlement and too much money. It got to be a drag. I felt like I was living someone else's fantasy of a perfect world, but it wasn't mine."

Budnitz ended up in Burlington, Vermont. "There are sophisticated people here doing interesting things," he said, "but there's not so much class division. There's a sense of community."

On my last morning in town, I rose early and did a butt-kicking hike up Mount Sanitas before grubbing huevos rancheros at Caffè Solé in south Boulder. Sitting next to me was a quite fit elderly couple chatting about their African dance class. Two cycling dudes behind me talked about an upcoming century. Across the room I stole a glance at a young climber, his battered backpack parked next to a cheap cup of drip. Scruffy hair, hadn't shaved in a few: classic dirtbag. He was engrossed in a book. I narrowed my eyes to parse the title: Think and Grow Rich. And I thought, "If he wants to stay in Boulder, he'll have to."

Forbes: Boulder is America's best place to start a new business in 2015

Author: Alex Burness

Source: Daily Camera 

Boulder can add another bullet to its diverse and ever-growing collection of mentions on "best of" lists.

Boulder is no stranger to these reports and in the last few years has been recognized for pretty much every possible trait. According to a slew of different organizations with varying degrees of credibility, it is at once the No. 1 American city for work/life balance, the city with the country's'unhappiest' workforce and the No. 4 most hippie-friendly community, among many other labels.

On Thursday, the city's resume grew, with a proclamation by Forbes that Boulder is the best place in the U.S. for starting a business in 2015.

"It's known as a mellow, artsy destination at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, boasting sweeping views, a thriving tech scene, and a vibrant artisan food culture, but Boulder, Colorado is also a great place to launch a business," the magazine writes.

According to data provided to Forbes by personal finance site NerdWallet, Boulder and its surrounding towns and cities beat out the country's 182 other metropolitan areas that qualify as having at least 15,000 businesses and a population greater than 250,000.

Each metro area was graded based on average annual revenue of local businesses ($721,489 in Boulder's case), number of businesses per 100 people (14.1) and percentage of businesses with paid employees (23.8 percent).

If that final figure seems low, the report notes that 82 percent of the country's small businesses do not have employees and are in fact run by one or two people and powered by contract workers.

Wilmington, N.C., came in second, with 15 businesses for every 100 residents — the most of any place on the list. The Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamford area of Connecticut came in third, followed by Evansville, Ind. and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

4 Colorado cities make startup density top 10

Source: BuiltinColorado

Author:  Anthony Sodd

Cities along the Front Range boast some of the highest densities of tech startups in the country. Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs all rank in the top 10 according to a new report.

Unsurprisingly, Boulder tops that list, followed by the Fort Collins-Loveland area. 

Denver comes in at number 6, just ahead of San Francisco and Washington D.C., while Colorado Springs takes the number 9 spot.

The new report from CBRE, a commercial real estate services company, looks at Colorado’s geography of high-tech startups. From a regional standpoint, Denver continues to act as a hub for mature high-tech companies. Recently the city has also seen a large increase in startup activity and VC funding. In addition to downtown Denver, many startups are moving into office spaces in the RiverNorth, Golden Triangle and Broadway South neighborhoods. The report cites Denver’s relatively low cost of living (as compared to the coasts), and its newly (nearly) complete mass transit system as reasons for growth.

Boulder, which has been the traditional tech startup hub of Colorado, continues to hold that position today. In fact, proximity to Boulder is so valuable that secondary tech bubbles are developing in places like Broomfield, Louisville and Westminster. This growth appears to be largely driven by companies who value proximity to Boulder, but need a larger office space than Boulder can offer at an affordable price.

To the north, Colorado State University is helping plant new and diverse software, biotech and energy startups in Fort Collins. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs continues to attract larger high-tech firms focusing on aerospace and defense.

Colorado is also an attractive place for out of state tech talent to relocate to. The top states for people to migrate from are California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

There is also a large pool of highly educated talent already on the ground, and the cost of living is low. So is the cost of office space. Denver’s office space is going for about 63 percent less per square foot than San Francisco’s.

