Archive for Web/Tech

For anyone who has read the new Steve Jobs biography and enjoyed the stories of how he bought and changed the direction of Pixar, this Friday’s Digital Media Symposium, or DiMe, should be a real treat.

This year’s keynoter is Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios. A computer graphics pioneer and two-time Academy Award winner, Smith joins a great lineup of other speakers for the annual Boulder event, whichs runs 1 to 6 p.m. at the St. Julien Hotel.

DiMe seems to be getting better each year, with other scheduled speakers including Boulder entrepreneur Paul Berberian, CEO of Orbotix, a new startup that’s created Sphero, a robotic ball you control from your smartphone; Ben Long, founder of Noise Buffet and; and Carla Johnson, CEO of EarthvisionZ, a Boulder company creating interactive 3D geospatial platforms.

The list of speakers goes on with Harris Morris, president of Harris Broadcast Communications; Andres Espineira, CEO, and Melissa Hourigan, v.p. of marketing for Pixorial; Rob Schuham, co-founder of FearLess Revolution; J. Erik Dyce, CEO of In Demand Bands; Micah Baldwin, CEO of Graphicly, another Boulder startup that’s brought the printed world of comics online; and Joel Swanson of the University of Colorado/Boulder.

Returning as moderator again this year is Don Hahn, producer of the animated feature films “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and others.

In 2006, when Disney purchased Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion, Steve Jobs became the Disney Company’s single largest shareholder, owning about 7 percent of the company. I would be surprised if there wasn’t some discussion of Jobs’ history at Pixar at DiMe.

DiMe really is part of the kickoff of the 2012 Boulder International Film Festival, which runs Thursday, Feb. 16 through Sunday, Feb. 19. If you don’t live in Boulder, BIFF is the perfect reason to come up to the city this coming weekend and catch some of the movies as well as conversations with the directors, producers and actors.

Advance tickets for DiMe are $50 or $40 for students with ID. Tickets will be available at the door of the symposium for $65 so make your reservations now! DiMe as well as the Film Festival really are highlight events of the year here in Boulder, and when I realized I had booked a trip to Arizona on the same weekend, I was really disappointed. I’ve attended and reported on the DiMe for the past two years, and always run into a lot of Boulder friends at the different events.

So go and enjoy both DiMe and the films at BIFF this year for me! I’ll just have to settle for the reviews.

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Boulder likes its entrepreneurial density

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Foundry Group venture capitalist Brad Feld says Boulder's entrepreneurial density is a good thing.

Sometimes all it takes to get people buzzing is a new catchy phrase.

That happened this week when Foundry Group venture capitalist Brad Feld told attendees of the Boulder Economic Summit that he thinks Boulder has a really great “entrepreneurial density.”

Boulder, the city that whips itself into a frenzy in nearly any discussion of “growth,” has had more than its share of “density” debates, usually around downtown high-end condos or retail redevelopment.

But somehow entrepreneurial “density” suddenly sounded like a pretty good thing.

On an “entrepreneur per capita,” Feld said, “this place feels special.” The city’s “large enough to be interesting, but small enough to get your mind around,” he continued.

Feld is a Boulderite who, in blue jeans and loud shirt, keeps Boulder’s sport jacket and tie types (OK, yes, they are Jerry Garcia ties) wondering just what he’s going to come up with next. After all, it’s Feld’s business to invest in entrepreneurial ventures and try his best to make sure they succeed.

And the more innovative entrepreneurs Boulder breeds is good news for the network of lawyers, bankers, accountants, real estate brokers and financial advisers happy every time the entrepreneur’s ship does come in.

This year’s one-day Boulder Economic Council summit, titled “Boulder’s Innovation Economy,” just happened to coincide with Boulder Startup Week, a four-day event packed with seminars such as “The Mobile Web and Why It Sucks,” a bike ride up Flagstaff Mountain, happy hours and overall tweeting geek networking of mostly 20 to 30-somethings all hoping to be the next Mark Zukerberg, or, at least for now, to get onboard early with a fast-tracking Internet startup.

