Five years of Go Code Colorado in Grand Junction! Wow! I really can’t believe we’re here. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but if you know the story of Grand Junction, LAUNCH, Go Code Colorado and tech entrepreneurship in Western Colorado, you understand. Let’s take a little look back.
Some of you know the tale: When I moved to Grand Junction from Denver in 2013, I had some serious doubts. I’m personally uncomfortable in any city with less than a million people and, on top of that, moving to Grand Junction felt a little like jumping into the past—especially regarding a high-tech culture, which is the industry I work in. As I made friends, we began to talk more about the state of the entrepreneurial economy in Grand Junction and how there was no startup culture to speak of. We’d chat about different ideas to try and change that, but we didn’t really have anything to be the catalyst for such an effort.
Then one day in late 2014, Brian Watson asked me to attend a meeting with him about this thing called Go Code Colorado at the GJ Business Incubator. I don’t know about Brian, but I had no idea what this was even about. When we showed up we learned what we already knew: the lack of startup culture in Grand Junction had been a barrier to their efforts to hold an event in Western Colorado.
If you don’t know about how Go Code Colorado started, it was a three-day competition held in five cities around the State, with two winners in each city competing against each other in a final event in Denver.
Grand Junction was always to be one of those five cities, but in 2014, the first year Go Code Colorado was held, there were not enough registrations to hold an event here—I don’t remember the exact number, but it was just a handful!
So the first year the competition happened Grand Junction took a pass. But the good folks at the Colorado Secretary of State Business Intelligence Center —the creators of Go Code Colorado—felt it was worth another shot. That’s how Brian and I ended up at this meeting at the Incubator in late 2014. It was a plea: We wanted to hold Go Code Colorado in Grand Junction in 2015 but needed help to make it happen. It wasn’t just Brian and me in the room. We had a small cabal of leaders from around the Grand Valley, willing to try and make this thing a reality.
The Incubator hosted the first interest events; we called everyone we knew and implored them to check it out. Brian and I held monthly meetings at the Incubator until the event date to keep drumming up support. Go Code Colorado sent out representatives to cast the vision. It took a lot of work, but we ended up with something like 30 registrations that year!
We ended up being the third best attended of all of the cities, beating out Durango and Colorado Springs. We almost topped Ft. Collins too, but hey, third place isn’t too bad!
The competition itself was incredible. The teams worked hard to create new startup app ideas, and a new excitement was born. Brian and I decided to formalize our monthly meetings and to keep having them, even after the competition ended. That’s how LAUNCH was born.
We spent the next year doing everything we could to raise the water level for tech entrepreneurship in Western Colorado, and when it was time for Go Code 2016, we had 50 participants! And it’s been growing from there.
So here we are, five years later. Go Code Colorado is still going strong in Grand Junction and the rest of Colorado. LAUNCH has become FACTORY by Proximity Space, growing from a nomadic group of entrepreneurs to a coworking space with a vibrant community of creators, holding all kinds of meetings and learning events and growing more than ever.
It’s not without the hard work of lots and lots of people that Grand Junction has gone from non-existent in the tech world to a hub of tech entrepreneurial activity in Western Colorado, but it’s impossible to overstate the importance of the catalyzing influence of that first Grand Junction Go Code Colorado event on our growth!
Here’s to Go Code 2019 and beyond!
Co-founder of Factory and Proximity