Of course, Colorado’s advantage as a lower-cost, high-value destination might be stifled by its growth. Denver has been experiencing an explosion in real estate prices, with 2014 seeing a year-over-year increase of 8.1 percent. That was the largest increase in the United States outside of San Francisco and Miami. That said, real estate prices here have a long way to go before they reach the stratospheric levels of coastal startup hubs, and there’s a whole lot of Front Range left to develop.

All in all, the report offers a pretty rosy picture.  If you’d like to read it in its entirety, you can find it here.

Have a tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Email us via

Guide for Boulder Tech Entrepreneurs

It's hard for these not to get outdated because we're growing so fast and there are so many new opportunities. That said, there are tons of events, organizations and a million resources all set up to create your success. Here are a few categories of incredible resources.  

Silicon Flatirons Center 
A Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship 
at the University of Colorado launched to bring these resources together.

This is what they have to say about their entrepreneurship Initiative: 

Something special is happening in Boulder's entrepreneurial circles, and the world is taking notice that Boulder is a world-class location to start a business. In support of this creative environment, Silicon Flatirons helps stitch together the entrepreneurial fabric for the area's software, telecommunications and Internet startup communities.

Says: Welcome to Boulder, a mountain town in the heart of Colorado with a thriving tech scene. This site is to help involve those new to the area or looking to meet new people, learn something new and give back to others. 


Boulder Startup Week

Boulder Startup Week is May 12-16, 2014!

Boulder Startup Week started in 2010 as the first Startup Week in the nation with the goal of connecting, educating, engaging and drinking with the best community in the world. Now in the fifth year, BSW aims to welcome newcomers to town and help make professional and personal connections. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates as they're released (which will be soon, so stay tuned!) 

Go to the site and RSVP for one of the 50 amazing events next week.

Inc. Mag: How Boulder Became America's Startup Capital

An unlikely story of tree-huggers, commies, eggheads, and gold.   BY BURT HELM

We had barely started our tour of the Chautauqua, Boulder's verdant 19th-century park, when my guide for the morning, local historian Carol Taylor, handed me the packet with the "cautionary tales." They were photocopied news articles, all from national publications, all featuring Boulder and all written--in Taylor's mind, anyway--by superficial out-of-towner nincompoops. "Namaste and Pass the Naan," read one's subhead. "You will be hard-pressed to find one person here, including your 85-year-old grandmother, without a six-pack," read another. Over four decades, as Taylor's packet meant to show, writers had missed the town for the lovely trees (and bike paths and mountain views)--unfairly reducing Boulder to a playground where smug eco-liberals puffed legalized marijuana and compared triathlon times.

"We're so much more complex than that," Taylor said. She gave me a gentle, pleading look. "Don't just go back and write that everyone rides their bikes everywhere."

Out from the gleaming sunlight, a Lycra-clad cyclist whizzed majestically by.

Let me just say, it's hard to keep a straight face when touring this idyllic mountain city--and interviewing its start-up founders and venture capitalists, its coffee-shop denizens and microbrew cognoscenti. It's so tempting to linger on the glorious hippie mane of the organic peanut butter CEO, or quote the impossibly outdoorsy venture capitalist ("I only invest in companies I can ride my mountain bike to!"). But I don't want to be unfair or stoop to caricature. It's not as if they were handing out free joints to everybody on Pearl Street, the city's main drag, on the day I arrived. (No, that was two days earlier. The event was called the Boulder Flood Relief Joint Giveaway.)

But easy as Boulder may be to mock, the city is impossible to dismiss. Boulder is an entrepreneurial powerhouse like no other. In 2010, the city had six times more high-tech start-ups per capita than the nation's average, according to an August 2013 study by the Kauffman Foundation--and twice as many per capita as runner-up San Jose-Sunnyvale in California. This vibrant culture has given Boulder a prosperous economy: Without the help of oil, natural gas, or any monolithic industry, Boulder County (population 300,000) ranks among the top 20 most productive metro areas in terms of GDP. Unemployment is 5.4 percent--almost two points below the national average and a full point below the Federal Reserve's goal for the nation. It is the home to a start-up incubator, Techstars, and a healthy venture capitalist community.

