Colorado Springs City Councilor Tom Strand addresses the crowd at Epicentral Coworking during the local launch of Go Code Colorado on March 2.

During the Colorado Springs launch of Go Code Colorado — a statewide challenge in which developers and entrepreneurs form teams to create apps using public data — organizers and participants brainstormed about what problems they might set out to solve.

“Create an app that uses public data to solve a problem for business decision makers,” said Program Manager Andrew Cole.

That charge paraphrases the mission statement of Go Code, a program of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office that kicked off its fourth consecutive year during a statewide launch event last month in Denver. On March 2, Epicentral Coworking in downtown Colorado Springs (one of five participating cities, including Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Durango) hosted the city’s local kickoff event.

The event served as a sort of “ideation” workshop for the dozens of locals looking to form teams to compete in this year’s challenge.

“The best teams that form are diverse,” said Michelle Parvinrouh, executive director of Peak Startup and a local Go Code organizer. “You only need one coder on each team — although two is better. I don’t want to scare anyone off, because every team needs a marketing person, or someone who can strategize, or someone that can help through the validation process. … We need diversity.”

After a brief introduction by Parvinrouh and Cole, a panel of local business and community leaders led the brainstorming session and touched on issues they’ve faced — and how Go Coders might help solve them.

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“I don’t know how to measure my impact, especially the economic impact of Epicentral,” said Lisa Tessarowicz, the owner of the coworking space. “I also find it difficult to measure the value that Epicentral can provide for its members.”

Hannah Parsons, chief economic development officer for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, said that when she speaks with businesses looking to locate in the city, they consistently ask her two questions:

  • What are the financial incentives from city, state and county?
  • And do you have the workforce in my industry to support my locating there and growing?

Tom Strand, an at-large member of the Colorado Springs City Council, said that “data information is critical to our city council … and it really helps us formulate decisions in order to try to do the best we can for our community.”

“Businesses come to us and they make their decisions on where to locate and what to do based on data,” he said. “It’s critical to have statistical information for our clients, who are oftentimes small business owners with very little resources trying to make the best decisions they can while trying to open their small businesses. … This stuff is critical, so that small business owners don’t waste the resources that are already so limited — and we need to help them with as much information and data as we possibly can.”

Jonathan Liebert, CEO and executive director of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, said that he would love to see Go Code teams address the issue of social impact business, which has become a primary focus for the organization.

“I need to know how many of those businesses are in our community,” Liebert said. “Unlike a nonprofit or for-profit, I can’t just go to the Secretary of State’s office and figure out who they are. … So we need to map this out and determine how many of these organizations are actually in our town. Once we first figure out how many are here … we want to then let people know they exist and what they do. Then we also need to be able to map out their economic benefit and how many jobs they create.”

Jay Anderson, a citizen engagement specialist for the City of Colorado Springs, said that he would like to see locals be able to better access public data in order to become more involved in civic matters.

“We’re always trying to figure out how the community feels, and my responsibility is to manage some of the tools that do that,” Anderson said. “A lot of our public processes are suffering from a lack of participation, so if there were a way to leverage public data about how people operate in the economy or where they’re located … we could stand a chance to get better public participation.”

Cole said that Go Code participants can use these real-world challenges to inform the formation of their teams and the creation of their concepts.

Teams will be able to work on their apps until local challenge weekend on April 7-9, when they will compete for the Colorado Springs title. The two winning teams from each participating city will then go through a phase of more development and mentorship before the statewide competition in Denver on May 24.

“My promise to you is that if you participate in Go Code Colorado, it will be worth your time weather you win or you lose,” Cole said. “I can say that with a straight face.”

For more information, visit gocode.colorado.gov.