Silicon Cities
Nothing Rocky About Denver’s Entrepreneurial Rise
Takara Small | April 28, 2016

Denver is quietly becoming a haven for tech entrepreneurs and workers. Lauded as one of the best places to live in America—thanks to its great schools, attractive climate and beautiful landscapes—the city is attracting an influx of talent that is eager to take advantage of the city’s inclusive and supportive startup community and relatively low cost of living.

For locals, the city’s rise comes as no surprise.

“I’ve known the secret for a while, but new people discovering the city’s startup strengths for the first time think our tech resources, community and investments are something new,” says Kristen Stiles, cofounder of Sitter.me, a Denver-based venture with a mobile application that helps parents find local babysitters.

While those outside the state may still think tech innovation is the sole province of Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley (a nickname given to New York City’s tech scene) Denver is home to both established tech businesses (IBM and Hewlett Packard have offices there) and up-and-coming tech upstarts.

Last year the city was named one of the best metropolitan areas in the country for technology jobs by Nerdwallet. Its competitive technology industry was also ranked fourth in a 2015 list compiled by the Denver Business Journal that analyzed America’s technology hotspots, landing right behind the well-established startup hubs of San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York.

Denver’s influx of talent is helping entrepreneurs such as Stiles recruit highly skilled workers to grow their businesses without having to look outside the city limits. Sitter.me, which was named one of 50 Colorado startups to watch earlier this year, proudly employs local engineers and programmers.

While many have attempted to lure her away from Denver over the years, Stiles won’t be relocating anytime soon. “It’s a big town that acts like a small town,” she says of Denver. “It’s a place that people want to live, so it’s easy to attract the right people – and that’s the big reason why I stay. I don’t have to battle other startups in huge markets like San Francisco to find the smartest people.”

Denver’s ascent in the tech world isn’t lost on – nor did it surprise–JB Holston, a serial entrepreneur who was recently appointed Dean of the University of Denver’s Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“Tech companies want to launch businesses here because there is a lot of talent, and talent chooses to move here because we have so many tech companies that will hire them,” he says.

But is the tech boom a passing fad? Holston doesn’t think so. He points out that the city’s growth has been steady over the last 10 years, and he believes that will continue. “[Denver] is growing much faster than in other places and continuing to grow,” he explains. “We have all the ingredients – tech accelerators, investors, community support – so now the larger companies are taking a serious look at us to open offices here or to partner with smaller companies.”

It’s not just tech that’s booming in Denver, either. Industries such as professional and scientific technical services and financial insurance are expected to keep growing, according to a 2015 survey by U.S. News & World Report. Residents of the Mile High City earn higher average salaries than workers in other parts of the country ($53,060 in Denver compared to a national average of $47,230), yet the city is more affordable than San Francisco or New York, meaning that many professionals here can enjoy a higher standard of living than in other parts of the country.

So, what’s next for a city that can’t stop growing?

“Denver will be the next Silicon Valley,” Stiles says with confidence. “We’re poised for success right now because the cost of living is cheaper. You can build a business with a high degree of talent for less without sacrificing the creative energy and entrepreneurial environment.”