Boulder as start-up haven is not a new development, either. Since 1960, it has quietly nurtured nascent industries, including natural foods, computer storage, biotech, and now Internet companies. It's the original home of Ball Aerospace (one of the first NASA contractors), herbal tea pioneer Celestial Seasonings, StorageTek (later acquired by Sun Microsystems for $4.1 billion), and the biochemistry lab that led to Amgen.

But Boulder wasn't always so affluent, so collegiate, so pretty. The history of Boulder, the start-up haven, is a fascinating story of a community that built itself from scratch through a combination of individual effort, shared sacrifice, and counterintuitive choices (not to mention a near-constant urge to skip out of the office and get outdoors). Its success is a very specific, and in some ways limited, way of fostering a local economy. But it offers an unexpected solution to how cities all over the U.S. could make themselves a welcoming spot for start-ups.


When the Wall Street day-trading firm where Kate Maloney worked opened a location in Boulder in 2001, she jumped at the chance to move. “We’d wake up at 5:30 in the morning, tackle the market, and then go hiking up Sanitas, or rock climb in the Chautauqua,” she recalls. In 2007, Maloney founded TherapySites, a website design company that now sells Web templates to a wide variety of health care practices. Maloney has 34 employees, a handful of whom work out of her downtown Boulder loft.

Photographed by Matt Nager

When city fathers first laid out Boulder, the city was dry, barren, and unremarkable--a two-mile stretch of road at the mouth of Boulder Canyon that served as one of several mining-supply depots following the 1859 Colorado gold rush. Wrote Isabella Bird, a British travel writer, in an 1879 book: "Boulder is a hideous collection of framed houses on the burning plain."

But a streak of exceptionalism ran through Boulderites. They displayed a deep commitment to city beautification and education. In 1877, just six years after Boulder officially incorporated, citizens persuaded the state legislature to make it home to Colorado's first public university; 104 families donated land and money to build the campus. In 1889, the citizens voted to issue a $20,000 bond to build the Chautauqua, a place where visiting Texas schoolteachers could hike, picnic, and listen to lectures--a sort of bucolic TED Conference of the time.

In 1908, citizens hired landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (the son of the legendary creator of New York City's Central Park) to consult with them on how best to plan the city--a precocious move for a town of 10,000. His recommendations included putting wires underground and keeping streetlights beneath tree level, and he cautioned them about suburban developers, "dirty industries," and pandering to tourists. Above all, he said, Boulder must be beautiful--a prosperous town where people would spend their lives, not just make their money and get out. "As with the food we eat and the air we breathe, so the sights habitually before our eyes play an immense part of determining whether we feel cheerful, efficient, and fit for life," Olmsted wrote in his report.

Boulder might have remained a sleepy pretty college town, were it not for the communists. In 1949, fearful of a Soviet nuclear attack, President Harry Truman issued an order to stop the clustering of major buildings in Washington, D.C. The nation's basic research labs had to expand elsewhere. Boulder citizens, sensing an opportunity, bought up 217 acres of land and beat out 11 other cities to make that site the home of the National Bureau of Standards's new Radio Propagation Laboratory.

At first, the D.C.-based scientists bristled, considered it an exile. "They would say, 'Where do we go to see the Indians?' " says R.C. ("Merc") Mercure, one of the founding employees of Ball Aerospace, who was a physics graduate student at the University of Colorado at the time.


Alabama native Dale Katechis settled in Boulder in 2004 after he ran out of money on the way to Montana. He knew he was in love when he spotted the Flatirons mountains rising up behind the city, he says. Since then, he has started a brewery, restaurants, and a boutique bike company in Boulder. He has also developed his own take on vertical integration: His brewery’s spent grain feeds the cattle on his ranch, which is located outside the city. The cattle, in turn, provide the beef used in his restaurants’ burgers.

