Mile High Roundup: Startup Visas, Jobs, and Entrepreneurs Take Bows

Welcome to the Mile High Roundup, a fortnightly review and recap of some of the interesting things that have happened over the past two weeks in the tech scene in Boulder, Denver, and around Colorado. It’s no secret tons of cool stuff is happening around the state, and this is a chance to catch up.

In this edition, startup visas clear a hurdle, Colorado companies are looking for workers, and some local entrepreneurs take home a cool prize.

COMING TO AMERICA?: One of Boulder and the startup world’s favorite political causes was a big winner this week in Washington.

The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and it included what’s become known as “startup visas.” In a nutshell, the bill would increase the number of visas available to entrepreneurs who want to start companies in the U.S., provided they can meet certain conditions about securing funding and adding employees.

Startup visas are becoming increasingly popular around the world, and a number of countries are implementing entrepreneur-friendly immigration policies. That includes Canada, which means we’ve had to endure some showboating from our friend, or maybe frenemy, from up north.

The bill also would change a number of other provisions aimed at encouraging high-skilled workers to come to the U.S., especially those in scientific and engineering fields.

Supporters of startup visas should wait a while before celebrating, though. The entire immigration reform bill must pass the House with the startup visa section included. The Senate passed the bill with broad bipartisan support, but there are doubts about how it will fare in the Republican-controlled House.

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: Colorado tech companies continue to look for new talent, with a handful announcing over the past few weeks they are making major additions.

Sympoz creates online educational courses and is the company behind Craftsy, which specializes in teaching arts and crafts. Sympoz will add 230 to 480 new jobs, and the expected average annual wage will be $98,411. (I’ll save you the trouble of looking up the link.) The deal is good enough the state agreed to give the Denver-based company a $2.58 million incentive package, so Sympoz more or less promised everyone in Colorado it’s going to be hiring.

One thing to note if you’re considering applying—it’s “sim-pose,” like in “symposium.”

Biomedicine types should know that down in Lakewood, Terumo BCT wants some fresh blood. Terumo BCT is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Terumo Corp. and is looking to add 250 new jobs with an average wage of $69,056. Terumo BCT develops advanced blood and cellular therapies and thinks of ways to make safer blood transfusions. I’ll have to look into what that means, but the company’s motto— “Unlocking the Potential of Blood”—is one of the coolest/creepiest I’ve heard in a while.

SpotXchange—more on them later—announced it is looking for 50 engineers.

Last but not least, satellite imaging company DigitalGlobe announced it will be looking for up to 505 new employees. The company is based in Longmont (at least for now.)

Also, anyone who wants to get a job (or change jobs) should check out New Tech Colorado’s job board, which is a relatively new addition to the site. If you’re happy with where you’re at, take a look at this.

SWEET SPOT: In addition to announcing it is adding jobs, SpotXchange also added some prestigious awards to its trophy case. Ernst & Young awarded CEO Mike Shehan and chief operating officer/chief financial officer Steve Swoboda with Entrepreneur of the Year awards for the Mountain Desert region. Shehan and Swoboda co-founded SpotXchange in 2007.

Shehan and Swoboda won in the technology services category. SpotXchange is an online video advertising marketplace, but its greatest service to Internet users—and all of humanity, in fact—is SkipIt, which lets you skip the ads that precede online videos.

The Ernst & Young awards recognize entrepreneurs leading high-growth companies “who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities,” according to Ernst & Young. The Mountain Desert region consists of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Colorado tech companies were well represented among the 26 award finalists, and all of the nominees in the technology services category are from companies in the Mile High state. The other nominees were Jeremy Ostermiller, CEO and founder of Denver-based Altitude Digital; Eric Roza, president and CEO of Westminster-based Datalogix, and Matt Larson, founder and CEO of Boulder-based Confio Software.

Bart Lorang, co-founder and CEO of Denver-based FullContact was nominated in the emerging categories company. So were Integrate co-founders Jeremy Bloom and Hart Cunningham. Integrate is based in Scottsdale but has a large office in downtown Denver. Incidentally, Bloom is well known outside of tech circles for his career on the University of Colorado’s football team and in the NFL. He also competed in two Winter Olympics as a freestyle skier.

Boulder’s entrepreneurial community can celebrate two other winners. Boulder Brands chairman and CEO Stephen Hughes received top honors in the retail and distribution services category. Justin Gold, founder and CEO of Justin’s, which makes candy and nut butter, won in the consumer products category.

The winners will now compete for national entrepreneur of the year honors, which will be awarded Nov. 16.

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