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Boulder, Colorado, is home to a vibrant startup community, giving it the nickname of Silicon Flatirons.(The Flatirons are those distinctive rocks jetting into the sky behind the town.)
Many founders left Silicon Valley to launch their startup in Boulder, where the lifestyle is a blast and the business community is helpful.
The annual VC In the Rockies conference (VCIR) was held this week near Vail, Colorado. Some 300 entrepreneurs and venture capitalists gathered for a bit of matchmaking and skiing.
This year the conference had two tracks: IT and green tech.
One thing is clear: there’s no shortage of great young companies being funded. Here are 7 of our favourites:
Say you are standing in front of the Bank of America building in San Francisco and you want to know what famous movie scenes have been filmed on that spot. Tagwhat will show you the clip (Dirty Harry). And it will tell you stories about virtually every other spot in the country in all kinds of tags (movies, music, history, sports, etc.)
It was founded by a couple of guys who had a passion for 'augmented reality' and discovered they lived one block from one another in Boulder. One left his job as a lawyer and the other gave up building weapons for the military to launch this startup. They don't call Tagwhat 'augmented reality' as it isn't a visual overlay -- it is more like a tour guide on your phone.
The information comes from 30 partner sources like the AP and historic societies. Although the service only launched in July for Android and iPhone, it already hosts over 800,000 articles and has 35,000 users.
Tagwhat has raised $1 million in seed money so far and will close $3 million next month in a Series A round.
Compared to the rest of the Web, video players are pretty boring. FlixMaster aims to change that.
This husband and wife team created an HTML5 app that lets video players do the same kinds of stuff that other Web pages do, like include clickable links, send e-mails, and fire up social apps. The user clicks, the video pauses and opens the linked content, and then the user can then come back to the video.
FlixMaster is geared toward professional uses like advertising, eLearning, corporate training, and media sites. It has 1,200 users and its subscription model allows its users to host their videos with FlixMaster (on Amazon) or to use the app with their own in-house video CMS, like Brightcove.
Co-founder Erika Trautman was an Emmy winning video producer and her husband was a game designer at Namco Networks (inventor of Pac-Man) prior to launching FlixMaster. They left the Bay Area, and its high cost of living, to bootstrap their company in Boulder.
As a TechStars accelerator company, FlixMaster raised $800,000 in seed money and is now looking for $3 million in a Series A.
Snugg Home is an online service for contractors that performs energy efficiency audits on homes. It also helps home owners find government-backed incentive programs.
Contractors uses Snugg Home to determine what updates a home needs to conserve energy. By making those updates and adding solar panels, the home owner can finance, say, a $10,000 retrofit and come out cash flow positive compared to the previous power bills, says co-founder Adam Stenftenagel.
Snugg Home is two years old and has already generated $1.7 million in revenues thanks to five contracts from entities working with government grants. It just landed a partnership with Xcel Energy and EGIA where the service will be marketed to thousands of contractors.
The company is operating off $150,000 'friends and family' seed money and is trying to raise a $2 million Series A round. Although based in Boulder, Snugg was just accepted into the new Surge accelerator program in Houston, a TechStars affiliate for energy startups.
What if your entire PC's applications could be served up to you over the cloud, on any device, from anywhere?
The tech that does that has been around forever -- it's called desktop virtualization -- but it had a lot of limitations. Some were technical (slower apps, horrible video) and some were financial (software licensing fees).
Both of those things are being fixed and Dizzion is positioned to cash in. It offers 'cloud-delivered desktops' using technology from VMware. Its customers are enterprises and service provider resellers. Its founders hail from ViaWest, a large hosting provider and one, Robert Green, was once the top IT infrastructure guy at Rackspace.
Dizzion has tons of competition in this new 'managed desktop' market but it's got a solid start: 16 corporate customers are in beta, including ViaWest, Red Robin, Quark, and Service Magic. It's working off $750,000 in seed money and trying to raise $4 million in their Series A.
For 10 years Julie Lerner dreamed of building a new trading platform that matches buyers and sellers of spot market commodities. She traveled the world working as a sugar trader for food marketer Cargill and thought it was crazy that so much of the 'physicals' market was done by regional brokers over the phone.
She got her wish with CMDirect. She's the sole founder of this web platform that automatically matches buyers and sellers worldwide. It also gathers data on events that can influence supply. A successful pilot over the summer with eight of the world's largest sugar traders convinced all of them to sign up. She'll be opening the doors for a broader launch this summer, she says.
She's landed $800,000 in seed money so far, and is working on a $1.5 million Series A.
Corporate networks have a constant need for more bandwidth. Most of them operate at 10 gigabytes today but they are moving to 40G and 100G. Cogo Optronics makes a tiny piece of hardware that is critical for the next generation of high speed optical networks.
Cogo's got a patent on a low-cost modulating technology that packs more data onto light waves in a super tiny, low-energy form. Companies like Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei and other network gear makers are its customers. It manufacturers these modulators in Germany and has offices in Ontario and Boulder.
It's working on a $10.5 million Series A and raised another $5 million toward the $15 million it hopes to raise for its Series B, says CEO Alka Swanson.
In 1997, Cliff Shaw became a self-made millionaire at age 19. He had built, and sold, one of the biggest sites on the Internet, a genealogy message board called GenForum that generated 60 million page views a month.
He would go on to build and sell two more genealogy startups, Pearl Street and BackupMyTree. And now he's back with a third called Mocavo. It's amazing for a lot of reasons. The site is a complementary service to sites like Ancestry.com, which hosts access to records. It offers a search engine for unstructured documents that aren't in Ancestry.com.
Using a mobile phone app, Mocavo lets people photograph and upload their own family records. Mocavo built its own natural language search engine that can recognise a document, classify it, decipher its words and make it available to others. It also sifts the 'net for genealogy information and let's anyone add it's search engine widget to a family tree website.
Mocavo indexed a half a billion pages so far -- more than 100 billion words. It also built its own data centre which is 75% cheaper than using an Amazon or Rackspace, Shaw says.
Thanks to shows like 'Who Do You Think You Are,' genealogy has become a $1 billion business, says Mocavo's COO, Ryan Hunter, a former stock analyst that covered Ancestry.com.
Mocavo grew out of the TechStars accelerator program. TechStars helped land Mocavo $1 million in seed money. It will close $3 million in a Series A in the next 30 days, Shaw says.