Photographed by Matt Nager

But the move put Boulder on the U.S. government's map. In 1952, the federal government made greater Boulder the site of Rocky Flats, a 27-building nuclear weapons manufacturing facility. After the Department of Defense ordered sophisticated rocket pointing controls from CU's labs, researchers, including Mercure, left to form Ball Aerospace, which filled those contracts and others. Eventually, the government made Boulder the site of theNational Center for Atmospheric Research, and IBM moved its tape drive manufacturing division out there, which later led to the founding of storage start-ups StorageTek, Exabyte, and McData. On the backs of these technology jobs, Boulder's population doubled from 1950 to 1960 and then jumped to 67,000 10 years later.

By the late '60s, scientists weren't the only new people moving in. Across the country, the hippie movement was under way, and as suburban teens and twentysomethings started migrating to beautiful places across the country, many chose Boulder. (In the first half of 1968, drug arrests in the city doubled.) To Mo Siegel, a Colorado boy who had grown up on a ranch 80 miles away in Palmer Lake, the assembled flower children were his kind of people--and, in 1969, a potential market. A health nut already, the 19-year-old began gathering herbs in the foothills surrounding Boulder, filling up gunnysacks with chamomile and red clover blossoms, sewing them into little muslin tea bags, and selling them, in 1969, as Mo's 36 Herb tea. It would become the first year of business of Celestial Seasonings, the brand that became known for teas such as Sleepytime and Red Zinger. (Siegel eventually sold the company to Kraft, bought it back, and then sold it again to Hain Foods for $336 million.)

Celestial Seasonings was among the first of many natural-foods companies, including White Wave, maker of Silk-brand soy milkHorizon Organic Dairy; and Alfalfa's, a specialty market akin to Whole Foods. For these sorts of entrepreneurs, Boulder was an ideal test market. Given its population of affluent, outdoorsy types, brands could test new ideas with a friendly group of consumers in the local markets, work out the kinks at low risk, and then take the successes to a more general market in Denver and beyond.

"I just got so much support. Everybody believed," says Siegel.

With industry picking up and the population booming, the city could have stoked the growth, welcoming developers in to build out new housing and offices. Instead, it did the opposite. In 1959, the city drew a line across the surrounding mountains, above which it would not provide water or sewer services--purely in order to protect the view. In 1967, residents instituted a special 0.4 percent sales tax to purchase "green space" around the city, stymieing developers, heading off major roadways, and preserving nature. Next, the city limited new housing starts to just 2 percent a year. Now the county manages more than 97,000 acres of open space. Boulder is in a bucolic bubble, with the Rocky Mountains on one side and parkland on the other.

Encircling the city with green space has had several implications for Boulder, some expected and some not. Though never exactly cheap before, the limited space has resulted in sky-high real estate prices--with a median price of $431,200, single family homes are 1.5 times as expensive as in Denver. Meanwhile, as the preserved space flourished, so did the deer population--and the hungry mountain lions, which commuted in to eat the deer and, occasionally, attack citizens of Boulder.


Mo Siegel started Celestial Seasonings in 1969. Back then, he sold his tea in health-food stores in Boulder (at the time, there were only three such shops). “Boulder was really conducive to the natural-foods industry,” says Siegel. “Everybody’s so healthy. If you don’t run or bike or ski--or hike or climb--you really can’t live here.” Now, of course, natural food is as ubiquitous nationwide as Celestial’s Sleepytime tea.

Photographed by Matt Nager

The green border, paired with the city's conservative zoning and development laws, has also meant that national retailers--or any monolithic competitor--have trouble finding good spaces to open in Boulder. Meanwhile, the city's hard line against expansion doesn't really allow its own start-ups to grow much past a certain size. The result? The town has made itself a physical incubator for small businesses. "After companies reach 500 employees, they either have to move out to the other side of the open space or sell," says Kyle Lefkoff, a general partner with Boulder Ventures since 1995.

But for those who can afford the housing, steer clear of the mountain lions, and squeeze into its limited office space, Boulder affords an incredible quality of life--along with a place to do business. The planning strategy, which at first seems antibusiness, simply favors those who are in it for the long haul--those who are thinking about raising families and living in Boulder until old age, and weeds out those that would dive in because of a juicy tax incentive.

There are entrepreneurs like Phil Anson, who came out after graduating from college purely to bum around and climb. A onetime line cook, he started selling premade burritos out of a cooler to support himself. In time, he found he liked scaling that business better than scaling rocks, and Evol Burritos, his 73-employee company, now distributes to supermarkets nationwide and rang up $12.4 million last year.

