Go Code Colorado: A Tech Entrepreneurship Opportunity For The Rest Of Us

The Review Feature March 2017
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By Aaron Templer

Hey marketing guru, have you ever thought about launching a tech startup but lack the technical skills? Did you know that the Colorado Secretary of State’s office holds an apps and business challenge where teams of idea people, marketing people, app developers and entrepreneurs come together to make use of public data for businesses? Think parking information data to help food truck


owners decide where to go. Tax rate, demographic, and public utility data can help a pizza joint decide where to open their next location. Easement and access data might help energy companies better evaluate extraction opportunities.

If your team is one of the ten best, you’ll earn a spot in Boulder Mentor Weekend where you’ll learn from Colorado’s best and brightest tech entrepreneurs. If you’re one of the three best teams, you’ll get $25,000 to help your idea take off.

Go Code Colorado is designed for anyone with a passion to create and innovate.

Go Code Colorado has won several awards in tech, government, and business, including the Bright Idea award from Harvard’s Kennedy School through its innovations in American Government Award. Additional awards include the CIO Magazine Award for Innovation, Colorado Technology Association’s Technology Project of the Year Award, the International Association of Commercial Administrators Merit Award, and the IDEAS Award. The statewide business apps challenge takes data from government agencies and places it into the hands of the creative minds of people like you.

Potential market impact is an important part of the judging criteria, and we know as marketers that a solution that falls short with customers means failing as a business. That’s why Go Code Colorado asks the competing teams to understand their customers and build a business app solution that provides immediate value to customers.

Much of what makes a winning business app is in the Innovation, Impact and Presentation criteria, which marketing pros can bring to the table like no other professional. Teams might have a brilliant concept and tight code, but what really matters is the ability to communicate how the app will solve a problem for a specific market. Go Code Colorado teams are successful when individuals with diverse expertise in both marketing and coding sectors come together to create.

The many faces of a Go Code Colorado participant range from back-end database developer, to idea and pitch person, to seasoned front end designer, to marketer extraordinaire. Every face has a place on a team.

Teams are forming in meetups and online between now and April 7th, which is the eve of the culminating Challenge Weekend. You can view the timeline of events, and answers to other questions you might have here: http://gocode.colorado.gov/compete/timeline/.

Go Code Colorado has found that there are all kinds of folks who participate in the challenge:

The Lone Wolf comes alone, with a clear sense of the value they bring to the table, seeking teams that need them.

The Buddies come with a friend, happy to join a team or go at the competition as a duo. Maybe they’ll merge with a team as ideas emerge throughout the weekend.

The Planners have formed a team already and are looking for a structured, uninterrupted place to get to work or complete work already begun.

The Explorers might not even know what Go Code Colorado is exactly, other than there’s a bunch of brilliant people and good food and beer, and want to see where the weekend takes them.

However you work, they want to make room for marketers and your unique ideas about using public data for Colorado businesses. And for those of you who are tired of playing the business card exchange game during networking events, this is a great opportunity to network while witnessing great ideas take flight – a few with significant financial support.

Competing for a chance to win $25k is a huge appeal to participants, but the value and fun participants find in Challenge Weekend and Mentor Weekend bring some back year after year. Go Code Colorado energizes not only the winners, but any participant who packs their curiosity in their overnight bag.

Doug Clayton from Vail has competed two years in a row, making it to the final event each time. Doug is a quintessential serial entrepreneur/software developer/fearless visionary trifecta. Two years ago, Doug went to a challenge weekend in Grand Junction without a single team member. He joined forces with graphic design professor, Adam Cochran, to create a team of two. Doug took on the coding role, and Adam handled marketing and design. Together, they created an app that made it all the way to the final event.

“Not everything starts out amazing. You have to iterate. Go Code Colorado provides the space, energy and facilitation to keep iteration going. That’s when companies thrive,” said Clayton.

Doug has launched two startups, both inspired by competing in Go Code Colorado. Grey Raven is an app to help communities reign in rogue AirBnB rentals and enforce government compliance. His other project is a kiosk for visitor centers and airports to determine transportation options.

Go Code Colorado has seen participants who have started successful companies and still come back for more, with or without a team.

“I have participated in Go Code Colorado for the last three years and look forward to the event each year,” said Anna Thielke, founder and CEO of Gociety. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet interesting people and become inspired to create. Last year our team Foodcaster was one of the three winners which was awesome, but not just because we won the money… the whole experience from mentor weekend to presenting during the final competition was invaluable.”

There’s a great vibe at Go Code Colorado Challenge Weekend. Everyone comes to compete, but hanging out with like-minded people who are helping build a better Colorado is a special opportunity. It’s a perfect example of what makes Colorado great at the intersection of collaboration and innovation.

Attending any Go Code Colorado event is completely free, and because this is a statewide competition you can join any of the five challenge weekend sites — Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins or Grand Junction. Once you’re registered, you will have access to government data sets and the Go Code Colorado Slack channel to start the ideation process.

Marketers, this is your chance to push up your sleeves and collaborate with Colorado’s coding entrepreneurs. For a team to advance to the final round and win one of three grand prizes, they must not only build a powerful app but be market-relevant and communicate their business viability to a panel of seasoned tech leaders. This is where marketing minds shine, and where you can show your stuff in an entirely new networking circle. Take the leap and be a part of something that’s building the use case for open data while enhancing Colorado’s status as the state for startups and innovation.

Aaron Templer has managed the Go Code Colorado narrative and communications team for the last four years. He continues to build a strong community around the business apps challenge and is available to answer any questions you might have about Go Code Colorado. If you have additional information, please contact Aaron or other team members at: info@gocode.colorado.gov

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