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Scale Your Startup With These Essential Smart Tech Strategies

New business startups in Colorado have many challenges in the modern marketplace. But they have one advantage that older startups don’t have: a plethora of innovative technology that can help build their businesses.

There are thousands of cutting-edge tools available, which means the biggest difficulty might be choosing the right ones to move ahead of the competition. Leaders need to assess and manage the risks and opportunities of the ones they implement. With the right tech, a startup can scale to great heights.

READ: These 5 CEOs Are Launching Colorado’s Startup Sector to New Heights

Business benefits of smart technology 

According to a recent survey from Wallethub, Colorado is one of the top 10 states to start a business. With that kind of competition, startups need to stay ahead.

Today’s technology gives new businesses that advantage. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning apps can improve business processes and analyze customer data. Tools like virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) help businesses gamify rewards and personalize shopping experiences.

Modern technology also plays a role in the workplace. You can use it to improve employee satisfaction and efficiency by offering perks such as installing wireless charging stations. Smart chairs and desks can also be adapted to staff’s physical needs and keep them comfortable throughout the day. 

But the real game-changers are today’s virtual collaboration tools. These allow employers the ability to offer flexible work arrangements so that they can attract the best talent to their company, no matter where their ideal candidate may live.

Whether behind the scenes or client-facing, these tools support the growth of a successful business.

READ: Unveiling the Role of Technology in Modern Workplaces

Tech tools to level up a startup

Startup leaders must select the right technology and choose apps that scale their businesses. Deploying tech that improves customer experience and boosts workplace productivity is key. Here are some useful applications that accomplish this:

  • Apps like Hubspot and Mailchimp simplify and personalize customer communication and marketing efforts.
  • Integrating sign language apps for clients demonstrates that a business values diversity and inclusion for all.
  • Tools like Asana or FreshBooks streamline project management and financial systems.
  • AI apps such as Zendesk provide robust customer support and offer in-depth insights.

Technology is only beneficial if it provides a competitive edge for the company. Startups can beat the competition by continually assessing efficiency, also known as process improvement. This activity allows businesses to evaluate processes to refine and automate systems. This helps save time and money while improving employee and customer satisfaction.

Tech apps can help managers map out process improvement activities, so their teams can communicate and contribute to system improvement. Staff members then have a stake in growing the company, which can improve employee retention.

However, employees may struggle to implement new systems. It is just one of the challenges business leaders need to deal with.

Managing risks and opportunities

In addition to getting clients and staff to buy in, there are other issues posed by adopting new technology. Startups need to understand the importance of risk mitigation. Once risks are discovered, a mitigation plan should be developed and put in place as soon as possible. Risks should then be monitored, reported and reviewed accordingly as changes arise. 

Some risks from using technology include: 

  • Outdated systems that hinder productivity and efficiency.
  • Security vulnerabilities, especially if systems are out of date. 
  • Vendors contracts that exceed existing needs and budget.
  • Systems or tools (like social media) that do not have user policies in place.

Of these issues, the biggest risk with any new technology is ensuring security in the digital world. Security incidents are rising, causing problems such as identity theft, financial loss and legal troubles. A security breach can damage the reputation of a startup. 

READ: How to Protect Your Business Against a Data Breach in 2024

There also could be risks specific to one’s industry that need to be addressed. For example, e-commerce companies that use technology incorrectly could cause problems with fulfillment, which in turn can negatively impact sales and customer retention. Risk mitigation strategies should address these issues with solid solutions, such as software that can flag these concerns. Having a plan in place beforehand helps make it simpler to deal with unexpected crises that occur.

Risk mitigation strategies must include security plans and proper cybersecurity support. It’s important to have strong data control systems across all resources and, if a breach does occur, it should be dealt with and reported to the entire staff. 

Startups in Colorado need to do their best to level a crowded field. Strategic implementation of technology benefits new businesses, especially if they develop risk mitigation strategies for their systems. Taking these foundational steps will scale a company far ahead of its competition.


Indiana Lee Bio PictureIndiana Lee is a writer, reader, and jigsaw puzzle enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest. An expert on business operations, leadership, marketing, and lifestyle, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Top Company 2023: Startups

Now in its 36th year, ColoradoBiz magazine’s Top Company Awards program recognizes businesses and organizations based in Colorado or with a significant presence in the state that are leading the way in their fields, as demonstrated by financial performance, notable company achievements and community engagement.

To be considered, Top Company entrants submitted applications throughout the year online at From those entries, which numbered in the hundreds, the magazine’s editorial board narrowed the field to three finalists (in most cases) in each industry category. A judging panel made up of area business leaders and ColoradoBiz staff then met to compare notes on the finalists and decide winners in 14 industries plus the Startup category, for companies in business four years or less.

Congratulations are in order not only to the 41 winners and finalists profiled on the following pages, but to all the companies that took the time to tell us about their achievements and obstacles surmounted over the past year that make them worthy of Top Company consideration.

READ: Fall 2023 Issue — Top Company Awards, Inside the CHIPS and SCIENCE Act, and More


Titan CEO

Arvada, CO


Founded in 2020, Titan CEO brings together CEOs through private events and roundtables, along with private, in-person, instructor-led groups for Titan CEO members.  Titan CEO membership groups meet monthly and are designed to meet CEOs’ unique needs as business leaders by facilitating curriculum that helps to build business valuation and tackle everyday business challenges. The program offers a suite of resources, including networking and executive-level retreats. 

Within the Titan CEO organization is the Titan 100, a national program that recognizes the top 100 CEOs and C-level executives in a region. The Titan 100 are recognized at an annual awards event, published in the “Titan 100” book and given the opportunity to connect multiple times throughout the year with their fellow Titans. Titans must be nominated and selected annually with the pinnacle achievement of being recognized as an elite Hall of Fame honoree in their third year. 

In 2022, the Colorado-based Titan 100 program expanded to four additional markets after being picked up by a large national sponsor that believes in the mission, vision and value of the Titan 100 program. In the first year of major expansion, the organization recognized 500 Titans across the country — in Colorado, St. Louis, Georgia, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Collectively, the 2022 Titan 500 and their companies employ more than 472,000 and generate $149.7 billion in annual revenues. Titan CEO produced more than 32 corporate events for the Titans across the country.  

In 2023, the Titan 100 program continued expansion efforts, adding two additional markets: Wisconsin and Chicago. This year, the program will recognize 700 Titans of Industry and produce more than 36 corporate events. 

Titan CEO closed on an SBA loan at the end of 2021 to build an executive retreat facility in the mountains. The project broke ground in spring 2023 and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. This facility will serve the many clients, executive leadership teams and community by bringing executives together for off-site leadership retreats. 


Pretred Inc.

Aurora, CO


Tire waste has become a worldwide environmental challenge, with more than 1 billion tires sent to the landfill or burned every year. At the same time, concrete is a resource-intensive material with a massive carbon footprint.  

Pretred addresses both issues, recycling and repurposing waste tires into sustainable industrial barriers and blocks that serve as a sustainable alternative to concrete barriers made from recycled tires. The product has applications in a myriad of industries and uses: construction sites, parking lots, playgrounds, roadways and highways; controlling erosion, perimeter and flood control, beach and rock fall protection and landscape design, to name a few. 

In May 2021, less than a year after launching, Pretred garnered $3 million in seed investment. In January 2022, Pretred was awarded the “Market Development Grant for Tire Derived Products” by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE), which is designed to support the development and expansion of sustainable waste tire markets in Colorado and regionally, assisting in the reduction of the storage and illegal dumping of waste tires. 

The CDPHE awarded Pretred $93,470 with a 20 percent match from Pretred ($18,694). With the funding, Pretred was able to come to market with a first-of-its-kind solution – making full-size industrial barriers made from 95 percent diverted scrap tires – marketing them to target markets and getting pilot units into the working market to identify feedback and demand for additional production.  

Rebalance Health

Boulder, CO


Rebalance is a health and wellness company that focuses on natural and organic formulas to treat individuals suffering from menopause, low testosterone and anxiety. The company’s lozenges and Directline delivery technology to the body are designed for maximum absorption. 

Rebalance originally was branded to manage levels of cortisol, a “stress hormone” sometimes referred to as the “flight or fight” hormone or the body’s “built-in alarm system.” Cortisol can also affect the balance of other hormones, such as testosterone, human growth hormone, estrogen and melatonin.  

The company found this was difficult for the consumer to understand, as cortisol is not something the average consumer knows much about, nor is it easy to quickly explain. So the company went back to the drawing board and relaunched with a focus on low testosterone, anxiety and hot flashes. 

“Rebalance works with your body to help it maximize hormone balance and reduce the impacts of stress,” the company says. “We aren’t trying to replace what’s missing. We are helping activate what wants to be working for you.” 

A Legal Guide for Colorado Startups: Protecting Your Intellectual Property, Trademarks and More

Last year in Colorado, a whopping 175,000 people filed paperwork with the state to start a new business, up 11.5% from 2021. Clearly, entrepreneurship in our state is alive and well. As an attorney deeply engaged in mentoring and supporting Colorado’s startup and venture communities, I work with many entrepreneurs building their businesses from the ground up. Typically, those in the startup stage don’t have a lot of money and resources at their disposal. And when you’re laser-focused on growing your business, legal matters can seem like one of the least important parts of their journey. But you shouldn’t forget about protecting intellectual property for startups.

Many entrepreneurs don’t understand that poor legal decisions made at the start can end up making or breaking their business’s success in the long run. By not protecting intellectual property for startups — the things that really make their business stand out in the consumer’s mind — they risk losing the rights to their brand ideas, investor dollars or even the future sale of their business. 

So what do new business owners need to know? Well, often, they get intellectual property, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and patents confused. So here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about each and how to protect your intellectual property rights for startups.

READ: What Are the Safest Industries to Start Your First Business in 2023?

What is intellectual property (IP)?

Intellectual property is an asset of a business created using the expertise, ingenuity and creativity of the people within it. It comes in different forms — mainly in works that can be trademarked, copyrighted, patented or protected as trade secrets — and can be essential to a business’s success and longevity. While this article focuses on trademarks, it’s worth differentiating the major categories of IP as background.  

What is a trademark?

A trademark identifies your brand and the goods or services you sell and may include your company names, slogans, brand names, designs and any number of different pieces of your business. For example, people may recognize the trademarked names and designs of Coca-Cola and Starbucks (they’re everywhere), but they may not realize that even the Coca-Cola red and Starbucks green colors are trademarked by those companies!

READ: What to Do If Someone Uses Your Trademark 

What is a copyright?

Copyright protects creative works, such as writings, art, audio and video recordings and other non-branded creative elements. For example, Coke or Starbucks might copyright their web content, pictures, videos or jingle song lyrics. 

What is a patent?

Patents protect physical objects and products that have design functionality. For example, Coke has patented the iconic curves of its bottles. 

READ: Demystifying the Patent Process: Resources to Support Innovation

What are trade secrets? 

Trade secrets are commercially valuable information known to only a limited group of individuals within the company. The information is proprietary and helps differentiate a company’s goods and services from those of others, just like a good trademark or copyrighted work does. For example, one of the most famous trade secrets of all time is the secret recipe for KFC’s spice blend — it’s unique to the company, not widely known, and has significant value to the business. 

READ: How to Protect Trade Secrets When Noncompete Agreements Are Not an Option

How do I know if I need to register a trademark?

Your unique designs, slogans and names can help differentiate your business from the business across the globe or down the street, and they can be a fundamental pillar of your success (think what would happen if Coke changed its name or Apple changed the name of its iPhones). So, begin by assessing whether it would be very problematic if someone else started using the same company name, slogan, brand name, design name or any other element of your business. If so, you need to protect those essential elements with a trademark.

The four main risks associated with not registering a trademark are:

  1. Other parties could use identical or similar marks and create confusion in the public’s mind, potentially diminishing your sales and the value of your business. In the worst-case scenario, it could even result in losing rights and priorities in your marks.
  2. You could have to rebrand, resulting in a huge loss of brand equity and significant cost in developing an alternative.
  3. You could be forced to litigate a trademark infringement case for unknowingly infringing on someone else’s identical or similar brand name, image, design or logo. You would also have a less persuasive case in enforcing your own mark.
  4. Without registering the key identifiers of your business, your company can be much less attractive to investors or potential buyers.

How can I register a trademark?

Short of undertaking the federal registration process — which is by far the most protective — there are some easy ways to begin protecting your marks on your own, such as registering a trademark directly with the state of Colorado or simply using the ™ symbol next to your marks. However, these options generally do not provide broad protection. Therefore, as your company establishes value, you’ll want to speak with an experienced trademark lawyer to identify more ironclad ways to protect your business across the U.S. 

Do I need a state and federal trademark?

Registering with the state of Colorado is very inexpensive and straightforward, and if you operate one car wash in Denver, that may be all you need. However, if your business has any kind of online sales component, multiple locations or the potential to expand out of state, there is a lot of protective value in filing for a federal trademark registration. Because federal trademark applications are quite lengthy and complex and involve many legal requirements, utilizing an attorney is highly advisable and usually means you’ll have a significantly better chance of securing your trademark rights. 

How long does it take to obtain my trademark?

Federal trademarks are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which receives over a million trademark applications annually. In fact, the USPTO received a record-high number of trademark application submissions in 2022. Unfortunately, the USPTO is also experiencing a staff shortage, and their review process is extensive. Applications will not receive approval without a complete examination of the application for various issues and without allowing third parties to dispute the registration. As such, the entire process, from application development to completed review, currently takes more than a year. 

How much does it cost to obtain a federal trademark? 

Contrary to popular belief, hiring a trademark attorney to help formulate your application is relatively cost-effective. Of course, the total cost will depend upon the attorney. My clients often spend around $2,500 all in (i.e., including filing fees with the trademark office), which is a significant bang for their buck and allows them to avoid unexpected legal costs.

Everyone wants to protect their brand, and protecting intellectual property for startups is one of the most important ways to protect your brand and company, especially given the scale of the risks. 


Andrew Comer HeadshotAndrew Comer is a partner at Fortis Law Partners where he leads the firm’s trademark practice, advising companies on registrations and brand protection. Comer also advises companies on mergers and acquisitions, commercial transactions, and other corporate matters affecting their formation, financing, and operation. 

Tech Startup — Skyhook Solar: Solar-powered Charging Stations for E-bikes and Electric Cars

Skyhook Solar  

WHERE: Carbondale


FOUNDED: 2019 



With a background in the Aspen hotel business, President and CEO Daniel Delano came out of a brief retirement to co-found Skyhook Solar with Chief Product Officer William Gilmore. He didn’t want to sit on the sidelines in the face of climate change. 

“I became increasingly concerned about climate change, and that led me to look at the solar energy space and ultimately to Skyhook Solar,” Delano says. “We created the Skyhook Solar Station, and initially that was used to charge EVs in prototype. A year later, we deployed the first EV-charging solar station at a public school.” 

That station is still operational, but Skyhook has since focused on e-bikes, working with PBSC Urban Solutions to supply solar stations for WE-cycle’s bike-sharing program in the Aspen area beginning in 2021. 

READ: Tech Startup — OneClock is Your Solution for a Tech-free Bedroom


Skyhook’s D4 Solar Stations (which sell for $28,000, minus a 30 percent federal tax credit) in Aspen and Basalt were “the first solar-powered e-bike docks anywhere,” Delano says. “The solar stations include a microcomputer and large batteries that allow us to charge when the sun’s not shining.” 

“In 2020, we introduced e-bikes into our fleet,” says Mirte Mallory, co-founder and executive director of WE-Cycle. “At that point in time, we were changing batteries back at the shop, and it became very apparent that it wasn’t scalable. It was not cost-effective or operationally efficient.” 

But Skyhook’s technology was eminently scalable. WE-Cycle now shares 420 bikes (153 of them e-bikes) at about 80 stations in the Roaring Fork Valley. For 2023, 10 of those stations are solar-powered Skyhook products from Aspen to Carbondale.  

“It went from impossible to scale and not value-aligned to possible to scale and mission-aligned,” Mallory says. “Our e-bikes are now 100 percent solar-powered by the Colorado sun.” 

Skyhook Solar currently assembles its products in Carbondale, but Delano says he is looking to open a manufacturing facility in Grand Junction. The company is in growth mode as it looks to supply municipalities as well as bike-sharing companies and

“We’re in a number of other cities now on a pilot basis, including Detroit and Montreal,” Delano says. “The transition is just beginning in bike-share to electric bikes, so we see Skyhook Solar being in many cities in the U.S. and Canada in the next couple years. We’re also looking at expansion into Europe.” 

Skyhook is releasing a new EV-charging station with a three-kilowatt solar array in 2023 that’s 50 percent larger than the D4 Solar Station. 

“The EV transition is absolutely necessary if we’re going to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, and one of the necessities of that transition is the infrastructure,” Delano says. “In many places, it may be easy to add a plug or two to a parking lot to charge EVs, but in other places, it’s very expensive to connect to the grid if you have to dig trenches across sidewalks and streets.” 

He also notes that the stations are great for remote areas without electrical service, or where connection costs are high, and installation is notably user-friendly. “It deploys in an hour and it can be moved, so it has flexibility if you need to move it.” 


“We haven’t gotten to the point where EVs are dominant in the market, but California and New York have fairly strict laws that mean EV sales will be phased into 100 percent by law by 2035,” Delano says. “There is a need to convert from gas-powered transportation to electric, and there’s a need for infrastructure. It’s a matter of all hands on deck now.” 


Delano says Skyhook has raised funds from friends, family and angel investors. The company began pursuing a seed round of $2.5 million when it graduated from the Endless Frontier Labs program at the Sterns School of Business at New York University in May.  

Exploring Colorado’s Startup Ecosystem: Incubators, Accelerators, and Funding Opportunities

Are you an aspiring entrepreneur looking for a vibrant startup ecosystem to launch your business? Look no further than Colorado, a state known for its rich culture of innovation and supportive business environment.

In this article, we will explore the key elements that make Colorado’s startup ecosystem thrive. By understanding the benefits of joining incubators and accelerators, accessing various funding options and navigating the application process, you can position your startup for success within Colorado’s entrepreneurial community.

READ: Mastering Financial Management — Essential Tips for Startup Success in 2023

Colorado startup landscape

Colorado boasts a business environment that fosters entrepreneurship. The state’s entrepreneurial culture encourages risk-taking and embraces innovation, creating an ideal breeding ground for startups. Key industries driving the startup growth in Colorado include technology, renewable energy, aerospace, bioscience and outdoor recreation. These sectors benefit from the state’s exceptional talent pool and the availability of resources, including research institutions, industry associations and venture capital firms. Notably, Colorado has witnessed remarkable success stories, such as the rise of companies like Ping Identity, SendGrid, and Ibotta, which have flourished within the state’s startup ecosystem.

The role of incubators in Colorado

Incubators play a vital role in nurturing early-stage startups. These programs provide a supportive environment where entrepreneurs can receive mentorship, access resources and collaborate with like-minded individuals. Startups that join incubators benefit from the expertise of experienced professionals, guidance in refining business models, assistance in securing funding and opportunities for networking. Colorado houses several prominent incubators, each catering to specific industries. Among them, Rocky Mountain Innosphere stands out as a leading program supporting technology-based startups. Innosphere Fund, Techstars Boulder, MergeLane, and Catalyst HTI are also notable incubators providing invaluable support to entrepreneurs.

Accelerating startup growth with accelerators

Accelerators are instrumental in propelling the growth of startups. These programs offer intensive mentorship, education and access to networks of investors and industry experts. By participating in accelerator programs, startups can refine their business models, validate their ideas and expedite their market entry. Colorado is home to a range of reputable accelerators, such as Boomtown Accelerator, Techstars Colorado, MergeLane Accelerator, Innosphere Ventures and Telluride Venture Accelerator. These programs provide startups with unparalleled opportunities to refine their strategies, secure funding and scale their businesses rapidly.

Funding opportunities for Colorado startups

Colorado offers a diverse array of funding options for startups. Venture capital firms play a significant role in financing the growth of Colorado-based startups. Notable venture capital firms include Foundry Group, Techstars Ventures, Access Venture Partners and Grotech Ventures. In addition to venture capital, the state offers government grants and programs that support entrepreneurial ventures. Colorado also boasts a vibrant angel investor community, which provides early-stage capital and valuable industry connections. Furthermore, crowdfunding platforms have emerged as alternative sources of funding, allowing startups to engage with a broader base of investors.

READ: How Colorado Businesses Can Benefit from Nontraditional Funding and Private Equity Firms

Navigating the incubator & accelerator application process

For startups seeking to join an incubator or accelerator program, a well-crafted application is crucial. To increase the chances of acceptance, entrepreneurs should follow a step-by-step guide. This guide includes conducting thorough research on the programs, understanding their specific requirements and tailoring the application and pitch deck accordingly. Crafting a compelling story that highlights the startup’s unique value proposition, market potential and team expertise is essential. The selection committees typically evaluate startups based on criteria such as market opportunity, scalability, team capability and innovation.

Maximizing the benefits of incubators and accelerators

To derive maximum value from incubator and accelerator programs, startups must actively engage with the resources and opportunities available. Mentorship is a valuable aspect of these programs, and entrepreneurs should establish strong relationships with mentors, advisors and fellow entrepreneurs. Networking events and workshops provide platforms to connect with potential partners, investors and customers. Startups should leverage these opportunities to gain industry insights, receive feedback and forge strategic collaborations. By actively participating in the program’s offerings, entrepreneurs can accelerate their growth and maximize their chances of success.

