Boulder Community Computers – Addressing the Digital Divide

by Jennifer Roberts in Blog, Boulder Comments: 4

Eric

I met with Eric Jackson founder of Boulder Community Computers a non-profit that is addressing the digital divide starting in Boulder.  Eric got the idea for starting Boulder Community Computers while working at Community Cycles in Boulder and his idea is based loosely on the same spirit – education, volunteerism and community. Boulder Community Computers not only provides training but also gives individuals an opportunity to work towards “earning” their own computer. Individuals can “earn” through their volunteer hours. They also refurbish old computer equipment, including iPhones. This serves two purposes:

  • provides a way for individuals to earn their own computer by learning how to install an OS or refurbishing a machine
  • keeps these items out of the landfill

One of the principles of the organization is to provide individuals with real world skills, which they can market about themselves today. It is also serving to provide an alternative to people spending $500 on a new computer; they can come and volunteer, get trained, meet experts, join a community  and get involved. The value of the community aspect is worth more than the $500 some may spend on a new PC.

Eric wants to blend the best of the for-profit and non-profit worlds. Boulder Community Computers has the soul and heart of a non-profit but is operated like any for-profit business. They use proceeds from their store to help fund this effort. Eric is a strong believer in creating a sustainable, working business model that isn’t simply a charity.

I asked Eric what has been one of the biggest accomplishments and he said, “We are building a community here, which I think is synonymous with the idea of family. We have people come in and express a need and we feel great knowing that we are an organization that can help or we have others dropping in, who don’t need a computer or training but want to help out because they want to see this idea succeed”.  But Eric admits they still need help developing their business model. If you have an interest in helping out, applying your business expertise  to help build an organization with a soul, contact Eric. But if you are in need of a computer, or training stop by the shop and volunteer.

2232 Pearl St, Suite 200
Boulder, 80302
Phone: 303.335.0411

New Boulder Tech Forum

by Andrew Hyde in Blog, Boulder Comments: 0

Several people new to town have suggested a forum for this site.

Since we know the Vanilla guys so well, it was a natural choice.

http://boulder.vanillaforums.com/

Lets jump on it and start some discussions, you never know who is out there.

Whatup Ruby?!


I’ve been having a lot of fun learning about and switching over to Ruby over the last month from PHP. As a part of this process, I’ve started to get a sense for the lay of the land of the Ruby community in Boulder.

Meetups

  • Ruby Code & Coffee: A weekly meetup on Wednesdays at 8:30am. According to the Boulder Tech Calendar … “Get together with some other rubyists in the area to write some code, share stories, and swap ideas.”
  • Boulder Ruby: Educational talks on Ruby, Rails, or other general programming topics at the Collective Intellect offices. Click the link for more info.

Dev Shops

  • dojo4 is a Boulder based dev and design collective. They say it best themselves – “We will send ninjas.”
  • Foraker: I haven’t had a chance to meet anyone from the Foraker team yet, but it seems they focus on Ruby/Rails development as one aspect of their full service offering.
  • Quick Left is a web engineering firm helping young and established companies alike build and improve their products. (Disclosure: I am employed by Quick Left.)

Conferences

  • Mountain.rb Conference is a new single-track event being held this fall around the same time as boco and Startup Week. This should be awesome!

I’m excited to start checking out some of these events and meetups, and will hopefully meet some new Boulder people along the way. Let me know if you have anything to add to the list!

UPDATE: If you’re interested in learning Ruby, make sure to check out the hilarious _why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby

Code For America Boulder

by Andrew Hyde in Blog, Boulder Comments: 0

Don’t know if eveyrone saw but Boulder is a Code for America city this year!

They are looking for some help, and sent this over today:

Seeking web geek heroes. Code for America wants YOU to rebuild our country, one app at a time.

Code for America is now accepting applications for its 2011 fellows program. If you’re a developer, designer, product manager, data wrangler or researcher who wants to make a difference, this is your opportunity to build a new generation of Gov 2.0 apps to make city governments work better.

