Anyone I’ve talked to lately knows I’ve been rather obsessed with the Boulder (Colorado) tech scene, even revamping my REI-chic/enviro-hipster garb for the occasion. I voraciously started subscribing to the blogs and Twitter feeds of various tech enthusiasts like Andrew Hyde, a driving force behind rad initiatives like Startup Weekend and Techstars.org, Robert Reich who founded OneRiot, Micah Baldwin who runs business development for Lijit Networks and has a sweet blog and of course there’s Brad Feld, who planted the seeds that started it all. I even watched their live broadcast of Ignite Boulder 3 this last week. Yeah, I really did.
What is it about the Boulder scene that makes me yearn so to be a part of it? My curiosity-turned-fascination-turned-safe-distance (I swear)-obsession was probably fueled by the fact that I can’t be part of it. My location prevents it and they just don’t seem interested in pursuing me as a remote member of their clan, though, granted, no overt outreach was established from my end. Following them on Twitter started out cool because I got a window into their mountainous world, but turned into a curse when they never seemed to want to reach (or follow) back. OK, no big deal. The initial pain of rejection led me to conduct an investigation on the essence of Boulder’s “cool”. Furthermore, I wanted to bring to light why we should all pay attention to Boulder now because – and even Sarah Lacy was astonished by this – Boulder won’t tell us why it’s so rad.
Let’s take a quick look at Boulder itself – not the tech scene – just Boulder.
– College town – Colorado University’s there.
– We know that there are a lot of bikes in Boulder
– There’s natural beauty like you wouldn’t believe
– Apparently the US Curling Olympic trials are there this year, being held this week, I’ve been told
Now let’s think Tech:
– Startup Town
– The afore-mentioned forward thinkers
– The sweet green tech innovations happening there
– In Boulder, you can be a geek AND athletic
– Most of their tech events are beer-centric vs. cocktails– SO cool
– They are geographically flanked by the Rockies on one side and the Mississippi on the other, trapped from the two traditional coastal sources of technological progress and yet they continue to generate technology and media innovation at an astounding and intriguing rate.
But Silicon Valley’s got plenty of mojo, right? Developers and entrepreneurs flock to the Bay Area because they have the next big thing that’s going to take “it” to the next level, going to change the world! So what differentiates Boulder? Here it is: COMMUNITY. There is an electric current that runs through Boulder that is powered by the intense support system that can only exist in a tight-knit community. That’s what TechStars.org IS. It’s for the mentoring and guiding (and funding) of sweet startups. I don’t know how you couldn’t succeed with that kind of backing.
Community must play a huge role in the success and acceleration of the startups and even the stewing of brilliant ideas among the mountains of Colorado. Looking through their blogs, seeing their Twitter activity, even being friends with just one of them on Facebook (and happening to peruse their profile with envy on a weekly basis), you understand the respect and friendship that is the lifeblood of the innovation, creativity and savvy that flows in that town. It’s really palpable if you watch some of the videos of their tech events– I mean, they have inside jokes! Yes, I may have spent an afternoon watching videos of Boulder tech meetups. Not a big deal.
Commradery, though, brings up another factor (and huge asset0 lending to their tight-knit environment: They’re still a small city. The Bay Area could never attain that level of intimacy. People come to The Bay Area to build great businesses that they can ultimately sell to go live in Boulder or, if it comes to it, run from Boulder (or somewhere of the like, you get it). People in Boulder love Boulder and never want to leave Boulder.
As a native Oregonian, my obsession with Boulder’s tech scene might be misplaced (sorry, Portland), but I can’t help feeling a little jealous of this embracing socio-professional (petty sure it’s a real term) environment. It’s not even the technology that really gets to me. It’s the people who make up this community – bloggers, entrepreneurs, copywriters, software engineers, consultants, and developers – that love what they do and want to see each other succeed.
Tell me where that community/clique/coven (?) is in the Bay Area and I’m there. Until then, I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for the next installment of “Where the Fun’s At“.
UPDATE (1/24/09): Joining Fox News in an effort to be “fair and balanced,” I wanted to highlight a response post by Brian Burns, a Boulder resident and copy writer: “Boulder Is Nice. Not Paradise”. A great read, and brings some local insight to the subject.
This was originally posted here, at on LaunchSquad’s Exclamation blog.