Springs startup community sees steady growth


Michelle Parvinrouh, executive director of Peak Startup, works with entrepreneur Zack Robinson, owner of Test Geek, an SAT and ACT tutoring business, at Epicentral Coworking on Tejon Street.

Colorado Springs is often compared to larger cities like Denver, leaving some aspiring entrepreneurs feeling like the opportunities may be more abundant elsewhere.

But with resources like Peak Startup, a local nonprofit that hosts more than 100 events a year for entrepreneurs, it is possible to see success with hard work.

This year, Colorado Springs saw a major win for its startup community. In December, KidReports, a software developer that launched in Colorado Springs in 2012, was acquired by an Oregon-based company.

More startups were founded in 2017 in Colorado Springs than in previous years, according to Michelle Parvinrouh, executive director for Peak Startup, and the city has a variety of resources for aspiring entrepreneurs, such as the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, UCCS and the QUAD Innovation Partnership in addition to Peak Startup.

In 2017, Peak Startup put on events of all sizes to help entrepreneurs build their businesses.

Continuing from 2016, Startup Week provided entrepreneurs with workshops for different stages in creating a business, as well as Startup Weekend. Both gave attendees the opportunity to network, pitch ideas and learn what it takes to create a successful startup. In November, Peak Startup also mourned the loss of businesses in the startup community with its third annual Business Wake, where guests said goodbye to Urban Mobile Health, GetOutfitted, Nosh, Bahuka, Augsense, Space Mission and Avium — almost all of which were founded and operated in Colorado Springs.

Many of Peak Startup’s events this year were hosted out of Epicentral Coworking downtown, where Go Code Colorado launched one of its events in March challenging teams of developers and entrepreneurs to create an app using public data to solve problems.

To help aspiring innovation and business students, startup community members presented an informational panel at UCCS in December, and the QUAD Innovation Partnership hosted groups of students from UCCS, Pikes Peak Community College, Colorado College and the Air Force Academy to create their own startups helping serve needs in the community.

Peak Startup continued to hold its reoccurring monthly and weekly events, such as Pitch Night, and in 2018, Colorado Springs will see its first startup accelerator, called Exponential Impact.

Michelle Parvinrouh, executive director, Peak Startup

What challenges did you see in the startup community this year? 

[Colorado Springs] is still so early in our evolution as a startup community, so people are still learning what it is — the benefits, why a community would want to support it from an economic development standpoint. It’s young in its existence. … We [also] don’t have a huge network of investors locally.

Beka Adair, assistant director, QUAD Innovation Partnership

Why are you optimistic about the startup community? 

I’m beginning to see a lot more momentum, more people trying it out, more people asking about it. More people are involved and that’s exciting. We’re starting to see successful [investor] exits. We’re seeing people going through the cycle and they reinvest. If they go through and exit successfully, they go back and are mentors, so we’re seeing that second wave.

Luke Hutchison, founder, Perfect Venue, Army captain 

What challenges did you see in the startup community this year? 

In a place like Denver, there’s just more stuff, more people, more things. A small community like Colorado Springs is not that big, however it’s still a very sizeable city. … There’s just less resources, less investors, less software developers, less people with experience — it’s just a smaller pool to choose from as opposed to a large city.