CfA fellows get a crash course in how cities work, mentorship and networking with the top names in tech and government, and a platform to launch companies and careers that will bring long-term innovation to the public sector. They also get a living-wage stipend, travel expenses, and healthcare for the year. Most of all, they get the chance to be heroes.

Applications are due August 15th, 2010. Please see
codeforamerica.org/fellows for details.

Ignite 11: Backflip To The Future

by Justin Crawford in Blog, Boulder Comments: 2

If you missed Ignite 11 last night, picture this: cool evening air breezing through the open doors of a sold-out Chautauqua Auditorium; bright dusk showing between planks in the walls; the entire structure buzzing with an eager audience primed with tasty beer. The lights dim. Andrew Hyde taking the stage to fire up the largest Ignite in the world.

DSC_0318

Consider the history of the place: Built in 1898 to house the Colorado Chautauqua’s first season, the building has been in continuous use since then. From its earliest days it hosted all manner of cultural exhibitions, music and silent films and traveling speakers. Lectures covered “current events, travel and stories, often with a comedic twist.”

The crowds attending early Chautauquas came there to participate in civic life. They came to discuss “great ideas, new ideas, and issues of public concern.”. They came for authentic, in-person encounters with their neighbors and with the great minds of the day. They came for community.

Ignite 11

But the twentieth century charged ahead. Our cars, radios, and televisions made those early meetups seem quaint. The stage moved into our living rooms. Our neighbors could hardly compete with professional entertainers. Our local dialog was downright provincial compared with the great national conversation. Lucrative industries grew around the packaging and transcontinental distribution of cultural experiences. Many great things came to be; and, quietly, when we weren’t paying attention, many of the Chautauquas disappeared.

Well, we all know the rest of the story. The century turned. What was old is new again. Countless communities of interest have awakened for the first time, and our old geographic communities are shining through the dust of neglect. Inexpensive technology tools have reminded us that we have a voice — a beautiful voice. Our words, music and art are important again. Our neighbors are interesting again.

So: Andrew took the stage at Colorado’s Chautauqua Auditorium to fire up the largest Ignite in the world. The lights dimmed. The old building breathed with summer evening air. Bright lines of sky connected over us like a luminous web.

Of all the many Chautauquas once operating in the U.S., only a handful have survived through the decades, including the one perched in the park above Boulder. And there we were last night with our travel stories, our comical twists, our music. Our great ideas, our new ideas, our issues of public concern. Our local breweries. Our backflips. Our homegrown scene.

DSC_0428

This is just the beginning. It’s good to be back.

The Best Yet – Ignite Boulder 11


Having just gotten home from Ignite Boulder 11, I feel compelled to borrow a line from one of my daughter’s favorite books: “Wow!  That is all I can say.  Wow!’” (Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, if you must know).  Shortly after IB 10, Andrew Hyde, the driving force behind the event’s huge growth, felt that Ignite Boulder had plateaued, despite the fact that it had become the largest Ignite in the world.  After tonight, I feel confident that he has changed his mind.  I sure have.

When Andrew wrote that post, I agreed – it felt like Ignite Boulder was leveling off.  I wrote a lengthly comment, carefully outlining all of the things from prior Ignites that were now missing from the last two and suggesting ways to recreate them.  I never did publish it.  At the end of the day, I just couldn’t write anything that didn’t sound like a “I knew the band before they became popular” kind of a thing.

Tonight’s event wasn’t awesome because it was like the early Ignites (nor was it awesome because the presenters use the word “awesome” so many times), it had an awesomeness (it’s contagious) all its own.

First of all, there’s the change in venue.  Chautauqua and what it offered was amazing.  There was the pre-show barbecue next to the auditorium and the families picnicking out on the grass.  My wife and I chose to sit on the porch of the Dining Hall, which is always a treat.  Throw in a little sunshine, free beer, and the Flatirons as a backdrop, and you’ve already got yourself a winner.  The auditorium itself was beautiful, an all-wood building with giant doors opened to a nice breeze.  When it got darker, a bit of light peaked through the slats in the walls.  I really look forward to TEDxBoulder, if for no other reason than to be in that building again.