There were those who arrived in Boulder by accident and fell in love. Matt Larson, founder of Confio Software, moved there because his biggest investor told him he had to as a condition to getting funded (the man lived in Boulder and wanted to be chairman but didn't want to move). Alabama native Dale Katechis ended up in Lyons, the town just north of Boulder, after he and his wife ran out of money on the way to Montana. Katechis started waiting tables. Then he opened his own restaurant, Oskar Blues Brewery, and started brewing beer as a way to get his eatery's name out, and found the beer sold better than the food. (His brewery, which sells Dale's Pale Ale, made $33 million in sales last year.) Little Lyons "was like Mayberry in the mountains," Katechis says, his voice tinged with the last remnants of an Alabama drawl.

There are those entrepreneurs who moved to Boulder when they were older, when they already had money, almost as a reward to themselves. In 2001, the Wall Street day-trading firm where Kate Maloney worked opened an office in Boulder, simply because she and some co-workers thought it would be more fun. Six years later, she started TherapySites, a Web company she runs out of a loft apartment downtown. In 2006, adman Alex Bogusky moved a chunk of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the advertising agency he co-founded, from Miami to offices in Gunbarrel, a town eight miles northeast of Boulder. To Bogusky, outdoor sports lovers and entrepreneurs share a common DNA: "Thrill seekers are drawn to this place," he says. "Once you get out here, you want the ultimate thrill in business, too, and that's start-ups." By the time Bogusky retired from the agency, the Boulder office of Crispin Porter + Bogusky had swelled to more than 700 employees--many of whom had moved from Miami.

After earning three degrees from the University of Colorado in Boulder, R.C. (“Merc”) Mercure became a founding employee at Ball Aerospace in 1956. “Ed Ball took us aside and asked us if we would consider getting into the electronics business,” Mercure recalls. “A few of us said, ‘Why not?’ ” Ball went on to land a contract with NASA and helped put a solar observatory into orbit.    Photographed by Matt Nager

After earning three degrees from the University of Colorado in Boulder, R.C. (“Merc”) Mercure became a founding employee at Ball Aerospace in 1956. “Ed Ball took us aside and asked us if we would consider getting into the electronics business,” Mercure recalls. “A few of us said, ‘Why not?’ ” Ball went on to land a contract with NASA and helped put a solar observatory into orbit.

Photographed by Matt Nager

And finally, there are those who came out of the University of Colorado and couldn't imagine going anywhere else. The most famous is probably Marvin Caruthers, who, as a biochemistry professor in 1980, helped start the biotech firm Amgen. His co-founders decided to put company headquarters in Thousand Oaks, California, but Caruthers kept a lab in Boulder. Since then, the University of Colorado has become a destination for DNA and RNA research. Veterans of his department, of Amgen, and of the university's biology departments would go on to start biotech firms, including Applied Biosystems, Dharmacon, Myogen, and Pharmion, companies that sold for more than $6 billion altogether.

I wish I could point to some municipal entrepreneurship program or other business initiative that enticed these people to start companies in Boulder. But the thing is, entrepreneurs claim the city stymies them more than it helps. Mundane parking regulations hindered business early on, says Niel Robertson, CEO of $12.6 million-a-year Internet advertising start-up Trada. The city, in its efforts to reduce congestion, gave Robertson's 17-employee company just three parking permits. (The company, which now has 15 employees, has since moved to a building with a parking garage.)

Anson, the burrito maker, says it took eight weeks just to get a permit to install a new refrigeration unit at his plant. "They're so conditioned to say no to everything," he says. "It's a massive pain in the ass." But leave town? No way. "It's a dual-edged sword," says Anson. "It's harder for me to run my plant, but it's also why people can't build mansions and block each other's views, so we have a balanced city."