Boulder Startup Week kicked off with an evening party at Trada.

At a Boulder Startup Week kickoff party at Boulder’s Trada, Gabe Kongas, founder of Omaha-based startup Hollrback, marveled at how he was one of seven lucky geeks picked for a free plane ticket to Boulder and a place to stay “as long as you aren’t allergic to couches” to join the startup activities.

“I have no idea why I won,” Kongas smiled, “but Omaha looks up to Boulder as the big brother of what it’s trying to do.”

Kongas fits the profile of the hundreds of young entrepreneurs that duke it out every summer for a coveted spot at Boulder’s TechStars.

One of Boulder’s real success stories over the last few years, led by Boulder entrepreneur David Cohen, Feld and a slew of volunteers and business mentors, TechStars is a business incubator model that’s worked so well it’s now been duplicated in Boston, Seattle and New York City.

The competition for about 10 slots in the three-month Boulder summer program is intense among web and software startups from around the globe, with hundreds of competitors. Yes, they’re competing for the $17,000 in seed funding, but more importantly, they receive one-on-one access to a network of mentors and eventual introductions to angel investors.

“We figured out how to professionalize a system for angel investors,” Cohen told a panel on information technology at the summit. In the five years the program’s been maturing, nearly half of all the participating firms ended up staying in Boulder. And from the first 20 companies that went through the summer business camp, seven were acquired, an almost unheard of successful exit rate.

Boulder, a city of only 200,000 but with a mountain backdrop and biking, climbing, kayaking, brewpub-hopping and at least four Italian wood-fired gourmet pizzerias, has one crazy entrepreneurial eco-system that everyone loves to try and define. And it just seems be keep getting better — right through the recession.

Home-grown web and software companies like Agile and Trada compete for elbow room with startup clusters in natural foods, outdoor sports, biotech, info tech, aerospace and clean tech. There’s a few other software companies snagging computer engineers — Microsoft and Google, to name a few. Although the city’s local venture capital community is much smaller than Silicon Valley, good deals are never ignored, said VC Kyle Lefkoff with Boulder Ventures.

Colorado itself, CU economist Rich Wobbekind told the summit, is always in the top U.S. rankings for venture capital investments, number of patents and Small Business Innovation Research grants per capita.

“Capital is extremely portable,” said John Grubb, a managing partner with Boulder’s Sterling-Rice Group, a long-time Boulder-based advertising and marketing company that bucked the need to be in L.A. or New York but still attracts name-brand national clients.

Boulder is one of those places where business leaders are accessible, easy to meet for coffee (coffee shop density is intense, too) and serial entrepreneurs keep giving back. “Sometimes I’m having IM conversations at 1 or 2 in the morning,” said Robert Reich, a founder of OneRiot who launched the Tech Meetup in Boulder, an event that’s become so popular it attracts a standing-room only crowd to its meetings on the University of Colorado campus.

“Boulder is an open-door community,” where businesspeople in all sectors are willing to share their experiences and help each other, summit panelists agreed.

Silicon Flatirons Center is one more “connecting” point for entrepreneurs, said Brad Berthal, the center’s director. The University of Colorado law school center brings in national experts and facilitates discussions on telecommunications, IT and entrepreneurism.

Boulder’s thirst for networking fills up monthly open coffee club meetings, Entrepreneurs Unplugged speaker sessions, and wild Ignite Boulder meetings called “Geeky Goodness,” where presenters race through five minutes to teach something on any topic with 20 Powerpoint slides timed to 15-second intervals.

The list of challenges for Boulder’s entrepreneurs, discussed at the summit’s wrapup, revealed little that hasn’t been haggled over for years.

* The city’s lack of larger commercial space means that many fast-growing companies eventually will find larger and better-priced space outside of the city limits. But that’s good news for a healthy Boulder Valley-wide roster of high-pay employers in cities like Longmont, Louisville and Broomfield.