READ: Maximize Your Impact — The Power of Intentional Network Building

Overcoming challenges in Colorado’s startup ecosystem

While Colorado’s startup ecosystem offers immense opportunities, entrepreneurs may encounter challenges along their journey. Common obstacles include talent acquisition, scalability and competition. Attracting and retaining top talent in a competitive market is a significant challenge for startups. Scalability requires strategic planning and the ability to seize growth opportunities effectively. Fierce competition within the startup landscape necessitates differentiation and innovation. Fortunately, Colorado offers support systems to address these challenges, such as talent development initiatives, mentorship networks and collaborative spaces where entrepreneurs can share experiences and insights.

Future outlook for Colorado startups

The future of Colorado’s startup ecosystem looks promising, with emerging trends and opportunities on the horizon. The state continues to attract talent, investors and innovative companies. Areas like clean technology, artificial intelligence, blockchain and digital health present exciting prospects for startups. Additionally, initiatives and policies that foster innovation, such as tax incentives and industry collaborations, contribute to the ecosystem’s growth. With the right mix of resources, supportive infrastructure and a culture of entrepreneurship, Colorado is poised to remain a hotbed of innovation and an ideal destination for startups.


Sandra HeadshotResiding in the vibrant city of New York, Sandra Hernandez leads a fulfilling life as a freelance writer. Her educational journey led her to Columbia University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Sandra’s insatiable curiosity drives her writing, as she actively seeks out captivating topics and themes to explore. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Mastering Financial Management: Essential Tips for Startup Success in 2023

Starting a business is exciting, but it can also be unnerving, especially from a financial sense. Keeping your fledgling company on track financially in the beginning stages is not only one of the most important things to ensure success but also one of the most challenging. Being that businesses are made or broken on the type of cash flow that is created within the first few months, it is vital to the success of a startup to understand what and how to manage the financial side of any business. 

Not only will having this knowledge make you more confident and prepared to make smart business decisions, but it will also be a source of stability if and when things become a bit uncertain. 

READ: What Are the Safest Industries to Start Your First Business in 2023?

Many people, whether business owners or founders, have little to no financial acumen. All startups have associated costs, but a limited cash reserve means that hiring a full-time accountant might not be possible. The good news is that there are plenty of resources available for free in the form of books, articles, videos etc., so gathering helpful information is never far from anyone’s accessibility. There is plenty to be found online, and we’ve compiled a brief listing of some money management advice for startup businesses. 


The most basic principle of money management is simply being able to track and record cash flow; you should know where money is coming from and where it is going over the course of a week, month and year. The ability to track all of this on a daily basis is incredibly important. 

Since your new business is likely a start up, you will have to use projections and goals for the first few months to maintain consistent goals; concentrating on project revenues, production and operation costs and revenue will help to set a picture of how to manage cash flow as the business progresses and hopefully grows.

In this sense, it is necessary to figure out each of the variables which make up your business. Until you do that, you will be at a disadvantage when it comes to accurately tracking cash flow.

Predicting cash flow will also help answer the question of whether a business loan or investment baking strategies should be considered. 

READ: Batten Down the Hatches: Fine Tune Your Small Business Plan for Any Economic Environment

Cut spending

Knowing where money is coming from and going allows for an understanding of necessary expenditures, as well as what’s draining revenue or cash reserves. While this may take some time to narrow down, being that the company is still young and some things that seemed essential are no longer a priority, bewing on the lookout for such unnecessary expenses will help to buffer your business.

Many people tend to focus on the large expenses — flights, new office equipment, travel costs— those are much easier to spot. However, it is often smaller, less conspicuous costs that can be the real drain in the long run, so checking for those little expenditures and weighing their usefulness will be a great practice to maintain moving forward. 

Establishing a payment collection system

One of the most satisfying and straightforward ways to run a successful business is to create a payment system that is easy for you and your clients to use. Everyone likes to get paid, and watching the payment come in — especially after weeks of hard work on a project — is that positive reinforcement that a business owner needs to keep a business afloat but emotionally. 

Ideally, establishing credit guidelines, collection timelines and payment policies should be in place before you have your first customers. Staying on top of payments will be easy with most modern software systems, but what those systems may not consider is what to do if a customer doesn’t make a payment on time. As such, give some thought to how to manage late customer payments.

Understanding tax obligations

No one likes taxes, but they are unavoidable. Understanding how they affect your business is essential. While many see taxes as a negative thing, there are plenty of ways that business owners can utilize tax cuts and write-offs in ways that can support the development and success of a company. 

Hiring a tax professional early to walk you through the basics of what type of company you should file as, what types of things can be written off and how to manage the funds associated with revenue will be a great ease off a busy mind when other aspects of a business are going smoothly. 


Andrew Deen HeadshotAndrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in a number of industries from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business.

Turn Your Part-Time Gig into a Full-Time Business

Your side hustle may not be just a side hustle. It’s a passion. Perhaps it’s even a calling. No matter how you define it — it’s already making you money, earning the attention of clients and competitors alike, and taking up more of your time than you ever imagined.

Does that mean, though, that you’re ready to make the leap? That it’s time now, to turn your part-time gig into a full-time business?

Explore more, how to determine if you’re ready to make the move from freelancer to entrepreneur. As well, discover tips to help ensure the transition is a successful one.

Are you ready to make the leap?

From Side Hustle to Full-Time Business

There’s no doubt about it, freelancing is big business in the United States. In fact, it’s estimated that by the year 2027, nearly 90 million people, or slightly more than half of the entire U.S. workforce, will be freelancing.

Not all of those freelance gigs will translate into successful full-time businesses, however. So how do you know if your side hustle has the makings of a thriving enterprise?

The first test is to understand the difference between freelancing and entrepreneurship.

When you’re freelancing, for example, the priority is the work and the money you can make from each gig or project. You’re directly, and perhaps even solely, involved in producing the goods or delivering the service.