Of course, Boulder's not perfect. Many businesses would struggle to exist there, especially those that require heavy equipment or a low-wage work force. Its regulations, and its constricted land area, heavily favor small companies. In fact, several start-ups, including Internet security firm Webroot and StorageTek, grew out of the town, choosing to move out to a sprawling office across the green space in neighboring Broomfield. But many other entrepreneurs decided to sell out and stay--and join Boulder's growing number of angel investors and venture capitalists, the next step in the city's development. Mo Siegel now invests in other natural-foods companies. Caruthers helped start Boulder Ventures, which invests almost exclusively in Boulder entrepreneurs.

All together, venture capital firms invested $587 million in Colorado in 2012--a far cry from major venture hubs such as Silicon Valley and New York City ($11 billion and $2.3 billion, respectively) but significant. They would rather do that than move to some tony retirement place--because in their minds, Boulder beats 'em all. That's the thing. Pretty much every entrepreneur told me he or she started up in Boulder or stayed in Boulder for that same reason: It's a beautiful place to live. And it's beautiful not because the city forefathers had some nifty pro-start-up policy--but because they had the foresight to plant lots of trees, welcome a university and federal science labs, buy up lots of parkland, and then stay disciplined about preserving the beauty they had created. The idea was simple: Make a city a great place to live, and people figure out how to make a living there.

Correction: Internet advertising startup Trada has 15 employees. An earlier version of this article noted its size prior to layoffs that occurred after the magazine went to press.


The New Guard - Boulder's very own, Nicole Glaros, tops the list

I recently lunched with Nicole Glaros from Techstars.  Nicole's whole focus is on Giving First and that's exactly what Techstars does. They provide seed funding from over 75 top venture capital firms and angel investors who are vested in the success of each startup, as well as intense mentorship from hundreds of the best entrepreneurs in the world.

Nicole said, "I was attracted to Techstars because they utilized a unique model - it leveraged mentors, experienced CEOs and entrepreneurs to help guide and counsel entrepreneurs to success.  The mentors are volunteers, they give freely of their time, without expectation of reward or compensation, to help the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Nicole gives daily. She teaches things like the How to craft the Perfect Elevator Pitch and offers office hours as a board member of EFCO, the Entrepreneurial Foundation of Colorado, which asks entrepreneurs to commit 1% of their early equity or annual profits to the community. EFCO has given more than $2 million to local organizations on the Front Range since 2008.

After 5 years, Nicole has seen Techstars grow into a global brand. I wanted to see what she's been up to. Wow. Just the usual. Nicole's been Managing Director at the Boulder Techstars from its inception and is now making the Big Apple shine. She just spoke at TedXBrooklyn with Spike Lee among others about why giving is the way to go. She also just made NY's list of top women and Marie Claire's New Guard list.

That list is fantastic and the women are incredible. 

MC@Work: The New Guard

What does it take to earn a spot on our New Guard?

Contacts, lots of them. But even that's only half the story. The women on this list are all masters at converting introductions into opportunities. In their respective fields and beyond, they are hugely influential for their valuable ability to connect—startups with financiers, writers with producers, candidates with voters. Got your own grand plans for world domination? Get to know the impressive women of The New Guard and make it happen.

Check out Nicole on Marie Claire as a successful woman in tech and read more: Successful Women in Tech, Entertainment, Business & Politics - The New Guard - Marie Claire 

Startup Phenomenon 2013: How to Create and Sustain a Vibrant Startup Community

Best-Selling Author Jim Collins and TechStars Co-Founder Brad Feld anchor global event for entrepreneurs, policymakers, financiers and academics

Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 - 3:10 am

/PRNewswire/ -- The inaugural Startup Phenomenon, which focuses on bringing together the entrepreneurs and investors behind the world's most dynamic startup ecosystems, will be held Nov. 13-15 at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder. Registration is now open at


Rather than acting as yet another startup pitchfest, Startup Phenomenon will dive into how startup communities take root and grow, with the ultimate goal being more and better options for entrepreneurs regardless of where they are.

"We drew the philosophy of Startup Phenomenon from Brad Feld's Startup Revolution books," said Ryan Ferrero, co-founder of the event. "That is, supportive communities are critical for building and sustaining vibrant startup ecosystems." 