* Boulder still doesn’t have its own space for small to medium-sized conventions that could handle meetings of a thousand or more. Frank Hugelmeyer, CEO of the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association, said if the city did have such a meeting facility, his group might try to develop its own “Thought Leader” center, bringing in leaders from an industry now valued at $289 billion.

* And Boulder business leaders, year after year, almost always ponder what seems like quite a bit of just plain good luck. “Boulder’s been fortunate, but a little too passive,” one panelist said, in branding its entrepreneurial innovation.

Maybe, heads of the panelists nodded in agreement, it’s time to talk more about “the highest density of entrepreneurs in the world.”

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Marketers are starting to talk a lot about QR (Quick Response) codes, and on a visit to Louisville, Ky. for Kentucky Derby week, I ran across a very innovative QR use.

I’m seeing more QR codes starting to appear on everything from direct-response cards to magazine ads to newspaper stories, but the Kentucky Derby Festival organizers used a QR code to get Derby visitors to register their Pegasus pins, which gives attendees admission to Derby events.

The Pegasus pins themselves have become collector items, right alongside each year’s new Kentucky Derby mint julip glass. Some of the earliest pins from the early ’70s now sell for hundreds of dollars. I know because several years ago I sold a 1973 pin from the year that I worked at the Louisville Chamber of Commerce for $500.

On each Pegasus pin package you’d find a QR code. By using a scanner on your smartphone (I use the i-nigma reader on my iPhone), you were taken directly to the web site

From there, you could register your pin, allowing you to play some simple contests from sponsors to win different coupons. Sponsors included Kroger’s, Dairy Queen, Joe’s Crab Shack and others.

The key thing to think about with QR codes is once you do get a user to interact with you, what are you doing then? That’s why I liked the site. Each Pegasus pin package came with a scratch-off code that you could register to see if you were an “instant” winner. This year the pins, which sell for $4 each, came in five different colors, getting collectors to try and find each different one.

A QR code campaign needs to do more than just take the user to a web site. They’re great for a special contest or linking to a special product promotion video. But keep it fun … you’ve succeeded in getting someone to scan the code, now you’ve got to deliver something to them.

Categories : Business, Marketing, Web/Tech
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It didn’t take long at all for the spam bots to find me.

Shortly after my new site and blog was launched in WordPress, I initially was enthused by the sudden surge in traffic I was seeing from all of the comments on my brilliant prose.

They go like this. “Heya, wonderful wordpress blog, and a fairly good understand!” OK, so not everyone is really grammatically correct, at least they seem nice. Or a simply comment. “Great post! I love it very much!” Gee, thank-you very much. Comment approved.

It doesn’t take long, however, before you realize noone is really saying anything about what you’re writing. Some comments take a really strange tone.

“Thanks for the info, been looking everywhere for information on this.” Really? Or “Just to be remembered is good enough for me. Lots of people are forgotten.” If you say so.

When you really start to tune into the hard cold fact that these aren’t real people reading your blog at all is when you start to pay attention to the URLs the bots hope to plant somewhere within your site.

One comment read: “Thank you a lot for giving everyone an extraordinarily brilliant possiblity to read from this site. It is often very pleasing and as well.” Sent from the URL: Hmmm, why do I think the guy running a cam girls site is not spending a lot of time reading my blog?

A simple Google search on “How do I stop spam in WordPress” brings you to quite a bit of advice, including help pages in WordPress itself and a host of other bloggers trying to battle the bots.

The first question in WordPress Help is “Why are they spamming me?” The simple answer: “Because they can” but also the fact that everyone is trying links to their web pages so search engines — namely Google — think their important. Does this really work? Should I hire a couple of these mysterious bots to spread my URL far and wide? I don’t think so.

So your next move — unless you want to spend hours each day marking tons of spam comments as spam — is to find a good widget that forces the spammers to actually prove they are human beings.

