In the not-so-distant past, our community could really “Celebrate Technology” with verve. Black-tie affairs at The Broadmoor, awards, scholarship money and celebration. Then the semiconductor industry bubble burst, a number of tech companies packed up and left town, we lost our swagger and the celebration faded.
About a year ago, we began to see that spark again. We saw tech startup nights, pitch nights and groups focusing on technology and entrepreneurship. Heck, we even partnered with UCCS to bring the first-ever “Ignite” event to Colorado Springs. So when we considered reviving the ever-lauded “Celebrate Technology” in partnership with the Peak Venture Group, our answer was Oh, Yes!
So we welcome back Celebrate Technology. The reception will honor technology companies and innovative people who drive our economic vitality and point the way for others. I am most proud that we brought together all the “cool kids” on this project: Peak Venture Group, Middle Market Entrepreneurs, StartUp Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, Colorado Springs Technology Incubator and the Regional Entrepreneurial Alliance.
Our community has so much happening on so many levels … co-working space, manufacturing on the rise, venture capital flowing in and homegrown products flowing out.
The optimism is back. Celebrate Technology is our opportunity to toast the genius and the grit that are so vital to our future — and celebrate more than our pretty view.
By Marija B. Vader
Not long after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster of March 2011 in Japan, Colorado Springs company Springs Fabrication (SpringsFab) was approached by ICM in Pueblo to see if there was interest in teaming up on a project to help.
Only days before the call from ICM, the Tokyo Electric Power Company had worked a deal with Kurion, a California company that has proprietary technology for isolating radioactive materials, to provide a remediation solution to avert further worsening of the nuclear reactor. Kurion searched for companies to help, and that’s where ICM and SpringsFab came in.
Kurion engineered a way to extract highly radioactive materials from the sea water that was poured into the overheating nuclear reactors.
SpringsFab provided design layout on the process modules and engineered the filtration vessels that would be filled with Kurion’s proprietary technology to remove the radioactivity from the cooling water.
Once the designs were released, the build phase (three weeks of 24/7 work) began. The equipment was loaded on large Russian transport planes in Denver and met the late-May shipment deadline. The system was operational in mid-June.
Based on SpringsFab’s performance, the company received additional tasks on the project and expects to remain a key player in future projects at the site, said Tom Neppl, president and CEO of SpringsFab.
Neppl called it “by far the most significant project SpringsFab has taken on this year. SpringsFab took great pride in helping the Japanese people in one of their greatest times of need.”
The company is working on multiple projects. Another is to build tooling that will build a magnet in a “massive, multi-country project,” called an international thermonuclear experimental reactor.
SpringsFab also works with the oil and gas industry in north America.
“We have a very diversified customer base,” Neppl said.
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By Cameron Moix
BombBomb had a big year in 2013, tripling its client base as well as its revenue, and doubling the staff at its office in Old Colorado City.
Now, as the company looks to relocate to a larger space in which to do its digital work, CEO Conor McCluskey said BombBomb is expecting an equally ambitious and successful 2014.
“We’re in 32 countries and all 50 states,” he said. “We serve everybody from the local insurance agent to [General Motors]. So we’re growing like crazy and we hope to double the company this year.”
The web-based business, which specializes in the development of personalized video-email interfaces that clients can use for a variety of applications, is based on seven core values: people and relationships, having fun, doing more with less, doing the right thing, being humble, changing, and sharing and collaborating.
“We believe that brands and people in technology will eventually get out of the way and people will just connect with technology that is designed to facilitate that process,” McCluskey said. “People want to buy things from people, people want to start a relationship, people want to build a community. When everyone is moving around and not able to get together in live places, what better way to send yourself than with a video.”
With BombBomb, users can shoot a video using any recording device, add it to a customized email, send it to an individual or a crowd, and see the results of the transmission (who opened the email, read it, visited links, watched videos, etc.).
“It’s a way to be there in person when you can’t be there in person,” added Darin Dawson, chief operating officer of the video email management company.
BombBomb’s philosophy is engendered by its Rocky Mountain roots: no contracts, startup fees or other hassles ubiquitous in the online world. The company is one of the people, and one attached to its community, McCluskey said.
“We try to have a family-friendly, beer-drinking, ride-your-bike-to-work atmosphere,” he said. “Love on people and you’ll do all right.”
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By Cameron Moix
Cherwell Software LLC has achieved consistent growth and profitability since breaking into the market with its service desk and information technology services in 2007, and CEO Vance Brown says the company plans to have another strong year in 2014.
