Top 10 tech startups developing in Denver, Colorado
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Photo courtesy: Pixabay.com

The Rocky Mountains are close, but the future is closer for Denver startups

People love Denver for many reasons, such as the scenery, active lifestyle options, and Old West echoes. Started in 1858 during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, Denver was nearly abandoned by the middle of 1859. Residents worked together to get an overland wagon trail through the area, and by 1863, Western Union solidified the growing community by making it a regional terminal.

Now the Denver-Aurora area has close to 3.5 million residents, the largest in the state of Colorado, and houses the state’s capital and main business hub. With an assay office established during the gold rush, the United States Mint located in Denver is one of four in the country. Physically making money leads to money-making companies placing headquarters or regional offices in the area, as Denver remains the hub of modern wagon trails of distribution.

The private University of Denver, founded in 1864, competes with three major public universities, so the curious have many options for education. Intersections of higher learning, government, and large companies beget startups, and that is certainly true of Denver.

1. Welltok

Photo courtesy: Welltok

Denver, heaven for outdoor enthusiasts (skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, etc.), also boasts one of the leading companies in the “help patients help themselves” business: Welltok. The CafeWell Health Optimization Platform uses mobile devices and analytics to track consumers’ behaviors and encourage people toward taking better care of themselves.

Opening the doors in 2009, their first Series A round in August 2011 was nearly $5 million from four investors. By 2013, they started hitting their funding stride: a six-pack of investors financed $18.7 million in Series B money in April 2013 and less than a year later, more than $22 million swelled the coffers. But 2015 was the true game changer, as $37 million in Series D money arrived in January and $45 million more was gift-wrapped in December. Series E money and debt financing funds arrived in October 2016, bringing their total venture package to nearly $164 million.

2. PaySimple

Photo courtesy: PaySimple

Small businesses never have enough money, and invoicing for it and processing payments can be complicated and expensive. That’s the pain point PaySimple soothes with their cloud-based billing, invoicing, and processing services.

Opening their doors before the smartphone era, in 2006, PaySimple worked to gain a foothold and was rewarded with $2.24 million in Series B money in April 2008. Three years later, $16 million more in Series B money arrived along with $8 million in venture funding. But September carried the biggest news for them so far: They raised $115 million in private equity financing from Providence Strategic Growth. Their total funding to date is more than $145 million.

3. Ping Identity

Photo courtesy: Ping Identity

It may be a pop psych cliché to wonder “Who am I?” but if you don’t know, ask Ping Identity, because they probably do. Over half the Fortune 100 relies on Ping to authenticate users, control security access, and manage data at scale as well as compliance.

Opening in 2002, fairly early in the identity management market, Ping grew to be a large startup before being acquired by Vista Equity Partners in June 2016. Over the course of 14 years, they raised more than $128 million in funding.

4. Galvanize

Photo courtesy: Galvanize

Multiple universities in Denver aside, Galvanize built a network of urban campuses to act as the trade school for the digital economy and train programmers and data scientists. Full- and part-time courses, taught by professionals, not academics, help grow geeks in eight US cities (two in Colorado). Its 91 percent graduate placement rate means an A on their report card.

Businesses often complain they can’t find enough programmers, and Galvanize started addressing that need in 2012. By the fall of 2013, an undisclosed amount of venture funding came to class, followed by $18 million in a Series A placement in June 2014. Two rounds of debt financing in 2016 added over $16 million more. Lastly, ABS Capital Partners led five other groups to put $45 million of Series B apples on the teacher’s desk. That adds up to over $63 million raised in less than five years.

5. ProtectWise

Photo courtesy: ProtectWise

Digital security, the never-ending battle, needs new warriors regularly. Add ProtectWise to that list. They launched in April 2013 to leverage cloud resources to track and monitor full network traffic in real time. Data collected can be interrogated for hidden patterns and future trends, adding more protection.

A month after being founded by a group of security industry veterans, ProtectWise received $3.05 million in seed money. Except for 2016, they have raised a significant round each year: Four investors supported a $14.1 million Series A in 2014; Tola Capital led six investors in a $20 million Series B round in November 2015; and three investors arrived in early 2017 to help them finance a second Series B placement of $25 million. So far, these good guys have raised more than $62 million.