When you’re an entrepreneur, however, the focus is on the business, on setting up systems that will do the work and make you (and your employees and investors) the money. This means that odds are, you’re often going to be at least one step removed from the production or service delivery process.

Are you ready to become an entrepreneur?

Instead of doing it yourself, in other words, you’ll likely spend a lot of time training and then leading others. It’s a bit like going from being the soloist in an orchestra to being the orchestra’s conductor.

Thus, if you’re thinking of turning your side hustle into a business, then you need to be prepared to play a very different role regarding the work than you now play as a gig worker.

However, if you find that you’re ready for a change, and you’ve already built up the resources, the market interest, and the clientele to support a startup, it may well be time to take your work from a side hustle to a full-fledged money-making enterprise.

Define Your Niche

As a freelancer, you probably grew accustomed to taking gigs wherever, whenever, and from whomever they came. However, that model probably isn’t going to serve you well as a business owner.

Instead, if you want your startup to not just survive, but to grow, then you will need to be clear about exactly who you are serving and why. To put it in the language of business, you need to define exactly what the value proposition of your business is.

To figure out your company’s unique value proposition, you need to determine exactly what need your company is meeting or what problem it is solving in its target market and for whom.

What problem are you uniquely solving?

Once you understand the “what,” the “why,” and the “for whom” of your startup, you’ll be able to tailor not only your business model but also your marketing, product development, and service delivery strategies accordingly.

On the other hand, if you can’t answer these questions, then this may be an indicator that you haven’t targeted the right idea yet.

After all, if your freelancing has you doing everything from tuning pianos or giving music lessons to writing jingles, that could be an indicator that there’s not enough market demand to sustain a business built around any of these services. True, the gigs may provide enough money to feed your family and keep the lights on, but it may not be sufficient to sustain a roster of employees or to entice and recompense investors.

Get Your Financial House in Order

If you’ve determined that you have both the motivation and the market to transform your gig into a viable full-time business, then it’s time to start taking stock of your finances. One of the most significant obstacles aspiring entrepreneurs face, is funding.

In addition to tapping into any savings you might have squirreled away from freelancing, you might consider applying for a small business loan. Your history of success as a freelancer may, indeed, go far in reassuring potential enders that there is a strong market for the product you intend to provide.

The same is true if you hope to finance your startup by securing investors. The key, however, is to have a detailed and viable business plan, as well as a great presentation that makes an irresistible case for why would-be investors would risk their money supporting your endeavor.

What’s your business plan?

The Takeaway

You love your freelance work, but you’re ready for a change. You’re ready for new challenges and greater growth. In short, you’re ready to turn your side-hustle into a full-time business. The key to this transition is to ask the right questions, do your market research, define your strategy, and establish a strong financial footing.

(Learn more about worker definition, laws, and resources in Colorado, at: CDLE)


Noah RueNoah Rue is a journalist and content writer, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t searching out his next great writing opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices and head to the mountains to disconnect.

Tips for using your current retirement fund to start a business

Pexels Karolina Grabowska 4475523

Now is an excellent time to start your own business. The world is far more connected than at any other time in history — this opens you up to a potential global audience of consumers, not to mention access to knowledge and advice from successful entrepreneurs through your social media channels.

Yet, one issue that persists for any startup is understanding how you can actually go about funding it.

Capital can be hard to come by, particularly in uncertain economic times. However, one option many people overlook is the potential of their retirement savings. You might think that this is a rash move, particularly if you’ve built up enough that your retirement is now all set, but many people are taking the view that this is another way to positively invest those funds toward a brighter future.

Let’s review some tips that can put you on the most positive road to utilizing your retirement assets, along with some key aspects that it’s important to consider.

Weigh the Risks 

Before you dive in and start using your hard-earned retirement savings to start a business, it’s important to gain a better understanding of what you have at your disposal. If you’ve been employed for a while, you are likely to have a 401(k) — this is the retirement savings account that your employer will have contributed to.

Although, Colorado recently passed a law that required employers to put a percentage of workers’ salaries into an auto-individual retirement account (IRA) unless the worker opts out, so you may have one of these too.  

Both of these plans are designed to accrue non-taxable interest to provide you with a retirement fund, and both can be withdrawn from. If you’re over 59 ½ years old, you can usually do this without any problems and utilize as much of the value toward your enterprise as you’d like to. However, if you’re under 59 years old, you’re likely to incur penalties if you withdraw from your 401(k) — the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) takes a significant chunk of your savings.

 You’re able to roll over funds from one retirement account to another without such issues, and you’ll still retain your compound interest. When you withdraw, you have immediate access to some of your funds, but with tax penalties and loss of interest, it may not be as much as you might think.  

As such, some entrepreneurs utilize a method in which they create a corporation and then start a profit-sharing retirement plan for that corporation that allows 401(k) funds to be used to buy company stock. This lets you roll over your previous 401(k) to the new company plan and immediately invest it in stock, providing you with capital.

It’s more complex, but it can help you avoid the losses you are likely to incur by simply withdrawing. There are still risks involved, but it gives you another option to consider.  

Don’t Rush Into It 

One of the dangers of utilizing your 401(k) or IRA is that it can very much appear as though you have this little treasure trove of cash at your disposal. However, you also have to bear in mind that these are future pension funds, and while you are free to put your retirement money wherever you wish, withdrawing everything at once can be something of a gamble — you’re betting a certain amount of future financial stability on your ability to create a successful business. On top of that, there’s a fair amount of misguided information circulating regarding pension plans and the transfer and use of them. Therefore, it’s important not to rush into a withdrawal and treat the situation with the seriousness it warrants.   

