There’s never been a better time for tech in Colorado
A growing tech boom is starting to bring some of the biggest companies in the world to Colorado. Think Google, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. The Front Range is experiencing a “tech real estate gold rush.” According to the Colorado Tech Book 2018, “At least 61 tech companies expanded their presence and 22 tech companies opened new offices in the state over the past year, all looking to capitalize on Colorado’s deepening talent pool and inclusive entrepreneurial network.”
Colorado tech companies are growing like crazy and are beginning to suck up commercial space. We are also seeing a surplus of tech workers bouncing from startups to established companies. The Front Range affords tech companies lower employee wages compared to the sky-high wages demanded in major established tech hubs like San Francisco, Seattle, or Los Angeles. Rent is also much cheaper in Colorado, which makes talent from the Bay Area and other top tech markets across the country where there is limited inventory, think they are getting a good deal on housing. Huge investments are being made in Colorado and job opportunities for workers with technical skills are flowing in.
A growing tech industry is often considered the ultimate sign of a healthy local economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of June 2018, the Colorado unemployment rate sits at 2.7%. This is in comparison to the 4.0% unemployment rate of the United States. “Venture Capital funding for Colorado tech companies increased 46% in 2017, and 2018 is on track to be a record year. Downtown Denver has the region’s fastest growing tech presence. And Boulder has the highest tech concentration. 33.4% of Boulder’s office space is now dedicated to tech firms” (Colorado Tech Book, 2018). A recent Boulder Innovation Venture Report found that on a per capita basis, Boulder is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to tech talent and opportunity.
The AboutBoulder.com Team had the chance to attend a tech panel at Boulder’s eTown Hall with Google Boulder’s Engineering Site Director Scott Green, and Twitter Boulder’s Senior Engineering Manager Whitney Rogers, and here’s what we learned about why exactly Twitter and Google decided to invest in Boulder and the strategic direction the companies are headed:
Twitter came to Boulder via and acquisition of Gnip in 2014, with the goal to serve data at a high level. Their business to business data analysis software aggregates and analyzes information from hundreds of millions of tweets sent each day and will be crucial to their growth and longevity. Twitter continues to struggle with growing their user base. The acquisition was an opportunity to purchase a start-up company, and with Google here first, there was already a solid talent pool in the engineering space. There are about 130-140 employees at Twitter’s Boulder office today, primarily living in Boulder, Louisville and Lafayette. A majority of the Boulder employees are from Boulder, with about 20% from the Bay Area. Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, is originally from Boulder.
The Boulder Twitter office is nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains with views of the Flatirons on one side and Mt. Sanitas on the other. Located at 1301 Walnut St., the Boulder Twitter office boasts 30,000 square feet. Whether you choose to drive into downtown Boulder or take public transport, Twitter will cover your parking or commuting expenses. In addition, lunch and an unlimited supply of caffeine are served at the Twitter office. A monthly gym membership stipend is also complementary, “but since we’re lucky enough to be so close to great ski resorts, many of us use it for ski passes.”
Google also came to Boulder via an acquisition of Sketch Up, and attracts talent nationwide: Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley. Google’s Boulder campus, located at 2930 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80301, “doesn’t do a five year plan. We are focused on projects, doing them well, and keeping those projects growing.” You’ll find over 1,000 people at the Boulder Google office, made up of 8-9 core Technical, Sales, and HR teams. Around 65% of people are from Colorado, and 35% of employees live outside of Boulder County. Of those who commute from Denver, Google encourages employees to get together and sign up for a Google van. Once they figure out where it’s stored, Google pays for gas and wifi, with the goal to cut down on single vehicle occupancy. 95 employees are a part of the program.
It didn’t take long for us to notice a common theme to why Boulder is such an attractive place to move nationwide tech operations to. Not only is it located close to The University of Colorado at Boulder and its top-notch engineering programs, there is a strong ecosystem of established tech companies and start-ups to poach talent from. The economy is quickly shifting to college towns that have talent, where many of the tech companies source talent from for internship programs and entry level roles.
The positive impact Google and Twitter are having on Boulder
Did you know Google is the one responsible for free wifi for anyone downtown and has made huge additions to the Museum of Boulder? As of October 18th, 2018, Google Boulder has begun offering in-person Community Office Hours for local small businesses, start-ups and non-profits. Get help on Google AdWords, Analytics, Shopping, and Apps. The Office Hours are bi-weekly on Thursday mornings.
Twitter has invested in the Boulder Chamber, donated computers to schools in need, and partners with Wish for Wheels, a non-profit that buys and builds bikes for underprivileged kids in boulder community.
Twitter and Google weigh in on the risks of technology following us everywhere
The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, has overhauled how businesses process and handle data in the UK and was designed to protect the personal information of individuals. Twitter is now asking themselves “Do we really need to store this? Is that the right thing by the user?” On Twitter, everything is meant to be public and shared. But, to help combat privacy issues, at any time a user can delete their Twitter account.
Google feels that data tracking can be lifesaving and have lots of utility. For example, the Boulder flood warning. The Google model is now targeted ads, instead of selling data. Google feels strongly the selling of data will be 100% taboo going forward.
And we wouldn’t dare leave an Amazon update out.
According to the Denver post, “Amazon is currently putting the finishing touches on a new 37,000 square feet office building near Pearl St. The office will house a surplus of engineers focused on advertising. The e-commerce powerhouse has created more than 1,500 warehouse and office jobs in what it refers to as the Denver-Boulder-Broomfield “tech hub” in the last two years, company officials say.”
The Future of Tech
Either we are on the right side of technology or the wrong side of it. The surplus of tech companies moving to Colorado will need to stay ahead of trends before they get disrupted by them. With social media at the forefront, in our pocket at all times, the future is within us. People turn to social media in times of joy, sadness, disaster and fear, and this will likely continue. On social media, everything is meant to be public and shared, and this creates pockets of community and allows connection that wasn’t possible twenty years ago.
As long as these tech companies can continue to implement good directional change: promote health, more transparency into who is posting (think US election ads, and not knowing who is sponsoring them), and increased data protection, there’s no limit on what we can accomplish as a society.