Jim Collins and Brad Feld headline a program of nearly 50 startup and finance experts from dozens of cities around the world, including Boulder, Omaha, New York, Jerusalem, Reykjavik, Auckland, and Moscow. Collins has authored or co-authored six business books that have sold more than 10 million copies. Feld is the managing director of the VC firm the Foundry Group; co-founder of TechStars, a mentorship-driven seed stage investment program; and author of several books on startup culture.

The three-day event will feature presentations, discussions and workshops. Other scheduled presenters include:

  • Anil Dash, co-founder, Activate; CEO, ThinkUp; director, Stack Exchange.
  • Donna Harris, co-founder, 1776; Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Georgetown University;advisory board member of Global Entrepreneurship Week and board member of the National Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
  • Brian Meece, co-founder and CEO, RocketHub Inc.
  • Vivek Wadhwa, VP, Innovation and Research, Singularity University; fellow, Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University.
  • Alan Barrell, Entrepreneur in residence, University of Cambridge; International Advisor, Start Up Generation

Tickets are on sale for $995 until Nov. 7. For a complete list of speakers and sessions, or to register for the event, visit the Startup Phenomenon website.

About Startup Phenomenon

The inaugural Startup Phenomenon, Nov. 13-15 at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder, will bring together more than 300 seasoned investors, policymakers, academics and entrepreneurs to share visions for and experiences from successful startup clusters. For more information, please

SOURCE Startup Phenomenon

• Read more articles by Startup Phenomenon

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Boulder's Alex & Ana Bogusky Launch Initiative to Create a Million New American Jobs

August 20th, 2013

 Last night, Alex and Ana Bogusky launched the Million American Jobs Project — a YouTube video that mashes animation with Econ 101 to prime people on the power of the pocketbook, illustrating how buying a larger share of American-made goods can positively impact U.S. job numbers.

Sleeves rolled up, Alex narrates the three-and-a-half-minute video, which moves post-WWII-era utilitarian icons —cogs, workers, factories and consumer commodities like sneakers and big-screen TVs — along a conveyor belt to tell the story of how once-great America lost its competitive edge and fell into the Great Recession. Scott McDonald animated and art directed the “Million American Jobs” project.

Buy American, people (or better yet, buy Colorado). It ain't that hard to make change.



#Boulderflood, #Coflood

There's no way to describe what Boulder and the rest of our Front Range communities are experiencing. Our residents are resilient because our city is our love. I've never lived anywhere where the people acknowledge how blessed and fortunate they are to get to live here. That's just a given. My neighbors and I express our thankfulness like a mantra daily.  We know we are lucky...even when it feels like our luck has run out.

The sun came out yesterday and the Flatirons stood in all their rugged strength and majesty. It was just long enough to remind me that even under the water and mud and tears, Boulder is still the beautiful, magical place that I am incredibly grateful to call home.

To read more about the flood, go to @nicolecasanova.  I am constantly updating. 

Video - Be in Boulder

Amazing video that will make you want to be here yesterday. This shows why I'm so grateful to live in Boulder. On another note, Jennifer Egbert is super savvy. This is one of the best videos I've seen on Boulder and it makes you want to share it. Power of marketing. Go girl. 

I have to post this even though I have my own favorite Realtor, Jason Meglich, . Check him out. and watch this sweet video.

Entrepreneur Magazine lists Boulder as the #1 Startup City

The 25 Best U.S. Cities for Tech Startups


boulder skyline.jpg

BY CATHERINE CLIFFORD | August 14, 2013|

Colorado is gaining steam as a startup haven.

Move over, Silicon Valley. Colorado is building some serious startup swagger.

