It’s not quite as cool as working next to other startups on a boat in international waters, but when it comes to appealing settings in which to build a business, the Rocky Mountains aren’t half bad. Founded in Boulder in 2006, TechStars and other startup networks/accelerators like it have been on a mission to turn the Rockies — and the cities that lie in their shadows — into vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems. At least in Colorado.
The latest initiative is Galvanize, a 30,000-square-foot workspace for digital startups that recently opened in downtown Denver. While most of Colorado’s entrepreneurial energy emanates from Boulder, the Galvanize founders are on a mission to bring Denver into the conversation by creating a shared workspace that will accommodate over 300 individuals and approximately 60 to 70 startups once it’s fully operational.
Jim Deters, the founder and Managing Director of Galvanize, tells us that the idea was inspired by other national startup communities and workspaces like RocketSpace in San Francisco and 1871 in Chicago. It offers support and office space for every phase of the business development process, from a shared area for small, one-or-two person teams in the ideating phase to suites for 10-person startups.
Less than a month since the space officially opened, Galvanize already counts over 125 residents from both native Colorado and national companies, like Uber, Roximity, GoSpotCheck and Forkly, along with “honorary members,” (i.e. mentors) like TechStars founders Brad Feld and David Cohen and Associated Content founder Luke Beatty, who will be holding (somewhat) regular office hours to help advise up-and-coming Colorado startups.
But what’s exciting about Galvanize, beyond the importance of encouraging the growth of tech and entrepreneurial culture in Colorado, is that it combines venture capital, flexible workspace and an experimental engineering and business school called “gSchool.” Deters says that these each represent community, capital and curriculum — three pillars that are essential to providing the foundations for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
That means Galvanize offers cool workspace within a restored, national historic site (in the Rocky Mountain Bank Note Building) that is equipped with Knoll workstations, redundant high-speed fiber Internet, conference rooms, phone booths, etc., as well as the capital early-stage companies need to get their projects off the ground. To do this, Galvanize has been partnering with local and national firms, with its first strategic partner being Silicon Valley Bank.
In addition, Deters (who co-founded Ascendant Technology, an IT consulting firm that was acquired this year by Avnet) and a handful of business partners and private investors will be providing operating capital for the Galvanize team and its first round of investments. Like others of its ilk, founders don’t have to be one of the accelerator’s investments to work in the space — there’s no trading equity for rent. At this point, Galvanize plans to invest both in companies that live in the space as well as those outside of Colorado. Currently, it holds investments in three of its resident teams: ActiveJunky, Forlkly and Dabble.
Of course, transforming Denver into a “node” that connects other national startup hubs across the country and helping entrepreneurs solve the challenges of finding flexible (and affordable) month-to-month workspace, density, connections and early-stage capital already puts Galvanize on the right track. But perhaps the biggest challenge founders and early-stage companies face — ask any entrepreneur, no matter what location — is finding great engineering talent.
That’s why the workspace is also adding an experiential and community-based education platform called gSchool that offers an intensive six-month course designed to take those with zero coding experience and turn them into legit, professional web developers. The class has been created in partnership with JumpstartLab, a Washington, D.C.-based firm led by Jeff Casimir that runs Hungry Academy for Living Social. The program is similar to that of Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco, except for the fact that these services are offered from within the Galvanize community.
And the best part: Because Deters, Casimir and team want to put their money where their mouths are, they’ve decided that students graduating from gSchool must receive a job offer within three months of graduating from the program, or they’ll get their money back. (Which admittedly is a lot, considering the price of admission is $20K/person.)
As of now, applications for the gSchool are open, with its first cohort to begin in January 2013.
More on Galvanize resident companies below: