up to become a leader in the All Flash Array market, eventually serving
customers across the globe. In February of 2016 he sold SolidFire to
NetApp for $870 million.
So what is about Boulder that entrepreneurs find so appealing? Aside
from the obvious perks described above, the city also happens to be the
site of an outstanding collision of industries, resulting in an economic
phenomenon unlike any other—in the world.
In a city with a population just over 100,000, spanning just under 28
square miles, a $22 billion dollar economy is quite rightly, staggering.
Even more staggering, is that a city of that size is home to six leading
industries: aerospace, bioscience, cleantech, IT-software, natural products and outdoor recreation—most cities are lucky to have one. What is
even more interesting is the fact that all of these industries, despite how
different they are from one another, have come together in the most fluid
and unexpected way-unexpected that is, if you don’t know Boulder.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
We could start at the very beginning, 1871, when Boulder was officially incorporated, or 1877, when it became home to the state’s first
public university; but the where history really becomes interesting is
1952--the year Boulder was chosen as the site of Rocky Flats, a nuclear
weapons facility funded by the federal government. From there, the
aerospace industry took flight. Ball Aerospace and
Technology officially formed in 1956, building
the foundation of an industry that today hosts 44
different aerospace firms, 11. 4 times the national
average! The advantages of this city are robust:
Boulder boasts the most highly educated population in the nation, the state of Colorado is the
second-most highly educated state in the nation;
CU-Boulder’s highly rated Aerospace Sciences
Program receives more funding from NASA than
any other public university in the country. Further,
Aerospace opened the door for another economic
driver in research.
Several federally funded research laboratories have
found a home in Boulder, including CASA, LASP,
NCA, NIST and NOAA. The city is also home
to private sector research and the University of
Colorado Boulder is one of only thirty-four public
research universities invited to join the prestigious
Association of American Universities (AAU) and
the alma mater to four National Medal of Science
winners and more than fifty members of prestigious academic academies.
It’s not surprising that with such a high concentra-
tion of highly educated residents and abundance
of resources that other innovative industries have
made Boulder home. Bioscience labs like Amgen;
cleantech companies like juwi; and software
development like IBM have also found common ground in this Colo-
The local residents, also known as Boulderites, also have a reputation
for being health-nuts. Boulder is surrounded by over 45,000 acres of
open space and has over 150 miles of public hiking and biking trails.
Further, the city is only a short drive away from multiple national parks
and ski resorts. Such close proximity to world-class skiing, hiking,
biking, etc. allows for an easy. The “work hard, play hard” environment
is exactly what attracted outdoor rec companies like Spyder, HEAD
and Polar Bottle, among dozens of others. This healthy lifestyle status
quo has also opened the door for the natural product business.
Mo Siegel, Colorado native and founder of Celestial Seasonings, paved
the way for many other well known brands including Justin’s, Boulder
Brands (Earth Balance, Udi’s, EVOL Foods, Glutino), and Ancient
Harvest. Boulder proved to be the perfect market for brands to test
on before trying to move into the bigger, higher-risk markets. As it
happens, this methodology proved to be highly effective and successful.
What is clear to any observer is the culmination of industries brought
together in Boulder is truly something special and the impact on the
city itself has been tremendous. What the future holds for Boulder is
something we can only speculate, but we can be sure it will be bright.