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On the road with the Colorado Tech Tour 2016

ColoradoBiz caught up with the founder of Mountaintop Media and ELEVATE coSpace

Gigi Sukin //August 4, 2016//

On the road with the Colorado Tech Tour 2016

ColoradoBiz caught up with the founder of Mountaintop Media and ELEVATE coSpace

Gigi Sukin //August 4, 2016//

In its commitment to advocate for and showcase the stories and activity happening in every corner of the state, the Colorado Technology Association has taken to the streets this week with its second annual Colorado Tech Tour, from Aug. 1-5. In five days, the CTA team and several stakeholders will hit five stops – Colorado Springs, Frisco, Grand Junction, Fort Collins and Longmont – that make up our singular, statewide tech community.

“One of the challenges is to connect the dots of the Western Slope,” said Paul Major, President and CEO of the Telluride Foundation. “Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins have done a great job of connecting the dots for the Front Range, but we’re not in that equation at all. So I think for us we need to connect those dots a little better.”

The first day consisted of a stopover in Colorado Springs, starting with the Catalyst Campus, an innovative property housed in the original Colorado Springs train station building. The group then moved on to the state-of-the-art U.S. Olympic Training Center –coincidentally, just days before the U.S. team travels to the Rio Olympics. The final tour point for day one was IvyWild, a brewery and community center where national defense contractors, advanced engineers and manufacturers and other tech leaders convened to discuss the opportunities and challenges in the community.

The second day included a view of the Rocky Mountains, with stops in Frisco and Vail to explore entrepreneurial happenings in the small communities. ColoradoBiz caught up with Amy Kemp, founder of Mountaintop Media and ELEVATE coSpace in Frisco.

CB: Describe your business and how technology is part of what you do?

AK: ELEVATE is a coworking space with locations in Frisco and Breckenridge. We’re more than just desks – we’re a community of developers, entrepreneurs and innovators. Technology fuels business these days. It’s a foundational element to just about every business and allows people, businesses and communities to build things, make connections and make our world a better place.

Our members are a diverse group of entrepreneurs, developers, marketers and startup founder. I like to say that we’re a community of bad-asses.

Why base this business in the mountains? What are the benefits and challenges of your geography?

I love Summit County. I’m a skier and moved here – as many people do – to ski and bike and enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. Summit County is the epicenter of the ski industry. We have 4.65 million skier visits for our county alone. We have more skier visits here in our county than the entire state of Utah.

The benefits of being located in Summit County – the center of the ski universe – are that we’re known internationally as an amazing place to visit and play. People come from all over the world t visit here to ski, snowboard, bike, fly fish and enjoy the outdoors. We have the opportunity to tap into the remote working phenomenon and attract remote workers and location-neutral business here.

If you could work anywhere in the world, why wouldn’t you consider Frisco or Breckenridge?

We have four world-class ski resorts, some of the best mountain biking trails, and an incredible small-town vibe and community. The challenge is that we’re not known as an amazing place to work. In the past, locals had very few options for work here in the county. They could work here for a resort, for a hotel, for a restaurant or perhaps as a teacher, firefighter or in the construction business. Most of those jobs – unfortunately – are lower paying jobs that don’t allow locals to afford real estate here in Summit County.

Now with the advent of technology, faster broadband and greater acceptance of remote work, Summit County locals have choices. We can choose to find jobs in other industries. We can have a career AND have our active, outdoor lifestyle. In the past, we had PhDs who were teaching ski school lessons, waiting tables. They can still make that choice to work in the service and hospitality industry. However, they can also choose to make a “New York” or “Denver” or “Silicon Valley” salary, but live here and they can now afford to buy a home and stay here (without having five roommates).

The per capita income of Summit County is $33,000-ish. We have one of the highest educated communities in the state and the nation (46.5 percent of our population in Summit County has a bachelor’s degree or higher). There’s clearly a gap. Our locals have been and continue to be underemployed.

That’s why we’re on a mission to help provide educational opportunities – like our Full Stack+ program with Regis University (a 16-week web and mobile development program) to locals so they can make two to three times more and afford to live here. We need to ensure that locals stay local and that our towns are “real” towns with real people who live here, who are raising families and who are engaged in our communities. That’s the way to build a vibrant, progressive community.

Describe your relationship with the Colorado Technology Association.

We’re thankful that the Colorado Technology Association is spearheading events like the Colorado Tech Tour to showcase technology around our state and helping to bridge the gap between the booming startup and tech hubs of Boulder and Denver, with Frisco, Breckenridge and our other mountain communities. We’re excited to see Colorado – the entire state – be recognized for innovation and tech and the CTA has been incredibly instrumental in shining the light on our communities of Frisco and Breckenridge.

We view CTA as a partner, a cheerleader and an incredibly valuable resource for us, here at ELEVATE, and for our community and the entire state.

Describe how you were originally approached about the CTA Tech Tour.

ELEVATE hosted a stop on the first-ever Colorado Tech Tour last year. We were honored to be selected as a stop again this year and were excited to be part of the first-ever #COTechWeek. The support for the Governor’s office, the state, the CTA and our local community and our ELEVATE members has been humbling to say the least. Governor Hickenlooper called Summit County “the entrepreneurial hub of (Western Colorado)” on a recent visit for an event held here at ELVATE Frisco. And he credited ELEVATE and coworking spaces like ours around the state for sparking innovation and supporting entrepreneurs.

The Colorado Tech Tour is helping put Frisco and Summit County on the map as a hub for tech and innovation in our state. And, we’re aiming to put Summit County on the map as THE epicenter for outdoor rec tech (or adventure tech) in the country. I believe we have incredible opportunity to capitalize on the fact that Summit County is the ski industry epicenter and combine that with tech and entrepreneurship ad we can truly be “Silicon Mountain” or “The Peak” or Pinnacle of Tech for the country.

Who was in attendance?

We invited our community to share their stories and had tremendous response.

  • Brian Flickinger from Threadlyte (an online consignment store for outdoor apparel)
  • Matt Doyle from FatMap (they’re a mapping company for outdoor enthusiasts)
  • John Snook from CAIC, Colorado Avalanche Information Center (he built the forecasting modeling for CAIC and is launching his own forecasting/weather analytics company).
  • Jason Rush from Panda Strike (they work on IoT and tech projects nationwide for Disney and smart energy grid companies)
  • Mark Mulrooney from Micrium (they work on IoT, real-time operating systems around the world).
  • Kristin Miller from InMotion Albums (she’s an entrepreneur launching an interactive scrapbook with digital video and photos built into the book combined with print photos and materials)

Describe how technology impacts the business community you are in. What are the benefits and challenges?

Technology represents the biggest opportunity to give locals a chance to make a living wage here … where they can afford to buy a house or a condo and raise a family here. Technology is an equalizer for our community.

What does your tech-business community need now to be successful? How can and/or does CTA make an impact?

We need more awareness. We’ve identified opportunities to incubate businesses and startups and to activate our retired community of successful entrepreneurs and business executives for investments and for mentorship opportunities.

We also have an opportunity to bridge the gap with the Denver and Boulder tech companies and entrepreneurs and tap into the booming success of those startup and tech hubs as well as infuse our community with their talents, energy, optimism and their funding.

Many tech entrepreneurs, founders and VCs choose to play in Summit County – they’re here on the weekends and for vacations. We’re working to invite them into our community, to get plugged in and contribute to it and engage in our community. We think they’ll benefit and I know we’ll benefit.