Geography and Entrepreneurial Density: The Boulder Bubble
Recently on Brad Feld’s blog, our hero returned to explore the intriguing twin themes of geographic destiny and entrepreneurial density. Hypothesizing that the city of Boulder has one of the highest numbers of innovators per capita in the entire country, he went on to describe the various startup communities that flourish in small clusters not only around Boulder, but also in larger cities like New York and San Francisco.
“In the case of Boulder, the core of the entrepreneurial community is in downtown, which is a 10 x 4 block area. Even though downtown Boulder is small, it has different personalities (yes – we have an east side and a west side), yet you can walk from one end to the other in ten minutes. And, inevitably, when I walk across town I always bump into people I know.”
Intrigued by this dead-on description of the central Boulder startup scene, I started wondering what other entrepreneurial clusters might exist in Boulder outside of the rather pricey downtown area, how the community varied between regions, and just how far the magical network effects of the Boulder Bubble extended. For example, I recently visited the Tendril offices out near 55th and Pearl, a serious “east side” area that also includes other innovative businesses such as Amadeus Consulting and SmartSearch Marketing. Out north towards Gunbarrel, there are several larger operations such as Celestial Seasonings and GoLite, and then moving further east towards Lafayette you can find little office parks such as the one at 95th and Arapahoe, where the TrainingPeaks software guys can be seen riding to work in spandex no matter what the weather.
Finally, I contemplated the office parks out near Louisville, on the other side of the hill that Highway 36 descends from the scenic viewpoint overlooking Boulder valley. Discussing this location with Carlos Perez, Director of Marketing and Product at Envysion, we speculated that the Highway 36 hill might be more than just a physical barrier. Was it actually, we whispered, the Boulder Bubble Boundary, the invisible wall at which the magic startup dust started to disperse in mid-air? Of course there are startup companies out there too, but it just feels like they might be somehow… different (Outlook vs. Gmail, Blackberries vs. iPhones, PCs vs. Macs, etc.) Scandalous! We felt vaguely nervous even discussing such things.
In fact, Envysion is among the many innovative local companies located here, Beyond the Bubble Boundary (which could explain why you may not have heard of them before). Stealthily concealed just outside town, the company is focused on improving a service that has also traditionally been hidden discreetly from the realm of common awareness: video surveillance. Envysion applies the Software as a Service (SaaS) model to video to enable thousands of users within a company to utilize remote surveillance to better understand and improve the day-to-day, store-level operations of their business. This drives double-digit profit increases by helping to reduce theft, identify ways to make operations more efficient, enhance marketing in store promotions, improve training for staff and increase security. In short, this new way of managing video has the potential for impact across all aspects of a business and could be applied to many industries.
This is just one example of an innovative company based beyond the city limits creating enormous potential for growth by re-imagining the way that a business has traditionally been done. The future looks bright for this company and others who find new ways of doing things, which is exactly the kind of innovation that our country needs to strengthen the economy overall for the next generation, whether the company is based in Boulder Valley or Silicon Valley. So, the next time you venture out of town on your way to the airport for a direct flight to New York, stop by and visit us in Louisville!