Business

10 Boulder startups we’re excited about

While San Francisco and New York get a lot of attention for their startup scenes, there are other cities around the U.S. that deserve some attention for the amazing companies they produce. One of the most notable is Boulder, Colo.

Boulder attracts startups and talent because it has a vibrant community that’s enthusiastic about tech, a small-town vibe that some people prefer to big cities, a wealth of outdoor activities, and a lower cost of living relative to some other tech hotspots. On top of that, it’s the home of prestigious accelerator program TechStars and major VC firm Foundry Group.

Foundry Group managing director and TechStars cofounder Brad Feld told VentureBeat that he considers Boulder the home of an “incredibly open and collaborative startup community.”

“[It] is lead by entrepreneurs, who have a long-term view, are inclusive of anyone who wants to engage, and we have a continual set of activities and events that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack,” Feld said via email.

Feld also notes that Boulder has an intense density of talent that makes the city unique.

“Boulder has an incredibly smart population — while small (100,000), it’s got an extraordinary entrepreneurial density (entrepreneurs + people working for startups) / total working population) in a tight geographic area,” Feld said. “As a result, there is a huge amount entrepreneurial activity per capita. Entrepreneurs here use a ‘give before you get’ mentality — we are willing to help anyone without an expectation of what we are going to get back in the short term. This creates a powerful long-term dynamic.”

With so many cool startups doing work in Boulder — and the city not getting enough attention — we decided to spotlight some of our favorites. We had many to choose from, so we focused on startups that are fiercely practical and innovative. So while agile development startup Rally Software and mobile game maker Backflip Studios didn’t make the list, that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly smart businesses.

Here are the 10 startups in Boulder we’re most excited about right now. Let us know in the comments what we missed.

epic-playground-mediagauge

Epic Playground

The importance of analytics has increased enormously over the past few years. With more data, you can make better decisions. Media companies and website administrators are especially hungry for data because they want to better understand their customers.

Epic Playground aims to be “the ChartBeat for media analytics.” Its Mediagauge tool can help companies measure the use of video across websites. You can know exactly how many people watched a video embedded on your site and how much of the video they watched.

“We want to be the go-to analytics service for media creators,” Epic Playground CEO Michael Sitarzewski told VentureBeat in October. “It’s important to know how many people on your page actually clicked the video or song on that page and how many times it is clicked.”

On top of measurement, the company wants to help media companies with high-level engagement. Let’s say people usually stop watching your video after two minutes. Soon, the company will let you send a message or advertisement at the perfect time (under two minutes in this case) in order to get people more engaged with your product.

Epic Playground graduated from the TechStars Cloud program in May and followed that by spending time with SoftLayer’s Catalyst program for mentoring startups. It has raised $925,000 to date from investors, including DFJ Mercury.

flixmaster

FlixMaster

FlixMaster wants to make enterprise-focused video creation and editing way easier. It offers a drag-and-drop editing platform that people can use for entertainment, educational, e-commerce, nonprofit, marketing, and customer-support purposes. You simply upload videos, build a project, share it, and then monitor it.

HBO used its technology recently to create an online experience for the new Cinemax series Banshee. And over the summer, USA Network used FlixMaster’s technology to power the web experience for Covert Affairs.

“Brands need to produce interactive video experiences that draw viewers in and keep them there,” FlixMaster CEO Erika Trautman said during its latest funding round. “And companies need to be able to produce those experiences at scale and at a reasonable cost. That’s what FlixMaster offers.”

The company recently raised $1.1 million from Golden Seeds, bringing its total raised to $2.2 million.

Twitter historical data

Gnip

Does your company need serious social analytics tools to keep track of Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms? Gnip knows you do.

Gnip got a big boost in attention when it launched its Historical PowerTrack for Twitter in September. That tool lets developers search, find, analyze, and compare every tweet ever written. While Twitter seems to be its biggest customer demand, Gnip also offers “firehose and filtered streams from dozens of sources,” including LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Google+.

The company has raised $6.6 million to date from Foundry Group, First Round Capital, SoftTech VC, and others.

mocavo-4M-ancestry-search

Mocavo

I would love to know a detailed and (maybe) rich history of my ancestors. When exactly did they come to the United States? How far back can I trace my history? What is the most interesting place my family came from? Mocavo might have the answers.

While Mocavo seems similar to Ancestry.com, it uses a powerful search engine and big data to help people connect the dots about their genealogy. It now claims to have “the largest genealogy search engine,” with names for more than six billion people in its index. On top of helping everyday folks piece together their histories, it also wants to assist genealogists with research.

