We love the energy and passion typically found in any gathering of entrepreneurs, and last week’s Denver Startup Week did not disappoint. Billed as a “summit of entrepreneurial energy, innovation, and connection,” the event began just five years ago with a desire to create a sense of connection among those in the Denver startup community. With this year’s record-setting registration of over 12,000 people, DSW has done just that, while solidly establishing itself as the largest free entrepreneurial event in North America.
Denver has long had a vibrant startup community, but the size of the city doesn’t lend itself to the easy sense of connection found in a place like Boulder. Rather than lament the size, DSW founders leveraged the presence of the larger corporate environment while pulling best practices from events like Boulder Startup Week. The combination resulted in an event that catalyzes connections among those with an entrepreneurial spirit, hopefully building foundations for long-term economic growth in the city and region.
This year’s event kicked off with an inspiring presentation from Colorado’s own Ryan Wood, co-founder of Under Armour. Encouraging people to lead by example, Wood and other founders such as Lee Mayer (Havenly), Chris Terrill (HomeAdvisor), and Eddie Kim (Gusto) shared their startup insights with a standing-room-only crowd. From there, attendees spread across the city to participate in events from one of five tracks: founder, developer, designer, marketer, or maker.
The diversity of topics was impressive, and we enjoyed events from several tracks. We picked up some tips from “User Testing: Adapt to Fit Your Needs,” a presentation by Effective UI. As app developers, we know how essential evaluative research is for validating assumptions, discovering issues, and deciding between options. We so easily become attached to our own ideas, but user testing allows us to remove ourselves from the design process to reveal fresh, relevant perspective. Talking to a packed house, Effective UI reviewed a variety of research examples, from click testing to benchmarking and card sorting. They also provided a step-by-step outline of the user testing process, reminding attendees that testing concepts and sketches is just as valuable as testing a prototype.
Our interest in artificial intelligence and bots led us to attend “What’s the Noise-a-Bot,” a presentation by fellow developers Robots & Pencils. Pointing out the fact that billions of mobile, context-aware, connected computing devices provide an opportunity to engage with users at all times, Robots & Pencils shared helpful suggestions for designing bots. As bots are typically built on top of other meta-platforms like Facebook Messenger or Slack, they provide a great opportunity for creating a more collaborative experience than a conventional app. The bot essentially becomes an additional “character in the scene” with whom users can interact. As a result, it’s important they have a pleasing personality, respond immediately (even if it’s just to let the user know it’s doing work in the background), and allow for more than just voice inputs.
There were countless other insightful presentations, great social events, and an inspiring pitch competition leading to the selection of Soccer Sidekick as the winner of the inaugural Denver Startup Week Competition. We ended the week grateful that so many were willing to share their expertise to help others in the startup community succeed.
If you’re a startup and think building an app would help your business succeed, contact us. We’d love to help you.