I recently moved to Boise, Idaho to run a company called, ClickBank. ClickBank is the world's largest digital products platform for very small to mid-sized businesses. ClickBank has offices in both Broomfield, Colorado (right outside of Boulder) and we're headquartered in Boise. Being a native of Seattle, you get spoiled with the size of the startup community, the large pool of capital, and the great technical talent fed by by the Computer Science Department at the University of Washington. Heck, the Paul Allen wing at the UW is bursting at the seams with incoming CS talent.
Being new to town, I am struck with the fact that not only is the town really great but it has the raw materials to be a great tech startup city just like Boulder. On the personal side, their is a great music scene, great restaurants, close to everything that you would ever want to do outside, and 300 days of sunshine per year. On the business side, we have stalwart tech companies like Micron and HP based here and a large base of capital available for startups, we have the University of Idaho and Boise State University.
But, the fact is that there are not that many startups here (yet), there's small output of Computer Science grads, and no large exits. I run one the largest privately held technology companies but my engineering team is all based right outside of Boulder. Boulder actually has the highest density of startups per capita of any city in the country according to this report from the Kauffman Foundation (btw, Seattle is number 5). Granted that the smaller the denominator in metro population helps to raise your ranking. But, I don't believe that there is a an outlier here - Fort Collins, CO and Denver, CO are also in the top ten rankings.
What's the Colorado's recipe for success?
- Is it Brad Feld of TechStars fame? Having a spokesperson that represents capital doesn't hurt. He has certainly been Colorado's Crocodile Dundee.
- Fresh CS brains - University of Colorado certainly pumps out a lot of great talent. Clearly having a larger and more technical workforce is paramount to the growth of any tech ecosystem.
- Capital - the one active VC, Highway 12, is not active; but there is a lot of capital on the sidelines.
One thing that I noticed is that there is not a common goal to get more of an entrepreneurial flywheel in Boise. There are lots of groups that are trying to do tech startups. A large public/private push to encourage funding in the tech startup space in a unified way would go a long-way to establish a long-term. Heck, why not have a 3-year goal to cultivate as many startups that Boulder has right now. My boss recently touched on this topic recently and Brad Feld has even commented on the promise of Boise.
This should be a very doable goal for Treasure Valley. Maybe we need a Crocodile Dundee?