WordPress has an FAQ on Combating Comment Spam that will take you directly to the WordPress Plugin Directory. Search for “spam” in the 13,500 plugins, and that will narrow you down to some 598 or so. Spam clearly is a problem.

So I went back to Google, this time looking for a recommendation on a decent WordPress spam tool. I came up with the “Match Comment Spam Protector.”

Fortunately, I have a very savvy website designer, who built my custom site in WordPress. I asked him if he would install the widget for me, since I’m a bit leery of messing with any HTML code in the site myself although widgets generally are pretty simple to install. Josh Divine, with PRGM2 in Boulder, jumped right in to my rescue from the spam bots. Now, only time will tell.

Can bots solve math questions? One of the first comments on the Comment Spam Protector page is “I’ve installed this plugin, but still get spammed. Why?” The answer was to check and make sure the spam isn’t coming from trackbacks instead of comments.

I’ll know pretty soon if this works. This morning I had nearly 50 spam comments waiting for approval in my email. I just deleted them all. So by tomorrow morning I’ll find out if bots can now answer math questions. I sure hope not.

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Joshua Greer, right, is president and co-founder of RealD, a Boulder-based company developing 3D technologies.

It’s the story, stupid.

Forget for a moment, if you will, all of the latest 3D excitement and new media technologies. If there’s one thing nearly every panelist could agree on at Boulder’s 2nd annual Digital Media, or DiMe, Symposium, it’s that those who can still tell the best story ultimately will come out on top.

“Brands (another name for money) seek out the good content,” said former Saturday Night Live writer Andrew Steele, now creative director for the very edgy “Funny or Die” website and HBO series.

Steele was one of five media experts discussing the topic “Digital Distribution and Monetization.” And for every YouTuber, blogger or independent moviemaker searching for answers to that oh-so-elusive monetization question, panelists offered some encouragement.

“You should be making some noise,” said David Slayden, executive director of the Boulder Digital Works learning program at the University of Colorado. Students in the program believe “they can become famous,” he said.

“You are the broadcaster,” said TV and web personality Shira Lazar, co-founder of the Disrupt/Group. As a digital correspondent for, Lazar discovers some of the rising stars on YouTube. New media technology, she added, “enables you to find your audience and your audience to find you.”

Don Hahn, producer with Stone Circle Pictures, shares thoughts with DiMe attendee.

But can you break into the big time of film and TV from smaller cities like Boulder or Austin?

Much still depends on who you know and meet, said Steele, and for independents, the real networking side of the entertainment world continues to be New York, L.A. and Chicago. But everyone now has the “means” to get attention, and very talented people are emerging from the smaller media savvy communities.

“Artists want to collaborate,” Lazar said. “A lot of YouTubers are moving to L.A. just so they can work together.”

At last year’s inaugural DiMe, the talk was all about James Cameron’s new 3D movie “Avatar,” and how 3D would begin to change the movie industry.

At this year’s DiMe, an entire panel was devoted to The Future of 3D, and the talk was still about “Avatar,” but everyone agreed 3D is here to stay, especially as the new 3D high-def TVs are adopted by consumers.

In the St. Julien Hotel hallway, attendees gathered around two 3D TVs set up by RealD, a Boulder-based company in the forefront of developing 3D systems. One one, game players blasted a machine gun as opponents jumped out in 3D; on the other, a 3D demonstration film showed ski jumpers twisting in the air, gold fish swimming around your head and colorful excerpts from the popular opera “Carmen,” the first opera to be staged in a 3D movie. Carmen, screened at the Boulder International Film Festival, opens in theaters on March 6.

The cycle for 3D adoption, panelists said, will be similar to the conversion to high-def TV, with a good three to five years to go. This difference this time, panelists said, is the transition is “on steroids.”

The first 3D cinema advertising is now being released, said Kurt Hall, CEO of National CineMedia, which runs ads on some 17,000 screens across the U.S. And companies like Comcast are learning “on the fly” how to broadcast events like the Master’s and the World Cup in 3D.

