Boulder Reinvented: Mix the Start-Up Energy of Silicon Valley with the Craftiness of Portland, and You've Got the New Most-Inspired Town in the West

By Chamberlain, Jess | Sunset, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Boulder Reinvented: Mix the Start-Up Energy of Silicon Valley with the Craftiness of Portland, and You've Got the New Most-Inspired Town in the West


Chamberlain, Jess, Sunset


IT TAKES ONLY eight minutes to see that something big is happening in Boulder, Colorado. That's about how Long it takes to pedal through downtown--from your energy-bar stock-up at Whole Foods Market toward the Flatirons--assuming you can make it without stopping. Which is unlikely these days. As you cruise along Pearl Street east of the Mall on a cherry red ride from B-cycle, Boulder's nonprofit bike-sharing system, every other storefront begs you to slam on the brakes: an artisanal cheese shop, coffee roaster, craft-driven bar, DIY workshop selling handmade everything, and on and on, until every new stop leads to the question: Is this the next Portiandia?

Perhaps, but one with an overachieving edge. Most people don't believe you can be the best in advertising, tech, or anything else unless you're in a big city like New York or San Francisco," says Alex Bogusky, who moved here from Miami to establish a Boulder branch of his advertising firm, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, in 2006. (He also helped found B-cycle, now in is cities nationwide.) "Boulder doesn't have that attitude. Boulder expects that the hottest restaurant in the country will be here."

This little big town of just under loo,000 people attracts a certain type, says Dave Schiff, chief creative officer of Made, an online retailer and marketing agency that represents companies making products domestically. "Both venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are pulled here for the lifestyle, which means VC money is in the same place as start-ups," Schiff says. "So this place becomes a self-perpetuating machine." One where business execs who've traded the big city for the mountains mingle with retired pro athletes looking to apply their hard-training spirit to new business ventures--and where business meetings happen on bikes.

The new Boulder is part locavore-spirited Portland, part mini start-up-driven Silicon Valley. The Boulder Startup Week convention began in 2010 with about 1,300 attendees, and this year grew to more than 3,000. …

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