Four of the top 10 metro regions in the U.S. with the most tech startups are in Colorado: Boulder, Fort Collins-Loveland, Denver and Colorado Springs. That’s according to a report released today by technology policy coalition Engine and entrepreneurship research association the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The research focuses on high-tech startups specifically, defining them as new businesses with a concentration of employees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Related: The 5 Rules for Silicon Valley Success That Can Work Anywhere

Here is a rundown of the U.S. metro regions with the highest ratio of tech startups compared to the national average:

  1. Boulder, Colo.
  2. Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo.
  3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
  4. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Mass.
  5. Seattle
  6. Denver
  7. San Francisco
  8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.
  9. Colorado Springs, Colo.
  10. Cheyenne, Wyo.
  11. Salt Lake City
  12. Corvallis, Ore.
  13. Raleigh-Cary, N.C.
  14. Huntsville, Ala.
  15. Provo-Orem, Utah
  16. Bend, Ore.
  17. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
  18. Missoula, Mont.
  19. Grand Junction, Colo.
  20. Sioux Falls, S.D.
  21. Bethesda-Frederick-Rockville, Md.
  22. Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.
  23. Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.
  24. Wilmington, Del.
  25. Ames, Iowa

As an entrepreneur looking for a startup community to launch your business, knowing where other entrepreneurs have planted their seeds may prove fruitful. And for local leaders, encouraging high-tech startup growth in your community could generate jobs. While high-tech startups have an undeniably high failure rate, those that do succeed take off quickly. On the whole, high-tech startups are good for the local job market, according to the research.

Related: Entrepreneurs Take Lead in Building Vibrant Startup Communities

A thriving startup community that's creating jobs typically attracts vitality -- and cash -- to a region. "In the case of Boulder, a startup community whose evolution I've observed and participated in closely over the past many years, the cultural and economic transformation has been extraordinary,” says Brad Feld, co-founder of the Boulder-based Foundry Group and author of numerous books about startup ecosystems, in a statement. “While there isn't one, definitive blueprint to building a technology industry, this research can hopefully inspire communities and policymakers to work together to ensure that the spread of high-tech entrepreneurship isn't just a trend, but a long-term phenomenon.”

Catherine Clifford
is a staff writer at 

Read more:


Why Boulder?

oh... just because...


  • Top 10 Metros for Female Executives (#1) - Avalanche Consulting, Feb. 18, 2013.
  • The 20 Most Innovative Cities in the U.S. (#5) - Business Insider, Feb. 1, 2013. 
  • Best-Performing Cities 2012 (#15) - Milken Institute, Jan. 15, 2013. 


  • Cities Where Startups are Thriving (#1) - CNNMoney, Nov. 27, 2012.
  • Bicycle Friendly Community (Platinum) -League of American Bicyclists, Oct. 18, 2012.
  • 10 Incredible and Underrated Cities To Live In (#6) - BuzzFeed, October 2012.
  • Top 10 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas Ranked by Percentage of Workers 16 Years and Over Who Worked From Home (#1) -American Community Survey (2010 U.S. Census), October 2012.
  • Top 20 Small Metros for College Students(#3) - American Institute for Economic Research, Oct. 1, 2012.
  • The Fittest U.S. Cities for Baby Boomers - Spry, Sept. 17, 2012.
  • America's Best Places to Live (#60) - Money, September 2012.
  • Top Cities for Technology Start-ups (#9 Boulder/Denver) -USA Today, Aug. 23, 2012.
  • 5 Happiest Cities in America -AARP, Aug. 23, 2012.
  • Summer in the U.S.A.: 20 Best Vacation Destinations -  Frommer's, June 2012.
  • America's Foodiest Town -, June 5, 2012.
  • Nine Fittest Towns of the West (#3) - Sunset, June 5, 2012.
  • America's Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities (#3) - Bicycling, May 21, 2012.
  • Most Well-Read Cities in America (#5) -, May 15, 2012. 
  • Top 10 Cities for Affordable Vacations (#7) -, April 20, 2012.
  • Tree City USA - National Arbor Day Foundation (for the 28th consecutive year).
  • Best Restaurant Neighborhood - 2012 (Pearl Street Mall) - Westword, March 2012.
  • Skinniest City in America - Gallup, March 7, 2012.
  • Top 10 Cities for Well-being (#5) - Gallup, March 7, 2012.
  • Most Bike-friendly Vacation Cities (#4) - Virgin Vacations, March 7, 2012.
  • Top 10 Foodie Cities (#3), Feb. 17, 2012.
  • Top 10 College Towns, 2011 (#1) -, Feb. 7, 2012.
  • America's Healthiest Metros (#3) - The Atlantic Cities, Jan. 3, 2012.