Shooting in 3D, with higher costs and challenging camera setups, remains a steep learning curve, experts agreed, and getting enough 3D content will be a challenge. Some 35 3D films are in development for this year.

Oh yes, and there’s the story thing again, too.
“We’re seeing an evolution of story-telling,” said Joshua Greer, president and co-founder of RealD. 3D movies won’t succeed without a good story.

Directors are learning to use 3D to let viewers look inward, moving beyond the effects that just “punch you in the face,” said Don Hain, producer with Stone Circle Pictures with the Disney films “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” in his credits.

Next year’s DiMe is expected to be expanded after receiving a $25,000 grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts and Business Collaborative program. DiMe organizers, including Project Coordinator Sue Salinger, Kathy Beeck with BIFF and Mary Ann Mahoney of the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau, accepted the check between DiMe panel presentations.

The Digital Media Symposium, or DiMe, returns for its second year in Boulder on Friday, Feb. 18 with a great lineup of national and local panelists weighing in on new digital media. Tickets at $50 are on sale at

DiMe recently received a $25,000 grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts and Business Collaborative (ABC) grants program, and the funding will help support the expansion of the symposium into a multi-day event with workshops, digital art exhibits and opportunities for collaboration.

The DiMe, which starts at 1 p.m. at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder, takes place during the?Boulder International Film Festival, which runs Feb. 17-20. DiMe is an initiative of BIFF, the Governor’s Office of Creative Industries and the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Two panels will fill the afternoon event covering “Digital Distribution and Monetization” and “The Future of 3D.” A full listing of panel members are on the DiMe site, but panels will include Andrew Steele, a TV and cable writer with “Funny or Die,” and Don Hahn from Stone Circle Pictures, a Los Angeles-based animation and 3D film producer.

DiMe is a great event not only to learn more about new digital media technologies, but following the event you can mingle at a cash bar reception starting at 5 p.m. with local leaders and artists in Boulder’s growing sector of film, broadcasting, gaming, mobile and other entertainment-based digital media.



The Boulder County Business Report recognized nine area companies for their innovative products and services this week at the 10th anniversary celebration of the IQ (Innovation Quotient) Awards.

Winners and sponsors gathered on the stage of the Boulder Theatre for a group photo after all of the winners were announced. Some 65 companies were nominated, with finalists in nine different categories.

On stage, left to right, are: Liam Davis-Mead and Shane Taylor, ScriptPad Inc., winner in Social Media/Apps; Gary Horton, Western Disposal Services Inc. (event sponsor); Stuart Batty, Stuart Batty Enterprises LLC, winner in Consumer Products/Services; Yancey Spruill, DigitalGlobe Inc., winner in Business Products/Services; Nathan Thompson, Spectra Logic Corp., winner in Computer Products/Services; Steve Moulton and Greg Grudic, Flashback Technologies LLC, winner in Life Sciences; Bill Quinn, Trada Inc., winner in Internet/Software; Justin Dodge, Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner Hottman PC (event sponsor); Cory Dixon, Stratom Inc., winner in Robotics; and Denny Hanson, Apex Sports Group LLC, winner in Sports and Outdoors. Not pictured, George Howard, Heartland Renewable Energy LLC.

For more information on the winners, read the Boulder County Business Report story.

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Photo of the Boulder Creek Festival on Memorial Day taken with iPhone 3GS.

   Flag picture, taken at friend's Memorial Day picnic, was enhanced using the Photo fx app for iPhone.

Late afternoon iPhone photo on Haystack Mountain Golf Course in Boulder was taken with NightShot photo app, giving it a bit more light.  

