Tales from Denver Startup Week – The Shift from Silicon Valley

October 3, 2018

Last week marked the seventh annual Denver Startup Week, and many of us here in the Mile High office had the opportunity to pop into a few events and panels throughout the week. We had several clients either speaking or hosting events, and one featuring our own VP Jason Michael  as the moderator.

A few years ago, Denver Startup Week didn’t exist. Today, it’s the largest, free event of its kind anywhere in the world, attended by more than 20,000 people who gather to take part in Denver’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. The professionally focused startup event is a huge asset not only for individual Denverites, but also for the city itself. DSW helps locals and non-locals alike network with peers and industry thought leaders, gain valuable advice straight from Colorado-based business leaders, and experience the remarkable culture of innovation Denver has to offer.

One session in particular dove into perhaps one of the biggest evolutions in the technology industry today – the shift from Silicon Valley to the “Rise of the Rest” (as coined by Steve Case). The cofounder of AOL is convinced that the future of American startups lies outside Silicon Valley, New York City, and Boston, which collectively receive about two-thirds of all venture capital in the U.S.

Jason was joined on stage by a few of our clients – Julie Penner at Techstars, Richard Park at Vertafore, Pamela Glick at SyncHR – and former Denver Post tech reporter Tamara Chuang. The panelists captured the room’s attention with their responses to the question, ‘Why Colorado?’ Here are a few highlights from the session.

Better work / life balance

Richard Park hit on this best – Denver has established an appreciated approach to the 9 to 5 grind – in that it ends at 5 (ish, depending where you work, of course). This is in contrast to Silicon Valley where 7pm is considered early for leaving the office. Ultimately, we all have lives outside the office, and that coupled with all Colorado has to offer in its great outdoors, is reason enough to mind the clock and know when it’s quitting time. That doesn’t mean folks here don’t work as hard, they just work smarter. And because companies here recognize the importance of offering that balance to its workforce, tens of thousands of traditionally big city dwellers have cashed in their coastal residencies and made the move to the Rocky Mountains to capitalize on Colorado’s work / life mentality – work hard, play even harder.

All about the Benjamin’s
Not only do cities that sit far away from the tremendously crowded Bay Area, like Denver, Charlotte, Austin and more, offer a better work-life balance, they also boast a far more affordable cost of living. Bay Area residents are feeling the squeeze in their part of the country – in fact 46% of residents say they plan to leave the Bay Area in the next few years, up from 34% in 2016.

Glassdoor rates Denver as number four on its list of the best cities for getting a tech job due to the lower cost of living, and people who relocated to metro Denver in the past decade earned an average of $3,100 per household more than those who left the Bay Area. I mean…how can you beat more affordable living AND mountains in your backyard?! Hard to do, in my humble opinion.

A wealth of professional opportunity

As the city has grown in recent years, Denver knows first-hand the joys and burdens of being an increasingly popular hub for the tech industry. One of the joys? The wealth of professional opportunity that exists for job seekers in this town. Just taking Denver Startup Week as an example – at any point during the week-long event, you can step out into the thick of the event and feel the energy and excitement of what this city means to the tech and startup community. And the thousands of tech companies in Colorado are ripe for attracting such brilliant and dedicated minds, creating more opportunity than what currently exists in other markets, including Silicon Valley.

On the heels of the largest Denver Startup Week yet, all of us here in the Mile High City are more excited than ever about our future. And as we look ahead to 2019, our goal as one of the leading PR agencies in this market is to change the question from “Why Colorado?” to “Why Not?”

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