Startup Booster Erik Mitisek Takes Lead at State Tech Association

A familiar face from Denver’s startup scene is now leading the largest advocacy group for Colorado’s tech industry.

Erik Mitisek started as the Colorado Technology Association’s CEO today. Mitisek is one of the driving forces behind Denver Startup Week and the BuiltInDenver website, and he is a co-chair of Startup Colorado.

Mitisek also is a serial entrepreneur who has helped launch a handful of successful Denver-based startups. He co-founded Next Great Place, an online travel network, and helped build Exclusive Resorts as its chief of business development and strategic partnerships. Mitisek also is a Boulder/Denver Xconomist.

The new job makes Mitisek one of the chief lobbyists and advocates for the estimated 10,000 tech companies in Colorado, and Mitisek says he will work to be an influential voice both for fledgling startups and large companies with international reach.

“The association really is the core 501(c)(6) nonprofit that’s focused on advancing the technology industry,” Mitisek said. The job is a full-time gig, allowing Mitisek to be “100 percent focused on being the voice of the innovation and startup communities.”

The CTA lobbies the state government on policy issues, promotes the state as a place to do business, and offers networking and training events. Typically lobbying associations and advocacy groups are backed by companies that have gained a foothold in the business establishment, and that’s the case with the CTA. Major financial supporters include Colorado-based companies such as ViaWest, DaVita (NYSE: DVA), and DigitalGlobe (NYSE: DGI).

The association will continue its work with that tier of companies, but in recent years it has attempted to reach out to early-stage startups and those that have reached their growth state. Mitisek said a goal is to build upon those efforts and to build a bridge between the CTA and the types of entrepreneurs who historically have not been involved with the organization.

The association plans on continuing to give startups greater prominence in the annual DEMOgala, which will be in September.

“We want to have a broad dialogue, and really make that event a not-to-miss event for 2013,” he said.

Mitisek said the CTA also needs to work to connect the separate clusters that have formed around Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins. His personal work with Denver Startup Week and building connections with prominent figures in Boulder’s startup scene has been part of that, he said.

“I really believe the CTA has the ability to be the convener and the voice of technology businesses and businesses throughout the state,” Mitisek said.

Although Mitisek officially started today, his first event as CEO was hosting the association’s annual “Day at the Capitol” on April 19, which included a discussion of what early-stage and growth-stage startups need to grow and how they can be affected by state policy.

The CTA’s most prominent lobbying campaign was the successful effort in 2011 to repeal a tax levied on businesses when they downloaded software. The organization then was named CSIA, an acronym that originally stood for Colorado Software and Internet Association.

Mitisek replaces Steve Foster, who remains on the CTA board of directors. Mitisek will remain a board member and investor in Next Great Place.


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