Take time to research your options. Different retirement plans have different rules, and your ability to withdraw from a 401(k), in particular, can depend on the plan your employer has put in place. Rather than lose your retirement fund entirely, you may be able to take out a 401(k) loan against it.

In the case of an IRA, if you’re under the age of 59 and don’t need a lump sum to start your business, you may find it more prudent to arrange substantially equal periodic payments (SEPP), which see you receiving your funds in smaller, regular amounts and also avoiding withdrawal penalties.    

If this sounds like a complex situation, the truth is that it certainly can be. This is why one way to avoid making mistakes is to get advice from your employer or fund provider’s benefits manager.

These are professionals who have the expertise to navigate the legal and taxation aspects of your retirement fund, and in some cases may even have had a hand in creating the company benefits scheme you’ve been paying into.

As such, they are best qualified to give you impartial advice on the status of your fund and clearly communicate what your options are. They are a useful resource, and it’s worth utilizing them before making any decisions.   

Make a Solid Plan 

A good business plan is essential for any enterprise. But the imperative is perhaps more pronounced when you are planning to use your retirement funds for your own capital. After all, the biggest risk here is your business could fail and you’d be left with no retirement nest egg. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that your business plan is as watertight as possible.  

Really consider whether your startup needs the bulk of your retirement savings immediately. Review what elements you’ll need to invest in, and see where you can minimize, or take your initial growth in stages.

This may make it more practical for you to withdraw a small amount (either directly or following a rollover) from your fund initially and leave a portion of it intact. One of the primary areas you need to focus on in this case is your cash flow.

Create a plan that gives you a framework to invest your minimal withdrawal and how the income you generate can go toward funding the next phase of your growth, rather than relying on another withdrawal from your fund.

This treats the remainder of your 401(k) or IRA as a backup, rather than the primary source of capital. 

New businesses need capital, and one of the options at your disposal is your retirement fund. However, it’s important to gain a full appreciation of the risks and methods involved and seek professional advice where needed.

It’s a big decision, but with some careful planning and good research, it can help make your entrepreneurial ambitions a reality.    

Startups on the rise

Soona Photo Shoot From Your Desk
Photo courtesy of soona.

Colorado’s entrepreneurial streak is hotter than ever, as the state’s startups rethink everything from traffic signals to football helmets. These five innovative companies are making waves on both sides of the Continental Divide.

Founded: 2017

Boulder AI’s patented cameras leverage “edge” computing to make for smarter traffic signals, safer pedestrians, and better city planning.

Underpinned by an AI platform that identifies pedestrians in vehicles with near-perfect accuracy, the cameras monitor everything in the intersection and predict pedestrians’ intent to cross, then adjust the timing of the signals in as little as 10 milliseconds.

“The big thing we’re changing is how much data is being transmitted to the cloud in raw format,” says Darren Odom, co-founder and CTO. “We’re moving it all to the edge” – which translates to less network infrastructure.

The target markets are cities looking for safer and smarter infrastructure. Denver “took a bet on us,” Odom says. Now installed at 30 pedestrian crossings citywide, the implementation will ultimately scale to 1,000 locations and make for smarter signals that can keep a light red until the intersection is clear.

Odom says the cameras represent a “game changer” for studying auto and pedestrian traffic; the status quo still involves manual counting. Future markets range from mines to casino parking lots.

The 24-employee company brought on CEO Bryan Schmode in 2019 and is now raising a Series A round of investment, with a target of $7 million.

Colorado Springs
Founded: 2017

Bytable Babyback Ribs

Co-founder and CEO Jacy Rittmer started the company in her native Iowa and came to Colorado to participate in the Exponential Impact accelerator in 2018. “We ended up moving here and staying here,” Rittmer says. “It’s been a whirlwind ever since.”

She describes “three different segments of our business that all are in support of that concept of consumers knowing where their food is coming from and being able to access and purchase that food”:

  • Highlighting a blockchain-enabled traceability platform for food producers;
  • An online food marketplace in partnership with producers;
  • An e-commerce platform that’s currently in development.

The marketplace fulfills orders in partnership with Ranch Foods Direct from a warehouse in Colorado Springs. Farmers see 70 to 80 cents back on every dollar spent on their products at the marketplace, versus 14 cents on every dollar at a grocery store. Rittmer sees it as a win/win, noting, “We are always looking for producers to partner with, because we’re continually growing.”

The next year will bring the launch of the e-commerce platform and a second fulfillment center on one of the coasts. “The e-commerce platform we think is going to be a game-changer,” Rittmer says. “Pretty much anyone asking for anything remotely complex is having to hire for custom development, and we would really like to fix that problem.”

Founded: 2016

Founder and CEO David Smooke works with his wife, COO Linh Smooke, from Edwards.

He worked in tech recruiting before moving to online media with a number of “community-driven” publications on

Covering all things tech, Hacker Noon quickly became the focus, and it was subsequently moved from to a proprietary platform to accommodate the audience growth.

David keeps it simple: one banner from one advertiser atop each page. “No one else’s ad-tech is on our site,” he says.

To fund software development costs, David opted for an equity crowdfunding campaign in 2019. The company is now a distributed team of eight employees – “software developers, editors and a salesperson or two,” David says – and 1,200 shareholders

Hacker Noon typically publishes about 30 professionally edited stories a day from a roster of 12,000 writers and a monthly audience of 4 million readers. “I look at us as a tech company more than a media company,” David says.

Founded: 2017

Co-founder and CTO Chris Yakacki worked with smart materials at UC Denver, with a focus on liquid crystal elastomers. “It’s the rubber that doesn’t bounce, the anti-flubber,” he explains.

