Mark Tegtmeier is a Colorado native, originally from the Denver area, who has been on a journey both geographically and entrepreneurially.
Tegtmeier’s family moved to San Diego, where he spent his high school years before relocating to Washington State to attend Seattle Pacific University. There he earned an undergraduate degree in Latin-American Studies and traveled to Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba in the summers, thinking he would go into overseas mission work.
Tegtmeier, 28, felt a pull toward business, however. He took a position at a dual-language elementary school in Albuquerque, N.M., and pursued freelance translating work. He was then offered a position with a branding agency in Bend, Ore., which was the catalyst to launch his entrepreneurial journey.
He eventually found himself back in Denver, working as a marketing director for a nursing home.
“I helped them rebrand and revamp their website,” he said. “I got deeper into the hands-on of web development. I had dabbled in website design while working in Bend.”
He launched his first freelance marketing agency and eventually took on a project with a nonprofit in Colorado Springs.
“I led them through two new site launches and a site redesign. [After] the three sites, I decided to step away to seek new projects and continue to grow,” he said. “I felt like if I wasn’t engaging new projects, I was going to become stagnant in my skill set.
“I was co-working out of Catalyst Campus, and I got connected with [the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization]. They do technology transfer from the military to private companies to license and commercialize. I helped with technology marketplace and website management. That’s when Studio Forza, my [software] development company, began.”
What’s the meaning behind Studio Forza?
‘Forza’ is the Italian word for ‘strength.’ When you are watching Italy in the World Cup — which, unfortunately, they didn’t qualify for … for the first time in 50-something years — [the fans] say, ‘Forza Italia!’ … ‘Strength Italy!’ I’m a dual citizen of Italy and the States. I’m an Italian citizen by ‘jure sanguinis’ — citizenship by blood.
What should Colorado Springs do to retain young professionals?
We should continue to cultivate the startup ecosystem. We have a very heavy Department of Defense-related industry [and] it feels somewhat limiting from a growth perspective. We’re overly dependent, and we need to diversify more. We need to bring in other industries so that we are a little more recession-proof. There’s definitely talent here, but I think there’s a lack of opportunity.
How are you involved in the community?
I’m a community organizer of 1 Million Cups. I was a mentor at Startup Weekend this year. I just finished helping a design course at the Air Force Academy. It was a semester-long project. I was with a team of cadets as a consultant and mentor. I also started the Springs Tech Slack channel; it’s an online community space for connecting [entrepreneurs].
What are you passionate about?
A big part is improving lives through design. That can take a number of forms. I started thinking about city design issues when I did TEDx. That explored, ‘How does design interact with our community?’ As a user experience designer, it’s thinking about experiences we have on a day-to-day basis. It’s not just about ‘How do we make a prettier screen?’ It’s about ‘How do we enhance somebody’s life?’
A lot of our interactions with tech have a lot more touch points other than the tech itself and the user. There’s a context, a thought process, goals, emotions and motivations that are all surrounding the interaction. The fields of psychology and sociology are both a huge part of the picture. I think about it in terms of a typical story arch. You have a protagonist who comes against an obstacle. A user’s journey is a foundational part of a user’s experience. The resolution is not always the obvious answer. Maybe there’s something much deeper that needs to be addressed.
What do you like about Colorado Springs?
It’s a great place to raise a family. I like that my kids have so much access to the outdoors and are able to have hiking as a form of entertainment. It’s also a tight-knit community that’s very supportive. It’s a great community for networking. I think there’s a lot of potential.