The Case for Denver as America’s Next Great Tech Hub Skip to main content

The Colorado capital may lack the size and talent pool of the Bay Area or Austin, but local business leaders say it’s poised for growth that will rival its frontier heyday.

Fast Company | By Sam Becker

For a long stretch—specifically, between Kansas City and Denver— Interstate 70 is as mind-numbing of a drive as you’ll find in the United States. If you hit the road in Kansas City heading west, you’re looking at a roughly 600-mile drive before you reach the suburbs of the Mile High City. It’s a drive that mostly consists of nine or so hours staring at flat, featureless grasslands and passing through numerous small farming communities.

But something changes a bit after crossing the Kansas state line into Colorado. The air is drier, the elevation is higher, green turns to brown, and as you approach the outskirts of Denver, you can truly get a sense that you’re not in Kansas anymore. Here, along the Front Range—where the Rocky Mountains punch up and out of the Great Plains, with peaks soaring to more than 14,000 feet above sea level—the pioneering spirit of the West lives on.

It’s a sight that can give you a charge. That makes you want to get up and go, roll up your sleeves, and plug into the entrepreneurial spirit of generations past, which have made their mark on the land. Denver is, in some ways, the embodiment of that spirit. After all, it’s a city that saw its proportions grow immensely driven primarily by business interests and literal pioneer energy.

It was first established in the mid-1880s as a mining town, and when the railroads arrived in the subsequent decades, industry flourished, and the city’s population increased by approximately 2,129%. Today, it’s home to nearly three million people and is one of the fastest- growing metro areas in the country.

Part of that is fueled by an influx of entrepreneurs, echoing the influx 150 years ago. But these new Coloradans aren’t looking to strike gold on the side of a mountain or the South Platte River—instead, they’re trying to capitalize on, and further grow, Denver’s flourishing tech scene, a space that is, like the area’s overall population, growing quickly.


Over the past couple of decades, Denver has established itself as a go- to place for entrepreneurs and has fostered a growing tech space. But that wasn’t always the case; in fact, the Denver region’s business interests were, traditionally, dominated by fossil fuel, mining, and related industries.

“When I left, it was at an economic low,” says Richard Bartolanzo, a Denver native who left the city in the 1990s and ended up working at Bennett Thrasher, an Atlanta-based accounting and advisory firm. “It was a lot of oil and gas, and it wasn’t the most robust of economic conditions.”

But Bartolanzo, now Bennett Thrasher’s Mountain West Partner in Charge in Colorado, was able to return to Denver after Bennett Thrasher announced it was opening an office there, in part due to the area’s growing business community. And the city has changed substantially, he says, compared to when he left decades ago.

“Coming back, there are a lot of tech companies that are popping up or relocating here,” he says. “It seems a lot more stable than when I left.”

Bennett Thrasher, on the hunt for new markets to expand to in recent years, pinpointed Denver as a city that was quickly developing a strong economic ecosystem, and one that’s particularly friendly to entrepreneurs.

Investors have taken note, too.

As of 2024, Denver ranks 19th in PitchBook’s global VC Ecosystem Rankings, sitting ahead of Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, and Atlanta. Globally, it’s ahead of Berlin, Paris, Hong Kong, and Toronto. (Denver is often paired with nearby Boulder when discussing regions or metro areas.) Data from PitchBook’s NVCA Venture Monitor shows that during the first quarter of this year, Colorado as a whole saw $1.12 billion in investments, compared to $209 million a decade earlier.

And data supplied to Fast Company by Range Ventures (citing PitchBook’s data), a Denver-based VC firm, shows that between 2013 and 2022, Denver saw 3,349 venture deals completed, $27.4 billion in investment, and a growth rate of 80%, all of which were higher than Austin.

“If you look at the past decade of data, Denver has grown faster and raised more money than Austin has,” says Chris Erickson, the cofounder and managing director of Range Ventures. “But nobody talks about Denver in the same way as Austin,” he says.

Erickson says that Denver is currently reaching “critical mass,” meaning it’s become big enough to attract outside talent and companies, creating a self-sustaining entrepreneurial hub. That may not have been possible in years past, as the city was still relatively small and isolated, and had yet to start gaining a lot of attention from founders, investors, and companies looking to relocate from high-cost areas to lower-cost ones.

But that’s changed, and Erickson thinks that one of the reasons Denver doesn’t get as much attention as a hub as a city like Austin is that people in Colorado are relatively quiet about what’s going on along the Front Range.

“The only drawback I’ve found to the ecosystem is that I don’t think people are apt to talk as loudly and largely about their success here as they are in other markets,” he says.

“It’s a tendency to not need to talk about it. The success is enough in and of itself. People here are just as ambitious and just as talented as anyone on the coasts.”


Colorado has a tendency to attract a certain type of person. It’s an outdoor wonderland, for one, and people who like to ski, hike, hunt, and fish flock to Colorado for its outdoors activities. It’s also home to four National Parks. Its population is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest in the nation. And it’s crazy about its professional sports teams—with its NBA, NHL, and NFL teams all having won a championship within the past decade.

All of those factors combined have helped attract talent.

“I’m part of that story, I didn’t grow up here, I don’t have a single relative here, and my wife is not from here,” says Bryan Leach, the CEO of Ibotta, a cash-back app, which he founded in Denver in 2012.

Leach, who previously worked at the State Department in Washington, D.C., was clerking for a Supreme Court justice when he made the decision to move to Colorado in 2007.

“I came out here with my wife and we fell in love with the place,” he says. “It was quiet and clean . . . there are 300 days of sunshine per year, no crazy commute times, more affordable, and it’s easy to get to —it wasn’t anything like D.C.”