All of the fuss and Steve Jobs bashing about the iPhone 4’s
antenna problems haven’t mattered much to me since I’m still having fun
discovering new apps and learning how best to use my iPhone 3GS that I bought early
this summer. Yes, I was a latecomer to the iPhone, but I’m now a converted

One of the things I like best about the iPhone is having a
camera with me most of the time. As an amateur photographer who loves to shoot
and post pictures for friends and family both on Facebook and Flickr, my
preferred compact camera is the Canon PowerShot A2000 IS, a great yet
affordable camera with a 10 megapixels resolution and 6x optical zoom.  Still, I don’t always remember to carry
it with me, or just don’t want to bother with the weight in my pocket.

With a 3.2 MP resolution in the iPhone 3GS, you can get some
pretty good shots … not great, but good enough. A friend asked me if the iPhone
could shoot photos to be used in a professional print brochure. The answer to
that is clear: No, get a better camera and probably spend a little money with a
professional photographer to make sure your business image is as good as it can

With just a handful of excellent apps, you can greatly
improve the final outcome of your iPhone photographs. The iPhone 4, by the way,
has increased resolution to 5 MP, offers a new built-in LED flash and a front
and rear-facing camera lens. All good features that already makes me want to
upgrade – as soon as it can quit dropping calls from the present antenna

After reading several online reviews, and there are many, I
chose several apps to help me out with my iPhone 3GS photos. A few I now use
all the time, a few others only occasionally.

CamZoom: This is probably the app I use the most
to shoot photos. The iPhone camera lacks a zoom feature, and for most shots, I
like to zoom in for a closer shot. 
The basic app is free with a PRO version for just 99 cents. It gives you
up to 5X digital zoom in real time. 
Sharing options include ability to send the photo by e-mail or post to
Facebook and Twitter. Another zoom app that I see recommended in reviews is
Camera Genius. My only complaint with CamZoom is that the zoom control is right
next to the shoot button, and it’s very easy to accidentally shoot a photo as
you are trying to zoom.  That’s a
fix they need to make.

Easily posting photos to Facebook and Twitter is
another great thing I love about the iPhone. It’s quick, and you’re able to
share a photo almost as quickly as you shoot it. I chose PhotoScatter as the
free app (a Pro version also available with faster downloads) to submit photos.
Using PhotoScatter you can post your pictures simultaneously to numerous sites,
including Facebook, Twitter (via Twitpic), Flickr, Shutterfly, PhotoBucket and
Picasa. After posting to Facebook, of course, you have to then go into your
Facebook account and approve the photo, but that’s also easily done via your
iPhone. Just be aware it’s an extra step you do need to make in order for your
photos to appear on Facebook.

OK, you’ve shot a picture, but it’s a bit too
dark (common with the iPhone camera) or perhaps you’d just like to tweak the
colors a bit, maybe even add a special effect.  Again, you have many choices, including an app for the
popular Photoshop. But I’ve been trying out Photo FX, where you can choose from
about 67 different filters ranging from Edge Glow to Sunset/Twilight
Temperature to a Wide-Angle Lens. Usually, Photo FX is just a fun tool to edit
your photo, including basic crop, rotate and straighten options, and then try
some different textures, even layering textures upon one another. PhotoFX has a
total of 780 presets with 117 different lighting patterns. So you can kill a
lot of time playing around in this app.

A simpler, easy-to-use photo effect app is the
popular CameraBag, a $1.99 tool that’s fun to try out. To be honest, I don’t
use it that much anymore, but it does give you some interesting and simple
photo enhancements. It simulates styles from cameras of the past including 1974,
a faded, tinted look from your dad’s old cameras; and 1962, a high contrast
black and white shot.  You can see
thousands of photos submitted by users at the web site,

Another weak point of the iPhone camera is its
inability to shoot in low light or even night situations. That’s why NightShot
comes in handy some times, giving you more light to your night photos. It gives
you three different types of a soft flash to get more light; low, medium and
high. For 99 cents, it’s a good app to have when you need it.