The speakers…yes, the speakers – the best bunch from top to bottom that I’ve seen.  Ef Rodriguez warmed things up with his usual charm, and Anna Sawyer immediately followed with the crowd pleasing How to Marry the Rich, a practical guide to marrying up.  My personal favorite Spark of the night was Josh Fraser’s Snakes and Staircases, which taught me that vending machine deaths are a very real risk and that Scottish accents are very persuasive.  The 14th and final slide deck of the evening, Justin Crowe‘s Modulate Your Life: High Fives & Livin’ On A Prayer, had 1,300+ of us high fiving and belting out the Bon Jovi chorus together to end things just so.

Andrew and I were wrong.  Ignite Boulder just keeps getting better, and there’s plenty of room to grow from here.

Startup Review: ADstruc


ADstrucI had the pleasure of meeting with John and Josh from ADstruc last week. Their company is a Boulder Summer 2010 TechStars team hailing from New York City. We talked about their experience so far in Boulder this summer, what’s been happening at TechStars, and some other general tidbits.

The Team

Both John and Josh are Midwesterners born and raised. John grew up in Michigan and attended college in Maryland. A prolific amateur ping-pong player, he recently won a tournament while back in NYC and will be playing in France sometime this summer. Josh is an Ohioan turned big city guy. He went to undergrad in Ohio and law school in Florida after a stint as a professional drummer. What little free time he has these days is spent prepping for his wedding later this summer.

The Business

ADstruc is an online buying platform in the form of an auction and listing based marketplace with the goal of improving the profitability of buying and selling outdoor advertising. John and Josh recently worked together at a large brand licensing agency and John got involved in outdoor advertising while running his own consulting gig on the side. Outdoor advertising, also known as OOH (out of home) advertising to industry professionals, is a massive market at around $6B annually. In terms of competition, both John and Josh acknowledged that it exists but view it in a very healthy way – as validation of their market and a benchmark to improve upon.

The Moves

We touched on two specific topics during the discussion that relate to their potential for success. They were timing and customer development. After developing ADstruc and speaking with customers for a few months, coupled with the TechStars opportunity, John and Josh realized it was time to quit their jobs and pursue ADstruc full time. By working with customers from the beginning, they were assured that they were building a product that the outdoor advertising industry wanted and would pay for.

On Techstars and Mentors

So far, they have both been blown away by their whirlwind experience at TechStars, especially in terms of the “invaluable mentor feedback” and interaction between teams. During the mentor dating period, ADstruc was working along with the other teams to find people who have useful input and connections to help their companies grow. One of the best mentor presentations for them was by Eric Ries on customer development as it related so much to what they were already doing.

As far as the environment in the Bunker goes, John and Josh both attribute a lot of their progress so far this summer to the wealth of knowledge being shared between teams. They’re helping people out with their sales experience and getting tons of knowledge drops from others on solving technical and user interface problems and questions.

On Boulder

According to them, being in Boulder this summer has helped them immeasurably. Getting away from the go-go-go atmosphere of the Big Apple has allowed them time to focus as well as “… given us the opportunity to relax, take a break from our usual responsibilities, and think about the answer to questions twice. Not to mention the relatively cheap rent, comfortable lifestyle, and clean air.”

Some Other Quotes And Tidbits

  • “Without a program such as TechStars, starting a company as a first time entrepreneur, even in New York City, is like starting a company in Alaska” – John
  • “We’d be crazy to not try to bring some of the community aspect of TechStars and Boulder back to NYC” – Josh
  • Everlater has been really inspirational to them as they go through TechStars and learn what they should be capitalizing on while in the program
  • “Josh and I are the only two people in TechStars this summer with Blackberries” – John
  • Blue is both John and Josh’s favorite color

If you get a chance to meet these guys this summer in Boulder or later in New York, take it. They’re funny, skilled, and out there making waves.

Resource Roundup: Boulder SBDC


Earlier this week Ryan Cook did a great job of mapping out the Boulder entrepreneurial community to give us an idea of the breadth and depth of the resources that are available to it.  I thought I’d highlight one or two of them every now and then in a series we’ll call Resource Roundup.

