50 Shades of Boulder Startups

I love living in Boulder, Colorado. I love living in Boulder because my home is literally within a few blocks away from of some great hiking, and just a Hop, Skip, or a Jump (inside joke) away from Pearl Street Mall (where all the action is), and there is a thriving art community.

What I love most about Boulder is the startup culture and the entrepreneurial spirit in Boulder.  When I say “startups,” however, I am not just talking about software and technology companies, like the startups that come out of Techstars.

What’s astounding about this town are all the different shades of startups that are here in Boulder.

For example, you have companies like BigRedF that launches successful restaurant after restaurant.  BigRedF is like the Techstars of the Boulder restaurant scene.

Speaking of food, there are dozens and dozens of new organic-gluten-free-vegan-locavore foodie startups in Boulder popping up all the time, all vying for those already crowded shelves at Whole Foods or a booth at the Boulder Farmers Market: EVOL Foods, Justin’s Nut Butter, Skinny Crisps, etc.

Then there are the beverage startups like Skratch Labs, Izze, Mix1, Third Street Chai, Bhakti Chai… my wife is addicted to chai.

Since we’re on the topic of drinks, Boulder is also home to dozens of microbrews.  The microbrew market is so big in Boulder that Centro (a BigRedF restaurant) is launching a series of “chef brews”… it’s a nanobrew!

But it’s not all food and drinks in Boulder. Year after year, Boulder is nominated as one of the fittest town in the United States.  Any time during the day, on any given street or trail, it’s not difficult to spot a few joggers somewhere in Boulder, even in the rain… or SNOW! In a town where the Bolder Boulder attracts roughly 50,000 runners per year, it should be no surprise that a company like Newton Running, a maker of running shoes, should sprout out of Boulder, founded by Danny Abshire, author of “Natural Running.” Not hiking shoes, or tennis shoes, or cycling shoes. Just unning shoes.

Boulder is also an outdoors kind of town in general with lots of hikers and mountain climbers.  It only makes sense then that Boulder would give birth to an innovative company like GoLite, a maker of high-performance outdoor clothing and equipment that are durable, obscenely light, and sustainable.  Now THAT is a Boulder startup if I ever heard one.

Sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and environmentalism are also part of the Boulder startup landscape and culture with companies like Green Garage, Namaste Solar, Common, and Unreasonable Institute. CU Boulder actually has a program for Social Entrepreneurship, a growing trend in universities.

When I think of the word “startup,” I tend to think outside the server room. Boulder is a city filled with startups of all shades. These other shades of startups are just as vital to the sustainability of Boulder’s economy, and contribute as much to Boulder’s entrepreneurial spirit and culture as much any tech startup.

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