hen looking to open a business, the fewer obstacles the better.
In Colorado, entrepreneurs are often met with an experienced ecosystem within their industry and venture capitalists on the hunt for the latest unicorn.
“For a long time now we’ve had mayors, governors and even state legislature who have really prioritized startups and venture in the state,” says Brian Armstrong, managing director of Ensemble Innovation Ventures.
Armstrong has over 30 years of venture capital investment and management knowledge under his belt, from financial services to, more recently, health tech. From gaining footing himself in the state to now serving as co-chair of the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association in addition to various board positions around the state, he says entrepreneurship advocacy is even stronger today.
“There’s this mentality that if we can support the startup ecosystem, we’re playing a part in this ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ mentality here in the state,” says Armstrong.
Startups raised $5.7 billion for 79 venture capital deals in 2022 after 2021’s record-breaking $7 billion. The state saw $3 billion in startup deals in both 2019 and 2020.
For many years the state has made waves within fintech and financial services start-ups.
Since 2012, employment within the financial activities sector has risen from 147,000 to a forecasted 183,000 in 2022, according to the Colorado Business Economic Outlook report.
In 2022, three Colorado cities, Denver (No. 6), Colorado Springs (No. 9) and Aurora (No. 12) ranked among WalletHub’s Top 20 “Best Large Cities to Start a Business” based on factors such as business environment, access to resources and overall business costs.
However, it seems that regardless of which Colorado city you find yourself in, there’s a network willing and able to help new businesses lay a solid foundation.
“We see an opportunity for Colorado to put ourselves on the map as a fintech hub, which will in turn attract even more venture and HQ2 interest. Fintech was the most invested in and exited vertical in 2021, and it’s similarly headed that way in 2022,” said Elle Bruno, as she spoke about her new role as TechStars Boulder Accelerator’s managing director. “We also hope our fintech founders come to Boulder and see the opportunity to build and source employees here in the long term.”
The TechStars Boulder Accelerator joins the wide array of tech startup investors in the state. Boulder was the birthplace of founders David Cohen, David Brown, Brad Feld and Jared Polis’ (before he was Colorado’s governor) “#GiveFirst” mission in 2007, better known today as TechStars. The company’s accelerators have grown around the nation and across the world, investing in nearly 3,000 companies and raising $19 billion globally.
Nationally, JLL’s 2022 Tech Outlook shows that in the last 10 years venture capital investments have shifted dramatically as artificial intelligence and fintech top 2021-2022 North American investments.
Moving forward, investing in fintech entrepreneurship will remain a large focus for Bruno. The Boulder accelerator has been a played a powerful role in Colorado’s start-up ecosystem, having built a roster of over 300 fintech focused investors and more than 100 mentors.
According to a March 2022 Brookings Institution study, data and trends show that Colorado has quickly turned into an attractive destination for tech talent, notwithstanding external forces. During the pandemic, Denver and Boulder showed growth in both tech job openings and new hires by 3% across 2020-2021.
“For a number of years now we’ve been attracting very skilled tech talent to the state, creating its own virtuous cycle,” says Armstrong. “Then startups say, ‘Well you know, we’re not in Colorado, but their talent pool is so big we probably would be wise to relocate to Colorado so we can tap into the talent that’s there.’ ”
“Colorado is a welcoming fintech and tech community. Network with Foundry Group, TechStars, Silicon Flatirons, Endeavor Colorado and others in the investment community and you’ll quickly meet people who want to help you succeed.”
— Loren Bendele, CEO, Arryved
For Ensemble Innovation Ventures, expanding capital to previously underrepresented talent such as women and BIPOC communities is a vital focus to bringing in new entrepreneurship and diversifying founders in Colorado and across the nation.
Sustained support for entrepreneurship thus has brought not only new talent to Colorado’s metros over the years, but fresh-faced ideas.
Ecosystem for Success
Colorado’s fintech industry continues to attract proactive venture capital firms and global investment businesses such as Foundry Group and TechStars, which as a result builds a reliable fintech ecosystem and talent base for an entrepreneur.
For Loren Bendele, CEO of fintech start-up Arryved, the state holds an investment community full of people who want to help you succeed.
“[The talent base] is strong and Colorado attracts people who choose to live here,” says Bendele. “In addition, you can find more loyal people here. In San Francisco or New York, most employees are always looking for the next startup and retaining people is harder. There seems to be more loyalty to team and culture in Colorado.”
Arryved co-founders David Norman and Tom Wrensch saw a missing need as they explored busy taprooms. Fast-paced establishments needed a more efficient point-of-service (POS) and hospitality management system to connect front and back of house operations and process customer sales.
Ultimately, the duo formulated their business while sitting at the bar. Working directly with employees and managers during their first six months, they perfected the system before launching.
Settling into Boulder, Colorado, Arryved made its official debut in 2017, launching its POS system and mobile app for the state’s food and beverage industry. Six years later, Arryved systems service breweries, restaurants, entertainment venues and more. Not just in Colorado, but globally.
In 2021, Arryved received $20 million in financing, doubled its number of employees and released a new mobile QR ordering feature called OpenTab. As the company continues to innovate its POS system and mobile technology for the food and beverage industry, its presence in the state is unwavering.
“Colorado has been great for us given access to talent and a central location for serving customers worldwide,” says Bendele. “We’ve consistently hit mid to high double-digit growth in revenue year-on-year.”