The top cities for starting something new: Boulder

Why you should consider relocating to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in 2021.
Boulder CO
The lowdown

Why you should consider it: 

The city has become an unlikely hub for startups.

Who it’s good for: 

Founders across multiple sectors.

Why now: 

Get a jump on the many people currently thinking about moving here.

Boulder, with its wide open spaces on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, has long appealed to people looking to escape the standard nine to five. But whereas hippies arrived in the sixties, it has seen founders arriving in increasingly large numbers in more recent years (with plenty of VC money available). So much so, Boulder finds itself with more high-tech startups per capita than any other city in the US. The proximity to nature provides a welcome escape from the intensity of building businesses – people tend to really live hard and work hard. Of course, the city has its faults: property and labour don’t come cheap, which favours small companies and side hustles more than anything else. 

'The city has a give-first mentality'

Erin Stadler is a managing partner at Boomtown Accelerators, which helps startups turn ideas into profitable and scalable businesses. 

Q:
Why does Boulder have such a prominent startup culture? 

‘This was where some major accelerators started about 15 years ago – like Techstars. There were other investors and tech people in the community who thought,’'This is a great place to be – how do we help people start businesses here so that we can stay where we are and keep working?’’

Q:
What’s unique about Boulder as a startup town? 

‘There’s a strong sense of a ‘give-first’ mentality. I don’t find that in other locations that we work with [Atlanta, for instance]. In Silicon Valley, if a startup goes to meet with the investor, the conversation is, 'What’s in it for me? Why should I help your company?' In Boulder, you can get a meeting with anyone you want and get great advice for the price of a coffee; there is no expectation on you having to give up equity or pay for it.’

Q:
Which are the flourishing startup industries? 

‘Tech and software. Most large [tech] companies have an office in Boulder because of an acquisition: Microsoft, Twitter… Google had an acquisition and has now built its own campus.’ 

Q:
What is Boomtown focusing on? 

We just finished our 2020 cohort, which was focused on hardware companies and health tech. We invested in 10 different companies across those categories. 

Q:
What are the downsides of Boulder? 

‘Boulder does a great job helping people incubate their ideas and seeing if there’s an opportunity there in a safe space. You can walk down Pearl Street and meet with somebody. But as you grow and scale your business, because of the high cost of living in Boulder, you have to move out. It’s a small place: we don’t have huge office buildings; you can only have so many employees. And Colorado has a larger ecosystem and talent pool to support that growth, whether in Denver or Broomfield.’

Find more of the top cities for starting something new in 2021.

This article was first published in Courier Issue 37, October/November 2020. To purchase the full issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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