I had the distinct privilege of being part of the inaugural Ambassadors class for Denver Startup Week (DSW). The DSW Ambassadors program was a 3-day all-expenses-paid trip where out-of-town entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technical folks got the opportunity to visit Denver and experience their startup ecosystem. Having never been to Denver, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and thankfully, I was selected to experience this vibrant city firsthand.

Stereotypically, when outsiders think of Denver, we think of ski resorts, a vibrant outdoor lifestyle, and of course, marijuana; Denver traditionally does not hold a reputation of being a technology hub like San Francisco or Chicago but in recent years, there have been rumors of it starting to establish itself as a real technology player. I am happy to report that these rumors are true: Denver is certainly establishing itself as a prime technology hub ripe with top talent.

As an Ambassador, I got the opportunity to visit 6 Denver companies that helped sponsor my class and talked with their business leaders. I learned the history of each company’s inception, their growing pains, and what they were excited about looking into the future. A number of themes/lessons persisted:

  1. As a business leader, exemplify your company’s values. If you set an unlimited vacation policy in hopes reduce employee burnout/turnover but never go on vacation, neither will your employees. Be the example for your company
  2. Taking a longer time to hire the right employee is a better return on investment than rushing to hire someone to fill a role. The amount of damage that a poor hire can wreak on your company can be immeasurable.
  3. Your company’s success will likely depend on how well your team members can work with each other and communicate effectively. High emotional IQ is often a greater indicator of future successes than a high amount of technical talent.

Personally, the most welcome surprise of attending DSW was finding out how warm Denverites were and and how they truly wanted outsiders to join their community. While many people and cities pay lip service to welcoming others to their hometowns, I actually received personal phone numbers from folks who told me to call them if I needed help moving. The entire city was a warm and inviting place with a high emphasis on helping their fellow community member – fellowship takes precedence over the bottom line. I would highly recommend Denver as a city to start any company – the top technical talent, beauty of the landscape, and community-driven people make it second to none.