Mile High Roundup: Winners Needed, TechStars, and $50K for Failures

Welcome to the Mile High Roundup, a look at some of the interesting things that have happened over the past two weeks in the tech scene in Boulder, Denver, and around Colorado.

In this edition, Convercent’s CEO reminds Denver of a truth, TechStars’ Class of 2013 starts taking the stage, and the state finds four “glorious failures.”

PERSPECTIVE: It’s appropriate for startups to celebrate and maybe even brag a little about recent success, as long as they show they have the big things in perspective.

Denver’s startup scene had one of those moments Tuesday, when Convercent hosted a housewarming party at its new headquarters. The company has turned an old auto dealership into a stylish new space. About 300 people attended the party, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Convercent has raised about $11.2 million in venture capital since the start of the year, and earlier this week Xconomy profiled the company and its rapid growth. It’s emerging as one of Colorado’s startups to watch, and CEO Patrick Quinlan said he wants to make sure Convercent gives back to Colorado entrepreneurs.

Convercent will do that by hosting events, promoting the cause—and occasionally reminding everyone that while Colorado’s tech scene has come far in a few years, no one should get too impressed just yet.

Quinlan was part of a panel of local tech execs Convercent put together as part of the event. Occasionally panels can wander between self-congratulation and self-pity, but Quinlan made sure this one had a dose of self-awareness.

Until 2011, Quinlan was CEO of Rivet Software, a Denver-based company. A big part of his job was trying to raise money from investors on the coasts, and they clearly considered being from Colorado as a negative, Quinlan said. The perception was that people in the Centennial State were “hicks from the sticks” and “not very smart,” he said.

Quinlan went on to say that attitude seems to be changing, and that entrepreneurs from Colorado are getting fair hearings. But there’s still one issue that keeps coming up when meeting with investors—where are the companies in Colorado that have had impressive IPOs and are leading their industry?

Rally Software is headed in that direction, Quinlan said, but one company isn’t enough. Colorado still needs to prove itself to outsiders, and there’s only one way to do that.

“We just need wins. Nothing breeds success but success,” Quinlan said.

D-DAY DRAWS NEAR: For the startups in Boulder for TechStars this summer, the end is near.

The three-month long program culminates in a Demo Day on Aug. 8 at the Boulder Theater. But before that, members of the public will have a few chances to see the entrepreneurs in action as they make their pitches and try to refine their presentations before the big day.

Galvanize in Denver is scheduled to host some of the companies Wednesday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. According to the brief agenda for the event, the companies will be making elevator pitches and then product demos. Registration information is here.

People in Boulder will get their sneak peak at the Boulder-Denver New Tech Meetup, which will devote two nights to TechStars. The presentations will be on Aug. 5 and 6 at 6 p.m. at the University of Colorado Law School Building. Register for the events here.

The public is welcome to both events, but they’re sure to fill up, so register early.

$50K FOR FINEST FAILURE: The four finalists in Colorado’s “Glorious Failure” Innovation Challenge have been announced.

The Colorado Innovation Network is sponsoring the competition. The focus on “glorious failure” is a little quirky, but organizers say it emphasizes the importance of learning from setbacks and tolerating risks.

The four finalists will present their proposals at the COIN summit on Aug. 29.

The finalists are:

-Double Helix, a startup out of the University of Colorado-Boulder that develops and commercializes computational optical-digital technologies used in range estimation, super-resolution microscopy, and three-dimensional (3D) imaging.

-Lenimen, a Denver startup that wants to change the standard of care for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as is relates to the screening, identification, risk stratification, and the development of new care paradigms and pharmacological therapies.

-Lightning Hybrids, which makes a unique and cost-effective hydraulic hybrid system for medium-duty fleet vehicles. It is from Loveland, CO.

-Rachio Smart Landscapes, a Denver company developing an internet-connected? irrigation timer that lets users optimize water use.

Foundry Group managing director Seth Levine is on the panel of judges, along with Mitra Best, U.S. Innovation Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Matt Beal, CenturyLink’s executive vice president and chief technology officer for corporate strategy and product development.

First place will receive $50,000 in cash, as well as in-kind business services valued at $25,000. Second place will receive $13,500 worth of in-kind services, and the third place winner will receive $11,750 worth of in-kind services. These services include legal assistance from Cooley and workspace from Galvanize.

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