The Denver Disruption: Startups Soar in the Mile High City
Denver’s pioneer spirit and sunny disposition is lighting the way to a bright future for startups.
Buck up, Denver Broncos fans. While you may not have won the Super Bowl, Denver produced a crop of more than 20 great startups to compete at the recent Challenge Cup pitch competition.
Hosted by 1776, the Challenge Cup made its way to the Mile High City to identify the most promising startups in education, energy, health and smart cities. While the wind howled and swirled around the snow in front of startup hub Galvanize, an audience of more than 200 people were on hand to watch 22 impressive local startups set out to win the hearts and minds of the judges and the audience during their lightning fast one minute pitches. Eight lucky semifinalists then gave their five minute pitches and answered questions from the judges before they were whittled down to just four winners.
The startups were competing for the chance to represent the Denver during the weeklong Challenge Cup festival in Washington D.C. in May 2014. That’s when 64 competitors from around the world will face off for industry connections, mentoring, media exposure, and cold, hard cash (in the form of a $150,000 convertible note).
The breadth and scope of the startups was amazingly diverse, yet reflective of Denver’s youth, energy, and love of the great outdoors. Need to rent some camping equipment? Auckland Outdoors can help you with that. Want to get students excited to participate in travel programs? Project Travel is the first step towards a lifelong love of travel and learning. Curious about the latest road conditions between Denver and Boulder? Smart Cities category winner WeatherCloud was made for you. Feel like you’re the only veteran-student at the University of Colorado? Sign up for Uvize and find other veterans on your campus (even if that’s not the University of Colorado).
Here are the Denver Challenge Cup Winners:
Education: CampuScene seeks to disrupt the $7 billion-per-year college recruitment process with a website and iOS app where you can take virtual tours of colleges. With CampuScene, college applicants can view digital content—virtual tours, mobile search, interactive maps, social media and more—for every school in the United States. Students are able to receive a 21st-century look at a college rather than struggle through the antiquated college search, says cofounder and CEO Dave Meyer.
Energy: As the lone competitor in this category, Avivid had the competition at a lock. But the use of the term “electrocoagulation process” certainly got the audience’s undivided attention. Electrocoagulation is a process to clean and purify water using sacrificial anodes to place highly reactive ions in contaminated water solutions. This process has the capability to treat up to 600,000 gallons per day per system while rapidly removing up to 99% of heavy metals, suspended solids and biological contaminants from water.
Health: A top five finalist for The Wall Street Journal’s Startup of the Year, Asius Technologies has created a revolutionary, inflatable in-depth audio technology, the Ambrose Diaphonic Ear Lens. When used in hearing aids, headsets and ear buds, the ear lens gives the user a richer sound quality, a custom fit and a safe listening experience. The futuristic twist on earbuds designed by audio technology pioneer and Asius founder Stephen Ambrose, has even caught the attention of Apple.
Smart Citites: WeatherCloud is a mobile app that aims to significantly decrease highway-related mortality and increase the overall efficiency and safety of the transportation infrastructure. The concept is based on the vehicle translator initiative at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which treats cars and trucks on the road as mobile weather sensors. It will then take the data, interpret it and gain insight into the conditions of the road. Founder and CEO Duer Reeves conceived of WeatherCloud as his capstone project for the Cleantech Fellows Institute (CFI), a Colorado-based talent accelerator for executives entering the cleantech space.