6. Ibotta

Photo courtesy: Ibotta

Shops in the old days could put up a “Sale!” sign in the window. Today, companies need to target their good customers and make them great customers. Ibotta, a mobile-friendly marketing and loyalty program specialist, helps companies reward return customers who in turn reward them with continuing engagement.

The iPhone appeared in 2007, and by 2011, Ibotta started to leverage smartphones. In May 2013 an undisclosed amount of Series A money helped the cause. James Clark and four other investors dialed up $20 million in Series B bucks in June 2014. A loyal investor, Clark again led an investor group that raised $40 million in Series C cash in September 2015. If you’re counting points, that’s over $60 million.

7. FullContact

Photo courtesy: FullContact

Coercing contacts into customers only happens with the right tools, and for many companies that tool is FullContact‘s contact management suite. Starting with a basic contact management platform in 2010, the company now has data solutions and developer tools as well, along with a host of tools to identify and connect to prospects.

Founded in 2010, FullContact has raised nearly $50 million in funding to date in four rounds. Despite not being massive yet, the startup has interestingly managed to acquire five startups: Profoundis Labs, Conspire, Brewster, nGame, and Cobook.

8. Wayin

Photo courtesy: Wayin

Founded by former Sun Microsystems CEO and co-founder Scott McNealy, Wayin is a social intelligence and visualization company providing a self-service platform for brands to create interactive campaigns and engage consumers across all digital channels.

Work began in November 2010, and since then, this startup has reached a similar stage as the company in slot #7 on this list, FullContact: Wayin has raised almost $50 million to date over the course of four rounds. And it too has acquired several startups: EngageSciences and Comenta TV.

9. Photobucket

Photo courtesy: Photobucket

Who knew the collapse of camera sales would lead to millions more photos created every day? Smartphone makers and Photobucket, apparently. Four million images a day are uploaded to Photobucket to store, share, edit, or print. Want your favorite selfie on a canvas poster? They can do it.

Photobucket was ahead of the curve, starting in June 2003, years before the iPhone launched. Photobucket snapped up $3 million in March 2005, $10.5 million in May 2006, and $4.5 million in November 2006. After the iPhone debut, Photobucket made its biggest move to date: It was acquired by Fox Interactive Media in 2007.

Since then, they raised a $10 million round in 2008, as well as a lot of tiny rounds, garnering them over $44 million in total funding to date.

10. CyberGRX

Photo courtesy: CyberGRX

Where there’s risk, there’s an insurance agent. In the case of cyber risk, that means CyberGRX, a third-party cyber risk management platform that manages exposure across a company and their assorted partners. Join their exchange and get the inside scoop on the risk and security competence of your business partners.

A relatively brand new startup, CyberGRX began in July 2016 with $9 million in Series A funding. Less than a year later, in April, Bessemer Venture Partners led a group of eight investors putting $20 million in Series B money on the table. All in all, this freshly minted company has raised $29 million so far.

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James Gaskin

About James Gaskin


James writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don't read his books and articles.

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  • Chuck

    Companies that have been around since November 2010 shouldn’t qualify as startups. If you’re still a “startup” after 7 years, you’re doing something wrong.

    • James Gaskin

      That’s always a sticky question for me – start date. But I’m a big believer in “The Pivot” and think that often starts the real startup phase. So I can declare a 15 years old or older company a startup if they start getting serious venture funding in the last few years. Kind of a reborn startup mode as it were.

      • Chuck

        Well said. Still, for a city with many young, actually profitable, thriving startups (by any definition), the inclusion of wayin, and a few others, seems like a lazy and inaccurate choice. Just pretty unimpressed with the list.

  • Dustin

    Welltok isn’t anywhere near profitable, has a 2.5 glass door rating and approval ratings of the CEO that are lower than 30% at times. They have also been around for quite some time, are well over 200 employees, and are run by large healthcare former execs. I fail to see how they are a startup having gone into series E rounds of fund raising.