Move Over Silicon Valley, Colorado Wants Your Startups
Denver is not only the place I call home, it is also where I have chosen to found and build two companies over the last 10 years. My most recent venture is luxury destination club Inspirato (which I co-founded in 2010).
Why are so many entrepreneurs coming to Colorado? Well, the reality is that Colorado is currently one of the most attractive and lucrative places to do business, particularly if you are launching, running or growing a start-up. In fact Built In Denver's 2012 Colorado Startup Report showed that last year in Colorado (primarily in Denver and Boulder), 122 start-ups launched and collectively raised over $502 million.
While we may still look like a nascent start-up market compared to Silicon Valley, Colorado is becoming an increasingly fruitful environment for innovation, and the Mile High City is now being duly recognized as one of the best places to do business in the country.
There are a wide range of reasons for this, but I've landed on three major components that I think most significantly contribute to its start-up friendly environment: a young, energetic, and educated workforce, a real sense of work-life balance, and a supportive, engaged state government.
Any successful start-up community requires a dynamic, intelligent, and young workforce behind it. Colorado is ranked as the third- most-educated state in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, and has become an attractive destination for younger generations looking to make their mark in the business world. The sheer number of opportunities is a major reason Colorado launches a new start-up every 72 hours. It's also essential to note that Denver has become an increasingly appealing place to live.
The development of Coors Field and the transformation of nearby abandoned warehouses into lofts and restaurants have fueled a revitalization of downtown Denver, attracting new businesses and urban-inclined residents. The city's growing appeal is enhanced by a booming food culture, a dynamic craft beer scene and major improvements in public transportation. Denver's renaissance is helping Colorado evolve from a ski bum paradise to a real urban and cultural destination: The city is currently the No. 1 gainer of 25-to-34-year-olds in the U.S.
Here's another reason I love working in Colorado: We really know how to enjoy our time outside of the office. It's sunny approximately 300 days per year; there is a deeply ingrained active, outdoor lifestyle; we're even the thinnest, most fit state in the U.S. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, there is no excuse not to get out and hike, bike or ski.
It makes all of us in the business world happier, more balanced and infinitely more productive. In Colorado, every day is bike to work day. At Inspirato, we had to expand our offices to accommodate for an ever-growing fleet of bicycles. And Coloradoans are friends with their co-workers. In Denver, our work and home lives are more intertwined than in other big cities. You'll find officemates out for a hike or mountain bike ride together on weekends. In addition to making the workplace a more fun, convivial place to be, this socially inclined environment inspires a creative and collaborative culture.
(Read more: America's Cheapest States to Live In)
Colorado can only benefit from an increase in the start-up culture. Gov. John Hickenlooper sees that, and is actively working to make the state even more pro-business than it already is, a recent example being a $150 million state-supported venture fund, raised from local business leaders and dedicated to Colorado-based start-ups.
Of course, Colorado isn't perfect: A short supply of venture funding is one of the biggest problems facing start-ups here. But the governor's recognition of these limitations, and his willingness to take action to combat these issues, shows just how dedicated he is to making things even better.
As for me, I've seen the success that's possible here in Colorado. As Inspirato continues to thrive and grow, I look forward to seeing what kind of impact we can have on perceptions of our state in the business world.
_ By Brent Handler, founder and CEO, Inspirato, and a member of the CNBC-YPO Chief Executive Network.
CNBC and YPO (Young Presidents' Organization) have an exclusive editorial partnership. A key component of this partnership is regional Chief Executive Networks in the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. These networks are made up of cross-sections of YPO's unrivaled global membership of 20,000 top executives on the frontlines of the economy, running companies that collectively generate $6 trillion in annual revenues and employ 15 million people in more than 120 countries.