The service’s promise has attracted $5 million to date from Foundry Group, Dave McClure, and others.

Precog Screenshot-1

Precog

“Big data” is a term we hear a lot in tech these days, and everyone wants a piece of it. Precog, one of the more interesting startups in the space, wants to make big data simpler and cheaper for app developers. Some folks have compared it to Twilio, a startup known for its love of APIs and enabling cloud-based communications.

“Precog allows companies to ask very deep statistical questions about their data easily, without having to rely on cumbersome big data infrastructures or use complex tools,” Precog CEO John De Goes told VentureBeat recently. “Our vision of redefining how data is captured, stored, and analyzed is a tremendous engineering challenge.”

Precog launched out of beta in September with a cloud-based platform for data warehousing and analysis. It also offers tools like the front-end analysis app LabCoat, and a layer-reporting app called ReportGrid.

The company has now raised more than $2 million from the likes of RTP Ventures, Resonate Venture Partners, and TechStars’ founder David Cohen.

sendgrid

SendGrid

One of the biggest names on this list is SendGrid, one of the fastest-growing startups in Boulder.

SendGrid focuses its efforts on cloud-based email infrastructure and management. It helps big-name customers like Pinterest, Airbnb, Twilio, Spotify, and Pandora send email to their customers. All those important emails like sign-up confirmations, shipping notifications, and “likes” are all handled by SendGrid’s service, making the lives of its clients easier.

“E-mail is not a fun thing to deal with,” SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin told us when it last raised funding. “We alleviate the pain of dealing with e-mail.”

The company has raised more than $27 million in total funding to date from investors like Bessemer Venture Partners, Foundry Group, Highway 12 Ventures, SoftTechVC, 500 Startups, and Bullet Time Ventures. It also has offices in London, Frankfurt, Denver, and Anaheim, Calif.

solidfire

SolidFire

Solid-state storage business SolidFire is another big name on this list, mostly because it has raised $37 million in funding since it was founded in 2009.

While SolidFire isn’t quite a cloud company, it often gets thrown in with the category because its ultimate goal is to help cloud providers by giving them killer solid-state drives (SSDs) and software. Using those superfast hard drives in turn can boost the performance and reliability of those services and help them win customers.

“Sometimes people label us a cloud company, but we’re really selling the systems to cloud providers,” CEO Dave Wright told VentureBeat in November. “We’re an infrastructure company at the end of the day.”

SolidFire launched out of beta recently and is seeing a lot of interest from infrastructure-as-a-service providers.

ss-soccer

TeamSnap

While trying to come up with solutions to help team sports organize themselves might seem like a small problem, it’s actually quite huge. Countless leagues and coaches around the world need software to track their teams’ schedules, rosters, and give them a place to connect.

Enter TeamSnap, which recently raised $2.75 million in fresh funding on the strength of its premise. It now supports nearly every sport you can think of and even has a large number of nonsports organizations using its tools. TeamSnap has customers in 170 countries.

trada

Trada

Trada offers up what it labels a “crowdsourced online advertising services marketplace.” Basically, it puts more than 2,000 online ad experts to work for companies’ ad campaigns. The experts do the hard work of the campaign setup, buildout, research, and optimization but your company can still track the process.

“These businesses and their budgets require intuition, human ideas,” told AdWeek during its last funding round. “And [we believed] that a group of people working on these campaigns, first starting in the search side of the world, could end up getting better results than anyone individual[ly].”

The company has collected $17 million to date from Foundry Group, Google Ventures, and other investors.

ubooly

Ubooly

Yes, the name Ubooly sounds a bit silly, and the cute doll it offers looks like a goofball. But Ubooly’s product and the way it’s helping children learn are actually quite smart and serious.

Ubooly offers a toy doll for $30. After you buy it, you place an iPhone or iPod touch into the doll, giving it a “face.” Turn on the Ubooly app and the doll comes to life with interactive games, puzzles, and jokes.

Ubooly seems like a brilliant idea in a world where we increasingly tech our children learn through digital tools. An old iPhone or iPod touch can easily become Ubooly’s brain and help get your child to learn and solve problems. Just think about all those folks who have an old iOS device laying around that could become a platform for their child’s education.

Ubooly graduated from TechStars in August 2011 and has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from investors including SoftTech VC, 500 Startups, and PJM Advisors.

Boulder Downtown photo via DowntownBoulder.com, Ancestry photo via Shutterstock, Green energy image via Shutterstock


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