“We are probably the fastest-growing company in Colorado Springs — we’ve grown organically since the beginning,” he said. “We think that we have incredible momentum, and we should continue to grow fast in 2014.”
Cherwell, founded in 2004 by executives of the former Front Range group, has grown since 2012 from fewer than 50 employees to 150 and has expanded widely. The company now has offices in the United Kingdom, 65 international partners and a client base of nearly 600.
In 2012, Cherwell also became the first Colorado Springs business to receive venture capital since 2008. New York-based Insight Venture Partners invested $25 million, which the company used to expand its sales operations and product offerings.
“They’re clearly firing on all cylinders,” said Ric Denton, CEO of the Colorado Springs Technology Incubator. “They’re definitely a player in the community and certainly a success story. It’s definitely a company that we would like to keep here.”
Brown said the decade-old firm plans to add at least two more international offices this year and is poised to one day go public, which no Springs-based software company has done.
“We’re certainly committed to Colorado Springs,” Brown said. “We’re based here and we’re a fast-growing company that loves the Springs and would like to see it be successful in attracting more companies and new talent.”
The company prides itself on services that are affordable and user-friendly. Brown said Cherwell serves mostly mid-market enterprise companies with 10,000 to 20,000 employees. Among Cherwell’s nearby local clients are UCCS and Focus on the Family.
Brown said Colorado Springs is a great place to start a tech firm, and companies like his must work to attract more talent and innovation in order to sustain future success.
“We’re excited to be in Colorado Springs. We love it here,” Brown said. “[The city] just doesn’t have the reputation [for being high-tech], which is one thing we’re helping to create.”
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By Marija B. Vader
Loop Communications has developed a tool that requires you to answer it in a confidential manner when talking about your health, said developer James Dodd.
Loop Communications, the newest division of Delta Solutions & Strategies, currently is testing the product with Colorado Springs Health Partners, the largest physician group in Colorado Springs. Like other Delta operations, Loop involves sensitive, confidential information.
The product is called NOMIS, or Notification, Observation Monitoring Information Systems.
It works by sending out a notification question, which then requires the patient to complete a task before the notifications stop. Once that task is done, Loop or the system administrator will gather and record the information, thus closing the loop.
The pilot program with CSHP works to measure patients’ blood pressure for their hypertension. Using the system, patients record their blood pressure every day. Instead of writing the information on the back of an envelope and forgetting to bring it to their next doctor’s appointment, the blood pressure information is sent back using the loop system.
The system tracks the information in real time, so patients, their family members and the doctor’s office can monitor the results more closely than in the past, Dodd said.
Many applications exist for this program beyond helping the elderly, he added.
For example, like the elderly, the developmentally disabled want to live as independently as possible, Dodd said.
“Through the system, NOMIS can remind them to lock their door at night, to feed their animals, to take their medication,” Dodd said.
The process will change people’s behavior, Dodd said.
“It will make people more accountable,” Dodd said, “[and] people who want to be compliant, healthier.”
The system will save costs and help medical offices’ operations flow more efficiently, he added.
Loop started in March 2012.
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By John Hazlehurst
Jeff Cooper first came to Colorado Springs more than three decades ago, one of the many young techies who came to work in the city’s nascent hi-tech manufacturing sector. As the sector grew, flourished and eventually withered, Cooper found other outlets for his restless energy.
Presently the managing director of New Venture Resources, an investment and venture management firm with a portfolio valued at more than $600 million, Cooper has created or cofounded ventures both likely and unlikely.
He co-founded High Altitude Investors, the Colorado Springs Technology Incubator, the Colorado Capital Alliance, and UCCS Biotechnology Center’s Rocky Mountain Microbrewing Symposium.
He’s been deeply involved in the larger community as well, notably with the Colorado Springs Sports Corp., UCCS-Peak Aging and other nonprofits.
We asked Cooper two questions: What happened to hghi-tech manufacturing in Colorado Springs, and where are the thousands of folks who once worked for those once-dominant companies?
“The high-tech manufacturing base of 25 years ago declined naturally,” Cooper answered, “as Colorado Springs no longer offered a competitive cost structure to warrant the very large capital investment necessary to competitively price the microelectronic components we were building. Foreign competition with access to substantial capital, lower operating costs and better manufacturing yields shook global competition.”
But the region still benefits from those long-vanished companies, because many former employees have become entrepreneurs in their own right.