I’ll get us started with the Boulder Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  DISCLOSURE: I’m employed by the Boulder SBDC.  Hey, start with what you know (and I’m a little short on time this week).  It’s a non-profit economic development organization backed by the SBA, Boulder Chamber, City of Boulder, and slew of other sponsors, designed to help plan, launch, and grow businesses throughout Boulder County.  Clients include your favorite retailer on Pearl Street to the nanotechnology startup you’ve never heard of.

The Boulder SBDC offers inexpensive workshops, free and confidential one-on-one consultations, and connections to other valuable resources to entrepreneurs and businesses.  This organization is a great place for general business needs: understanding financials, developing a business plan, conducting market research, pursuing loans, and more.  This is especially the case for any of you who don’t quite feel ready to go out to pitch to investors or want to learn more about business fundementals.  One of its strengths is that most of its employees, instructors, and consultants are or have been entrepreneurs themselves (100% of them these days).

The key to getting the most out of the Boulder SBDC is to be proactive and to understand that it can’t do the heavy lifting for you.  The center handles a huge volume of requests for one-on-one consulting and serves the needs of a wide variety of businesses, so expect the burden to be on you to get things done.   Another thing to note is that while many of its instructors and consultants are experienced attorneys, CPAs, and the like, the Boulder SBDC is not designed to be a replacement for hiring professional services providers.

By the way, if you’re looking for some pointers on how to land your first investor, you may want to check out How to Pitch an Angel, which is coming up next Tuesday the 22nd.  At the end of the event, a few brave souls will be pitching to a panel of angels to get feedback for all to see and learn from.

With that said, the Boulder SBDC has quite a bit to offer.  To find out how they may help address your specific needs:

Boulder SBDC
2440 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 442-1475 x2
bouldersbdc.com | @BoulderSBDC

In future Resource Roundups, I’ll highlight some of the other events and organizations that support the Boulder entrepreneurial community.

Boulder Entrepreneur Community


Fiona Schlachter had the excellent idea of coming up with a map of Boulder’s entrepreneurial community to show relations and give some context to events, foundations, groups, etc. that we may have heard about but not known what they were.

Check it out and comment if you have any updates/changes or additions. Also, if you feel compelled to style this to look a little bit better, let us know that as well!

Thoughts from Alex White at Next Big Sound


Last week I had the chance to sit down with Alex White, CEO of Next Big Sound. We spent a few minutes talking about the bootstrap stage of Next Big Sound, its trek through Tech Stars and the year following.

Next Big Sound started during some rough economic times which almost forced the close of the company just before it was accepted into Tech Stars.

“I quit my job the same week as a major market crash,” said White.

The first year of Next Big Sound consisted of its three founders working out of a house in Chicago, where White slept on a couch for several months during the first major iteration of NBS. Prior to its current model, White described Next Big Sound as a “fantasy sports league for the music industry.”

“Each of us were continually fascinated with the question of ‘How does a band become famous?’”

The way by which NBS tried to answer that question changed dramatically during the company’s time at Tech Stars. Shortly before closing the company, acceptance into Tech Stars gave White and his team “a second chance at life” to reinvent how Next Big Sound would approach the music industry.

Shortly after acceptance into the tech startup accelerator, Next Big Sound dumped its old model and spent several weeks contemplating and ideating a new business model, this time focused on providing data and analytics to music industry professionals.

The free version of the new software started collecting data just 5 weeks into the 13 week Tech Stars program last year. Since then, NBS has grown to track  more than 700,000 online artist profiles which have generated more than a billion unique data points. Subscribers can get weekly notifications reporting on the online activity surrounding specific band profiles.

“When we started, we wanted to reverse engineer the billboard charts, but you just can’t go back in time.”

Now with a full year’s worth of data under its belt and a growing list of online platforms, NBS might get its wish.

“We’ve seen bands go from 50 plays a day to over 500,000 in that time.”

Band managers, producers and other industry professionals interested in “the why” of such quick growth can subscribe to Next Big Sound Premiere, a music analytics software service which gives context to the data.

Going forward, White looks to more data and continually increasing user involvement to drive success.

“We want to solidify our place as the standard of music industry data.”

As quickly as they’ve gathered data sources and a backlog of online social media activity, they might do just that.