Go Code Colorado is an annual app and business challenge created by the Secretary of State’s office. First held in 2014, Go Code Colorado centers on a challenge weekend in five locations across the state. The goal is to leverage public data for business value.
In the midst of finding that value in public data, Go Code Colorado has also built community, the kind of community that intrinsically occurs when people with common values and skills–competitors, volunteers, mentors and sponsors–create a critical mass.
These individuals understand that data is the infrastructure of the digital age, and value public data as an asset. They are lifelong learners. And they’re all driven to build a stronger Colorado.
Since Go Code Colorado’s inception, the competition has included a mentor framework, with access to dozens of experts, business leaders, and tech entrepreneur heavyweights. Mentor Weekend is like a micro-accelerator in itself. And for some, has become reason enough to compete.
After all, who wouldn’t want to rub shoulders with 50 or so of Colorado’s best in the business, legal, and tech community? Who wouldn’t want to mingle among been-there-done-that tech entrepreneurs who want to share their successes and failures with other innovators?
Kathy Keating has been a central member of this event across the years. She served as a mentor liaison in 2014, pairing mentors from the community with finalists who emerge from Challenge Weekend. As a two-time entrepreneur and product strategist who’s spent 25 years dedicated to a career of complex software applications and collaborative cultures, Kathy was the perfect volunteer for Go Code Colorado and its teams of would-be launchers.
Keating will tell you that she has participated in multiple hackathons, but finds their lack of structure and support doesn’t end up challenging people beyond the event. Which is why she went all-in with Go Code Colorado.
“Go Code Colorado transforms lives. It forces technologists to face the entrepreneurial aspect of their project, and they must then decide where their passions truly lie. That’s an invaluable experience for anyone–at any age.”
A Colorado Collaboration
Keating met Cheryl Kellond at Mentor Weekend in Go Code Colorado’s second year. Both pitch coaches, they quickly found themselves finishing each other’s sentences. A friendship grew and two years later, they launched Apostrophe (formerly Airstream Healthcare), an early stage startup that helps self-insured employers save 40 percent on healthcare costs.
Apostrophe is now a Techstars 2017 alum, with 20 employers on the Apostrophe healthcare plan. They emerged from Techstars with over $1.15 million in investments, a sign that Apostrophe is clearly a darling in the Colorado startup scene.
And it isn’t just Kathy and Cheryl’s co-founder partnership that was sparked through Go Code Colorado. They eventually hired from the Go Code Colorado talent pool.
“Half of our team is connected through Go Code,” says Kellond. “None of us came there looking for our next thing, but we met our next people there.”
Results That Reach Beyond Numbers
In addition to business viability and success, this entrepreneurial collaboration has broader, long-term implications and impact for the state of Colorado.
“Go Code Colorado is a terrific example of our regional culture, a place where entrepreneurs instinctively live by a law of abundance, rather than scarcity. They tend to think: If this data is valuable to me, how can I make it valuable to other people?”
“Go Code Colorado is the state’s way of being a good corporate citizen. By sharing their information, everybody wins.”
The Power of Getting Involved
Go Code Colorado provides seeds for not only successful collaborations, but for the evolution of our state’s leaders and business owners. But that only happens when the community gets involved.
“Anyone in a management role really needs to be out there mentoring,” says Keating. “ It’s a core leadership skill. My experience with Go Code Colorado changed me. I hope to keep contributing.”
Go Code Colorado, still the only event of its kind amidst state government, will launch its fifth competition in 2018.