For those who might have been hiding from the twittersphere, 16th Street Mall, or Downtown Denver Partnership newsletters and e-mail blasts, last week was a week I’ve started to look forward to each September—Denver Startup Week.
Started in 2012, the event has grown from about 30 sessions taught by varied industry professionals to an event that draws over 8,000 people (both locally, nationally, and this year, internationally) and boasts about 300 free sessions of content, making this not the biggest Startup event in Colorado, but—wait for it—the largest Startup week in North America.
Not bad Denver, not bad.
Having known I wanted to get involved after attending several sessions last year related to design and.. well… socializing in interesting spaces and places with creative people, I worked with the Design-track organizers, Justin Martinez and Castle Searcy, to submit and work with my co-workers to create a panel of extremely different, seasoned perspectives on the do’s and don’ts of creative office space—an on-going conversation that will only continue as floor plans transition from closed to open, wellness at work becomes a priority, and headphones continue to become what Robert Reich (one of our speakers and the founder of Boulder New Tech) and the dev shop Made Movement has coined “the new corner office.”
What I’ve learned through my initial participation in Startup week is that why it is so progressive is that it is not just for people involved in the tech industry or startup organizations. Instead, Denver Startup Week whole-heartedly embraces the idea of “all things entrepreneurial.”
When considering how most fortune 500 companies have started (take the ever-popular Apple, for example,) we must consider the process and challenges of the guys tinkering in their garage, and embrace the many phases of business models, experiences, growing pains, and life lessons the company, its founders, VC’s, employees, etc. have taken to arrive at the Norman Foster-designed campus/office park/lifestyle in California Apple currently resides in today.
Denver Startup week embraces this idea of evolution and adaptability of the entrepreneur (whether a lone entity or a major conglomerate) by featuring talks, workshops, panels, presentations, networking and social events that fall into “tracks” – this year featured Business, Design, Tech, and Manufacturing (in addition to what the Colorado Technology Association and their partners consider “Headline Events,” “Social Events,” and the amazing concept of “Basecamp,”—a homebase on the 16th Street Mall in which attendees of Startup week can stop in any time to meet with mentors and mentees, network, plug-in, or learn more about information about Startup week’s many opportunities, partners, and sponsors.)
Having unfortunately only a select amount of time to attend sessions, I signed up for several evening events including a PechaKucha held @ the event venue City Hall this past Thursday. For anyone who appreciates quick presentations with snazzy visuals and a concise message, this presentation format of 20 slides/20 seconds is an ideal medium to share ideas, humor, and messages of inspiration – all content that came out of the Denver Startup Week PechaKucha featuring speakers that included Creative Director Max Goodwin, Steve Nash from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Miguel Buenrostro from Tijuana, and many more.
My takeaway from the highly varied presentations and content was the overarching message of the night to pursue your passion – regardless of risk, comfort zone, or initial funding. For an architecture audience, I would relate this idea to “if you build it, they will come” (with “it” being an idea or a proposal that might ignite a spark for action, a kickstarter campaign, or a design for people to rally around and fundraise for…) Designers and social entrepreneurs Justin Martinez and Miguel Buenrostro spoke to this idea by providing insight into reactivating spaces that had been blighted and turning them into places for community, co-working, and resources for communities. Virginia McAllister, CEO of Iron Horse Architects, spoke to the challenges and triumphs she’s faced as the owner of an architecture firm, most importantly exemplified by her ability to create “legacy” through creating opportunities for her employees to learn and grow as professionals that are helping contribute to their city’s development and legacy.
I left feeling inspired and ready for action, and am hoping Denver Startup Week’s energy and enthusiasm for the city’s development, design, and discourse will continue to manifest itself through the collaborative and innovative design and decisions the city will continue to make to cultivate creative industry and community.