Denver Startup Week 2018 Review (Day 1)

Denver Startup Week is an aptly named week long convention about startups and technology in Denver, Colorado. Two of the coolest things about Denver Startup Week is that it’s free to attend and it takes place in different locations throughout downtown Denver. 2018 was the first year I was able to participate in Denver Startup Week. I have watched through social media in previous years but I was never able to go because I worked as a 911 dispatcher and never felt it was a good use of my limited vacation time since I wasn’t working in the tech or startup industry. But this year in working for a tech startup with unlimited vacation time and coworkers that are open to collaboration and new ideas so I was excited to see what I could bring back to my team from Denver Startup Week.

Colorado, and Denver specifically, is growing by leaps and bounds. One of the things that makes me proud about our tech and startup community is the inclusion that we practice and it was great to see that attitude explicitly called out during the opening keynote and supported by the actions of other participants and by the panel on Thursday. Because my fear is that we will move away from that attitude as we grow so it’s great to see that attitude reinforced during the biggest free startup conference in the world.

Day 1

Day 1 was quickly overwhelming. It started out with a special kick-off breakfast which, I learned after I got there, required a special registration that I didn’t do. It was the worst thing to happen to me all week. I’m not being over dramatic about it though. The rest of the week was so good that the worst thing to happen to me was missing out on some breakfast on Day 1. I’ll take a week like that any day…er… week.

The key-note involved some laser lights (Is that saying the same thing twice), a super enthusiastic and well liked member of the Colorado tech community, Erik Mitisek who is the Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Colorado, a proud and inspiring Pattie Money who is the Chief People Officer of Sendgrid (Now a part of Twilio!!), a failed crowd selfie by Denver Mayor Hancock, motivation from Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek who explained why he wanted Denver to be the first place for Meow Wolf to expand out of Santa Fe, entrepreneurial determination from Daniella Yacobovsky of BaubleBar and… oh yeah, Steve Case who is best known for his part in starting a little company called America Online.

It’s pretty cool that a major name in tech is not the highlight of a keynote. Mitisek pointed out that generosity is part of our brand here in Colorado. Money pointed out that it’s not just if you grow, but how you grow that is important and Kadlubek pointed out that it’s great to ask “What are you willing to live for?” when gauging your pursuits and stressed the importance of creative people and endeavors in the business world. I heard the same pride and concerns with the Colorado technology community that I have from Mitisek, Money and Kadlubek which made me feel pretty darn smart, a little smug, and ok with missing out on breakfast.

After the keynote I headed over to the Commons on Champa where the Chase Bank Basecamp was set up. I was almost instantly overwhelmed so I decided to plug in and do some work on a side project. After a few minutes of pointless clicking on my laptop I realized I wasn’t going to get any work done on my computer so I decided since I was at a great event for networking, I should go network!

I got to meet Chris Martinez who was representing the Veterans in Residence program and I was super excited to finally meet Tamara Chuang after reading her articles from the Denver Post for so long (she’s now a member of the Colorado Sun) but missed out on my chance of talking to Lizelle Van Vuren. Lizelle doesn’t sit still very much so it’s hard to catch up to her once you miss your chance to see her. However I did catch up to Name.com’s Jared Ewy and got to spend some time with him in a big, awkward inflatable blue bowl which sounds like a result from a Mad Lib, but it’s true!

Oh! How much fun would it be to do a Colorado tech/startup MadLib? That sounds like a lot of fun but I’m getting off topic now.

The first panel I went to was at the CA Technologies office which is right above the Lodo Tattered Cover and if I would’ve known that before hand I might have just hidden away there for a while. It was a one man panel by Scott Tolinski on how to learn quickly in a rapidly changing development world. Aside from having an excellent first name, Scott was great at giving expert opinions with humility and gifs. He does a podcast called syntax.fm about web development that I forgot he mentioned until I started writing this post and I look forward to hearing more from him.

The next talk I went to was at Industry in RiNo. This was my first time taking the A line on the Light Rail from Union Station and the amount of changes I saw in that area blew my mind. The last time I was in that area, the idea of “RiNo” was still a new idea. What was seedy industrial buildings known best for being downwind of the Stock Show every year is now fancy apartments, buildings, restaurants, bars, etc. I was floored!

The panel was about the UX design process and as much as I love writing code and learning about the ones and zeros and languages and frameworks I am also fascinated with why people use computers and how they want to use them which is what UX design is all about! The talk was by Ari Weissman of Crownpeak and I really liked his points that if you don’t talk to users, your “UX Design” is just design and that if you ask users what they want, you’ll end up with the Homer Car which no one really wants. It’s better to ask people what they’re trying to do and why they want things then just asking them what features they want. He also mentioned that if you can’t come up with a good idea unless you come up with a lot of ideas which makes me want to jump on the soapbox of practicing which I will not do now.

That wraps up my Day 1. I didn’t go to any of the night time events because my family still likes me and I want to keep it that way. Also, as an introvert, I wasn’t excited to spend more time talking to fun people after spending all day talking to fun people. Next week I’ll post my review of Day 2 which was even more jam packed than Day 1!

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