“The spin-outs of those entrepreneurial companies like HP, Mostek, Inmos, LSI, stayed and resulted in many new companies that are part of today’s knowledge-based economy,” Cooper continued. “We now have a distributed entrepreneurial environment where there are many busy, talented high-tech workers operating from home and small offices.
“When the CS Tech Incubator was first started, getting access to a T-1, high bandwidth line was a large expense and largely inaccessible. Today’s information technology makes home and mobile computing accessible and relatively cheap.”
“Entrepreneurs and tech workers operating out of small and home offices,” Cooper pointed out, “can still benefit from networks that can bring them to people they would not ordinarily have time to find, as quickly as possible.”
The guy next door who you thought was a retired colonel? He may be one of a small army of serial entrepreneurs, part of a worldwide network. Maybe he’s collaborating with designers in India, coders in Ukraine or prototypers right here to bring a new product to market.
And if he is, you can bet that he knows Jeff Cooper.
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By John Hazlehurst
KidReports, an information gathering and transmittal service targeted at childcare providers, simplifies the concept of daily reports to parents.
Instead of handwritten activity reports, parents receive real-time digital notices and reports. Introduced in 2012, the software package has enjoyed sterling reviews from parents and providers.
The web-based reporting system gives each child in a facility a secure personal online profile that is updated daily, even hourly, to allow better communication and connection with parents. Personal profiles are updated by teachers using a tablet or Smartphone with customized menu options. With a few keystrokes, the child’s updated profile is automatically sent to the parents. The process is created through a simple setup on http://www.kidreports.com. Parents can download the free app, which is available for both Apple and Android mobile platforms.
Childcare facilities may be the company’s target market, but working parents are its beneficiaries. In a post on Mile High Mamas, an early-adapter mom about to rejoin the workforce talked about the company.
“Friends of mine from college (techie dads) developed a mobile technology that just happened to fit the very need this self proclaimed helicopter mom was having: a way to continually monitor my children while I’m at work!
It’s a real time report available from my desktop and mobile phone. So, while I can’t be there every minute, I won’t miss out on the little things I want to know about my children’s day.”
Leif Ullman, Dan Weaver and Greg Krupa are the three “techie dads” who run the company. All three are married with two or three young children, which means they know first-hand the problems faced by working couples in the early years of parenthood. In fact, that was the impetus for the company’s origin.
“My partners and I started the company because we were dads who wanted to stay more connected to our kids in child care,” Ullman said. “Getting a piece of paper every day wasn’t enough, and with the technology made available by tablets and smartphones, we knew we could provide a better experience.”
Ullman is CEO and head of software development for KidReports. He brings more than 15 years of software development experience to the table, primarily focused on the Department of Defense and other advanced military and intelligence applications. COO Krupa worked for J.P. Morgan Chase for 15 years, while CMO Weaver has a background in sales, marketing and public relations.
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By Cameron Moix
Braxton Technologies LLC, a software developer and substantial Department of Defense contractor, is celebrating its 20-year anniversary in Colorado Springs.
Since the company was founded locally in 1994, it has enjoyed much success in this region and elsewhere — supporting U.S. Air Force commands in both Colorado Springs and providing automated satellite control out of Los Angeles.
Braxton increased its annual revenue by 78 percent in four years, rising to $20.1 million in 2012, and was ranked 3,735th (up from 3,064th in 2012) on Inc. Magazine’s 2013 list of the country’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies.
“This has been a very positive year,” said CEO Frank Backes. “We successfully made an acquisition in April 2013 that grew the company to 140 people and we anticipate at least one additional acquisition in 2014 that could grow the company to more than 200.”
Braxton’s wheelhouse includes myriad products and services both for government and commercial clients and applications. Among the company’s feats are launch and operation support of the military’s GPS program, for which the company helped reduce cost and accelerate deployment, according to BraxtonTech.com.
That technology, for which the company recently launched an advertising campaign, “reduces the cost to operate space vehicles … and adds much higher level of fidelity for flying space vehicles as well … which as space becomes more crowded, becomes more important,” Backes said.
Although Braxton has offices in Livermore, Calif., and Indialantic, Fla. — and operates in New Mexico, Nevada, California, Washington, D.C. and throughout the state — it remains headquartered in Colorado Springs.
“We understand the value of working together, of commitment and trust,” according to Braxton’s website. “If you need an integrated multifunction system to meet tough requirements, you can count on us to deliver. If you are looking for new ideas, we will put some of the best minds in the aerospace industry to work for you.”
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