    There are a slew of photo apps
available, and I want to try out a few more, maybe including a tracing app like
ToonPaint. A good review of several phone and video apps is on the Brainz blog

Give yourself a little time to
experiment and to figure out each new photo app, and that means shooting
several photos in different environments.  For any photo that I really like I will usually do more
serious editing by downloading to my MacBook Pro and using either iPhoto
editing tools or Adobe Photoshop for much more detailed work.

When all is said and done, however,
I still love the iPhone camera for its flexibility of numerous photo apps, ease
of use and just having it with me nearly all of the time in my pocket. There’s
also the iPhone video, but that’s another story for another time.


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For a city with 10 breweries — all with tasting rooms, and arguably the birthplace of the the microbrew craft industry, Boulder is the perfect spot for a new conference Nov. 5-7, the world's first Beer Bloggers Conference.

Now here's a conference I think I can enjoy covering because not only will it include sessions on social media, how the online media is covering the beer industry but, of course, it includes tasting beers.

The conference will be held at the Boulder Marriott, and information is online at

I'll come back and keep you posted when I learn more about this "tasty" conference idea, but in the meantime, here's what some people had to say in PR that just went out today.

I saw the announcement about the conference, I rushed to get my credit card out
because I have a feeling this will fill up quickly," said Gerard Walen of Road Trips For Beer. "Boulder
is one of my favorite cities to visit, and I'm looking forward to going back
there and meeting some of the folks in person that I only know on the beer

organizer Zephyr Adventures, a
Montana-based adventure travel company, already co-organizes both the Wine
Bloggers Conference and the International Food Bloggers Conference. “The Wine Bloggers Conference has
provided increased credibility for wine bloggers, connected bloggers with the
wine industry, and improved both the quality and quantity of wine blogging
around the world”, says Zephyr’s owner Allan Wright. “We think the Beer
Bloggers Conference will have a similar positive effect on the beer industry.”

Boulder was chosen as the inaugural location for the conference because of its
scenic beauty near the Rocky Mountains, its excellent transport with nearby
Denver International Airport, and its 10 local breweries.  The
Boulder Beer Company
and Oskar Blues
have signed on as initial sponsors, in addition to Draft Magazine, the Colorado Brewers Guild, and the Boulder Convention & Visitors

Panelists on the future of digital media in Boulder were, left to right, Winston Binch, partner, Crispin Porter + Bogusky; Seth Levine, managing director, Foundry Group; and Chris Scoggins, senior vice president, DataLogix. 

Boulder business, education
and government leaders took a look into the future 25 years from now and saw
everything from a much older population and a shrinking employment base to a
digital media and outdoor recreation Mecca that continues to attract

But as University of Colorado
economist Richard Wobbekind reminded attendees at the 2010 Economic Summit on
the University of Colorado campus Wednesday, in the words of Yogi Berra, “It’s
tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

That said, there were no
shortage of experts from the hot business sectors of clean tech, digital media,
natural & organic foods, outdoor recreation and biotech willing to stick
their necks out and make a forecast. The theme for the well-attended summit,
sponsored by the Boulder Economic Council and CU, was “Boulder in 2035:
Opportunities & Insights.”

 First, a few of the facts,
emphasized by both business research statistics from CU and generally what
everyone that lives in Boulder already knows.

 “Boulder has drawn a line in
the sand,” said David Driskell, director of community planning and
sustainability for the city. “We’re not going to grow out, we’re going to grow

Redevelopment of Boulder
areas such as its east Arapaho corridor (near CU’s developing east campus) and
the aging Diagonal Marketplace retail center are where the city will be placing
its attention.

The reality, Driskell
emphasized, is that Boulder will never be all things to all people.  And that no doubt includes businesses
looking for larger manufacturing facilities. “We’re going to continue to
incubate startups,” he said.

If you just happened to move
into the city and somehow remain oblivious to Boulder’s staunch slow-growth
philosophy, several charts and graphs from Wobbekind put some new wrinkles on a
well-known story.

