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How A Boulder Tech Innovator Stays Online While Going Off-Grid

Boulder is known for its vibrant tech scene, where entrepreneurs and innovators create cutting-edge solutions for the world’s problems. But what happens when we need to step out and unplug?

Meet Ara Howard, founder of Dojo4, one of Boulder’s first start-up software companies, which recently closed its doors after nearly 15 years of success. Ara (pronounced Ae-Rah) is not your typical tech mogul. He grew up off-grid in Palmer, Alaska, where he learned to appreciate the beauty of art, nature, and “honest, simple living.”

Howard (left), co-founder of one of Boulder’s first start-up tech companies, Dojo4, grew up off-grid in Palmer, Alaska, where he learned to appreciate the beauty of art, nature, and “honest, simple, living.”

From Off-Grid To Open-Source

Howard began his career as one of Boulder’s many pro cyclers until a high-speed collision on Flagstaff prompted him to find a vocation he could pursue even if rendered immobile. He got into tech as a research associate at CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, where he became passionate about using technology for good.

In 2010, Howard branched into Boulder’s then-nascent start-up scene and founded Dojo4 with three other members of the local tech community. Dedicated to socially responsible technology, Dojo4 specialized in building web and mobile applications with social impact. They worked with clients such as Greenpeace, Girl Effect, and UNICEF, among others. Under the leadership of CEO and co-founder Corey Kohn, they became B corp-certified and cooperatively owned. Alongside this, Howard demonstrated unwavering loyalty to the Open-Source Community, actively contributing to many open-source projects and earning a prestigious Ruby Hero Award in 2014 for his impactful work.

 

Howard’s quest for an off-grid landing pad took him through Moab to Mt. Zion National Park before heading South through Flagstaff and Sedona, finally landing in the small sunny town of Bisbee, Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Staying Online While Going Off-Grid 

More recently, Howard decided to take some time for self-reflection and self-growth and opted to step outside of Boulder to reconnect with his rustic roots. But how does a tech mogul re-connect with his off-grid origins?

Howard packed up his 2005 Suburban and headed South, landing in Bisbee, Arizona, where he was welcomed by a small off-grid artist’s commune called MahaVia. MahaVia is a place where people live in harmony with nature and practice sustainable living. They grow their own food, build their own shelters, and use solar power for electricity. They also have a large creative community, where they make music, art, and dance together.

   

  

MahaVia, a small artist’s commune in Bisbee, Arizona, provides Howard with a sunny off-grid landing that complements his online presence.

Innovating Tech Off-Grid

Howard splits his time between working on his tech projects and helping out with the daily tasks at Mahavia. “I find a lot of value in using my body physically,” Howard says, “whether that means pedaling 10 miles into town for Wi-Fi or methodically mixing mud and straw (cob) for the new bathhouse we’re building.”

While his off-grid approach may seem counterintuitive, Howard finds that the balance between the digital and the natural worlds keeps him happy and healthy.

  

Howard’s day flows from morning movement on his bicycle (featured left at the U.S.-Mexico border wall) to a day of online work in town capped off by off-grid music and merriment at MahaVia.

Off-Grid Life; On-Line Ethos

Despite his off-grid respite, Howard assures us he has not given up on tech; in fact, quite the opposite.

Howard recently joined forces with fellow outside-the-box innovators Don Springer, Tim WoltersBrad Warkins, and Hardy Kalisher to form Ethos Collective, a C-Suite for-hire power tech team that offers business consulting services to business owners and senior leaders seeking to innovate their fields.

In alignment with Howard’s life motto, Ethos Collective embodies the belief that true growth comes from exploration and adversity. And just as Howard has done in his own life, Ethos aims to blaze its trail with brilliance.

 

  

Ethos Collective’s, C-Suite for-hire power tech team includes powerhouse tech trailblazers Don Springer, Tim Wolters, Hardy Kalisher, and Brad Warkins (listed clockwise from upper left).

Tech Innovator, Trail Blazer, and Boulder Cliché

“I don’t think I’m that unique in what I’m doing,” Howard says. And it’s true – many folks in Boulder flock here because it offers a way to work at the cutting edge of technology while also staying connected to movement, nature, and simpler times.

“If anything, I’d say I’ve maybe wandered a bit farther off the beaten path than most, but that tends to be my MO,” Howard says. Overall, Howard’s story provides a living example of how one can be a tech innovator and powerhouse while also unplugging and finding work/life balance. He shows us that there is more than one way to be successful and fulfilled and that sometimes the best way to stay online is to go off-grid.

 white car near bonfire during night time

“Boulder – [with] its trails and its tech scene – will always be home in my heart,” Howard says. He and his partner maintain a small tiny home near his local coffee shop, Boxcar Roasters. This minimalist way of living enables Howard to come and go as he pleases while continuing to collaborate with his colleagues and friends. But Howard has found and rekindled his love for off-grid living. He says he has found his magic way, or mystic path, as MahaVia translates, and ever an innovator, Howard plans to blaze the path he is on.

Dr. Brenna Bray, a local health and wellness coach, stress researcher, associate professor, and avid ultra-marathon mountain runner, holds PhDs in Biomedical Science, Neuroscience, and Complementary and Integrative Health. Her journey through an eating disorder fuels her dedication to coaching, merging personal experiences with scientific expertise. Through her practice, Bray empowers clients to access and harness their innate healing abilities and achieve remarkable health and wellness transformations. Committed to community engagement and holistic well-being, Dr. Bray shapes a brighter, healthier future for all. Learn more about Dr. Bray at www.brennabray.com.

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