Galvanize Offers Unique Environment for Digital Age Startup Companies

By Joan Engebretson January 21, 2013

Galvanize, a Denver-based organization that calls itself a “start-up ecosystem,” believes it has the formula for making digital age startups successful.

“Our foundation is three Cs—capital, community and curriculum,” said Galvanize founder and managing director Jim Deters in an interview.

Deters has been an entrepreneur his whole life, building and selling tech companies. After making plans in 2011 to sell his last company, he opted to become an angel investor in his home town of Denver.

“You get popular quickly when you start writing checks,” Deters quipped. And as people came to him, he realized there were a lot of people in Denver with great ideas for companies – and he believed they could benefit from regular contact with one another.

“I kept using the term ‘galvanize,’” said Deters. Hence the name for his organization. And thus was born the idea of creating a high-tech workspace that could be shared by multiple start-ups who would have the opportunity to interact regularly with one another.

A few months ago, Deters was able to make that vision a reality as more than 40 companies employing a total of 165 people moved into new office space Deters had created in downtown Denver. Deters’ investment arm has provided funding for some but not all of the companies housed in the Galvanize building, which include companies pursuing opportunities in Internet commerce, mobile apps and the like.

Deters said it’s all about “how to be more meaningful to the community than just writing a check to these companies.”

Some tenants are individual people who come in to use shared space on a first-come, first-serve basis, while others commit to a few dedicated desks and more established startups opt for suites that can accommodate as many as 40 people. Whichever option they choose, tenants get a turnkey solution that includes amenities such as VoIP phones with free national calling, shared printers and copiers and high-speed network connectivity. There’s even a café in the building, appropriately named “Gather.”

The “secret sauce,” Deters said, is community and “guys like me helping build the next generation.”

That’s where the curriculum part comes in. Beginning in a few weeks, Galvanize partners such as data center, cloud computing and managed service provider ViaWest will teach a six-month intensive web development program they have created dubbed “gSchool.” Backers are so confident in what they’ve created that they’re guaranteeing a job paying at least $50,000 a year to anyone who completes the program.

Not surprisingly there were more than 200 applicants for 24 spots.

Other Galvanize partners include Silicon Valley Bank and TriNet, a provider of human resource services. Deters said partners such as these can benefit from working with Galvanize tenants because it can help them to learn “how to build products to resonate with this community” and “help identify markets and opportunities.”

ViaWest waives certain service charges for Galvanize tenants that use the ViaWest cloud, noted Margie Sims, ViaWest regional general manager.

“If startups are successful, we’ll grow with them, said Sims. “If we can provide a value-add to a startup organization that helps them grow their business, you have a customer for life.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Editor

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