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DENVER, CO

Innovation That Matters 2016

We are at the dawn of an extraordinary technological revolution and it is transforming every part of the U.S. economy. Innovation That Matters examines and ranks 25 cities’ readiness to capitalize on the inevitable shift to a digital economy.

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Denver’s energy startup sector builds on the city’s strengths

Of the growing digital industries included in this study, energy emerges as Denver’s clearest competitive advantage. But this development isn’t popping up from out of the blue. Denver has a historically strong cluster of energy industries, and its startup community is growing on top of that foundation. Though Denver has traditionally shown strength in areas that contribute to smart cities, its startup community has yet to penetrate these sectors.

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Capital is still a challenge for startups in Denver

Relatively weak funding and exit totals reveal that Denver has yet to build the capital base to take its digital economy to the next level. However, entrepreneurs do consider local investors to be highly involved and supportive

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  1. The future looks bright for the Mile High City.
    With a strong supply of educated young people (4th), a vibrant cultural foundation (3rd), a healthy quality of life (1st) and a well-connected ecosystem (2nd), Denver has the pieces in place to become a leader in the new digital economy.
  2. Denver’s energy startup sector is building on the city’s strengths.
    Of the emerging digital industries included in this study, energy (5th) emerges as Denver’s obvious competitive advantage. Denver has a historically strong cluster of legacy energy companies (4th), and its startup community is growing on top of that foundation.
  3. Beyond energy, the picture is murkier.
    The city continues to punch below its weight in terms of Ed Tech (15th), Health Tech (17th), and particularly Smart City tech (14th). Despite Denver’s traditional strengths in real estate development (4th), transportation (9th) and logistics (7th), its startup community has yet to penetrate these sectors.
  4. Capital is still a challenge.
    Relatively weak funding and exit numbers (14th in total investment and IPOs) reveal that Denver has yet to build the capital base to take its digital economy to the next level. However, entrepreneurs do consider local investors to be highly involved and supportive of the ecosystem (1st), suggesting that the key is to bring more investors into the community.
  5. Denver may be booming, but it’s not yet becoming a global city.
    Strong domestic population inflows (3rd) combined with weak international inflows (23rd) suggest that Denver is pulling in talent from all over the country, but not the world. To take its startup success to the next level, it will have to find ways to compete with more globalized cities such as San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC.
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