For a city that’s long touted
its place as an entrepreneurial haven for high tech, the numbers now show
employment in advanced tech sectors are actually declining. Technology brings
higher productivity, Wobbekind explained, resulting in fewer jobs for high-tech
workers. The most recent example? Hewlett-Packard’s announcement of some 9,000
layoffs from its technology-services division, where data centers will become
fully automated.

In the recent recession, more
than 70 percent of the lost wages in Colorado occurred in advanced tech sectors
that included professional services, manufacturing and information.

In other not-so-shocking news
for anyone who’s been in Boulder for very long, Wobbekind forecasted a nearly
flat growth rate through 2035, for both employment and population growth, while
“satellite” cities like Broomfield, Longmont and Erie will continue to attract
new jobs and increase their populations.

Another Boulder Valley city,
Louisville, which is making a conscious decision to limit housing but
encouraging commercial growth, also may find its job growth limited as
employers seek out cities where their employees can find homes.

“It’s just not getting any
cheaper to live in Boulder or Louisville,” Wobbekind said.

High on Wobbekind’s list of
changing demographics not to be ignored is the fact that Boulder, like all of
Colorado, is aging.

Everyone who moved in during
the growth years of the ‘70s and ‘80s are now nearing retirement age. In the
city of Boulder alone, Wobbekind says the 55 to 69 age group and those over 70
will have the most dramatic increase in numbers in the next 25 years.

Services such as health care
and transportation, as well as a declining tax base as seniors reduce their
spending, are all areas to watch, he said.

Although rail and other
multi-modal transportation choices may become available, expect an increase in
commuters driving cars in search of job centers. Even shorter trips are going
to take longer due to congestion.

Not all forecasters, however,
bemoaned a future of gray-haired senior citizens clogging up the freeways.

Panelists looking at the future
of digital media reminded summit attendees that Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a
global advertising company billing $1.7 billion annually, came to Boulder
because it knew the city’s quality of life would attract the younger talent it
needs to survive and grow.

Looking very far ahead is
nearly impossible in the fast-changing digital world, said Winston Binch, a
partner with CP+B. “Just figuring out what will happen next week is a

The company is moving much of
its work to the mobile platforms, as the I-Pad and millions of new mobile phone
apps dramatically change the way businesses reach their new customers.

You’ll soon be using your
phone to buy your Starbucks and display your airline-boarding pass, Binch said.
“Social commerce,” he predicted, is here to stay.

Foundry Group venture
capitalist Seth Levine said the rise of digital media is allowing marketers to
measure their results like never before.

Social media and software
geeks are the new “Mad Men” of the advertising world, Levine said, and Boulder,
with resident companies like OneRiot, Lijit, video ad network SpotXchange, creative
agency Victors & Spoils and even Google, are creating a “nexus” of
communication companies for the future.

With CP+B helping to launch
the Boulder Digital Works with CU, and other tech gatherings like Glue or TechStars
gaining national attention, Boulder continues to stir up a pot of the right
ingredients for digital media success.

Boulder also continues to grow
its reputation as an epicenter for both the natural and organics food movement
and outdoor recreation and sporting goods companies.

Organic foods veteran Barney
Feinblum predicted that the word “natural” will probably disappear from food
labeling as “organic” becomes the accepted standard. As an example, he pointed
out that organic milk producer Horizon is now the leading brand of milk being
sold in the U.S.

While organic products today are
only about 3.5 percent of the market, he believes price premiums will decline,
and organic goods will capture up to  25 percent of the food market in the next 25 years.

A company like Whole Foods,
Feinblum said, will expand beyond organic and healthy foods to selling electric
cars and home renewable energy systems.

“Our industry is looking to
get ahead of the curve on sustainability,” explained Lori Herra with the Outdoor
Industry Association. And this presents environmental challenges when most of
the outdoor recreation products are manufactured overseas.

Even on the federal level,
Herra said, the conversation is starting to change from “extraction” on federal
lands to recognizing the economic strengths of “recreation.”