Yakacki collaborated with co-founder and chief solutions officer Amir Torbati before launching Impressio to make a better football helmet that would reduce the chance of concussions. “They had a pretty good material breakthrough in the ’70s when they came out with foams,” he says.

But innovation stalled with the same materials dominating for 40 years. “If the only thing you have is leather, the only thing you’re going to make is leather football helmets,” Yakacki notes.

A “Shark Tank”-style competition hosted by the NFL at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis catalyzed the startup. Impressio won “a big check” for its innovative design (featuring pillars of liquid crystal elastomer in a 3D-printed lattice), Yakacki says, and connected with now-CEO Mike Stevens, a former member of the board for the New York Giants and an early employee at eBay.

After the $200 million football helmet market, Impressio is targeting the $300 million hockey helmet market and the $1 billion markets for bicycle and military helmets. Beyond helmets, the five-employee company sees liquid crystal elastomers as a good fit for biomedical implants.

Founded: 2019

Hayley And Liz Crowns

CEO Liz Giorgi came up with the concept for soona at Mighteor, the Denver-based video production company she started in 2013. Giorgi and soona co-founder Hayley Anderson, now the company’s chief creative officer, saw an opportunity to streamline commercial video production and photo shoots.

“The production industry by and large is a really manual industry,” Giorgi says. “People just couldn’t afford to do photo and video in a traditional production environment.”

With Mighteor having to turn away a lot of business that shied away from a $10,000 budget for a video, Giorgi and Anderson looked to make it an order of magnitude more affordable with soona by streamlining and automating processes. “We’re a technology company,” Giorgi says, “but our technology empowers creatives to do their jobs.”

The model has won a fast following. Now with 40 full-time employees at studios in Denver, Minneapolis and Austin, the company offers professional photos for $39 each and videos for less than $500.

The word “employee” is a rarity in the gig economy, but Giorgi says she doesn’t want to build soona around contractors. “It’s incredibly important we create full-time jobs for these creatives,” she says.

Giorgi says she envisions a “digital fulfillment warehouse” with room for as many as 50 creatives. “We’re definitely looking in Denver,” she says.

Soona has raised $5 million in pre-seed and seed funding to date, and Giorgi says the company will “absolutely” pursue Series A venture financing as soon as 2021, noting, “If you’ve got a good idea, you’ve got to put fuel on the fire.”

3 keys to product manufacturing for startups

So, you’ve created an innovative concept, one that fills a niche in the market, and are ready to take it to the next level. We’re here with some advice for getting your product manufactured and into the hands of your customers as efficiently as possible.

I’ve led new product development for local companies for 15+ years and work with clients every day to bring brilliant consumer products to market. Our team has partnered with dozens of start-ups navigating the pitfalls of manufacturing, and even help established companies who’ve developed multiple products and know the ropes become more agile and proficient.

Your team, and the investments you make in the process, will play an integral part in your success or failure as a company.

Below are three tips for getting your idea from the prototype stage to a finished product.

Ensure your design is optimized for manufacturing

Design for Manufacturability (DFM) cannot happen soon enough in the product development process. Very early on, you should envision where you want your product to be mass produced, and what type of manufacturing processes you want to use, with target costs of goods sold.

Most companies get all the way through prototyping and testing before they task their designers to make each component easy and cost effective to manufacture.

The mistake here is waiting too long, and DFM changes end up being band-aids on a flawed architecture.

Teach your industrial designers to think about how the parts will be made and incorporate those strategies in the sketch phase. We also advise having your designers and engineers tear down and rebuild the production prototype over and over to ensure the design has been optimized for assembly.

Documentation and addressing those assembly pain points will lead to less scrap later down the road.

Invest in a good supply chain manager

There are dozens of individual components that make up a product’s “bill of materials” (BOM), and many will come from different sources, which is why investing in a good supply chain manager is key. A savvy supply chain expert will connect your team with the right manufacturers and can help navigate potential hiccups or delays in the process.

Your supply chain manager will act as an advocate for your product and someone who thinks ahead and is capable of sourcing supplier back-ups for each component production the BOM, in the case certain suppliers falls through. They will also be informed on tariffs, shortages of raw materials, geopolitical supply chain issues, and lead times due to COVID-19 or other potential shipping delays (i.e. Chinese New Year, if you are manufacturing oversees).

A good supply chain manager will also look after quality control, assuring your production partners are continuously making a good component to your specifications.

Time is money and choosing a reliable, dedicated supply chain manager will save you big-time in the long run. Going at this on your own is overwhelming and tedious, and your time is better spent marketing and securing orders and customers.

Choose a strong supply chain

Trusting your suppliers is also a major component to the manufacturing process and building a strong supply chain will be significant to your outcome. Due diligence is key here. Interview suppliers like you would an employee and ask for references.

Will they deliver on time, and be financially accountable for delays? Will they stand behind their quality? What is their communication process? Do they have a dedicated project manager? Weekly manufacturing meeting?

In addition, if feasible, check out their shop floor. Is it clean and tidy? It will likely reflect the attitude they have for their customers, qualify and communication. The old adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link couldn’t be more applicable here.

Your product needs 100% of its individual parts to be ready to deliver to your customers, and one delayed or faulty part can ruin a timely product launch and lead to disappointed consumers.

Having a complete and masterful team throughout the entire manufacturing journey will be the foundation and greatest asset in bringing your product (and successive products) to life. Your company will greatly benefit from building these strong relationships out of the gate to enhance your entrepreneurial journey and path to success.

Marc Hanchak is the founder of Denver-based LINK Product Development.