50 Colorado Companies to Watch.

Author:Rychman, Lisa
Position:Company overview - Cover story


Five years strong, Colorado Companies to Watch continues to enhance the state's economy

Maybe you know them, and maybe you don't. But if you don't--you definitely should.

In the last live years, Colorado Companies to Watch has showcased 250 of the state's business movers and shakers, the up-and-comers, the growers, the builders, the job-creators. From the program's inception in 2009 through today, these best and brightest second-stage companies have fanned the flames of Colorado's economic lire in every industry and every corner of the state.

"Colorado Companies to Watch represents a unique partnership between government, private sector and communities to recognize and support the game-changers in Colorado," says Ken Lund, executive director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), which picks the winners with judges from both the public and private sectors.

"These second-stage businesses with more than S410 million in total annual revenue last year--continue to create jobs and grow the state's economy and are vital to the state's continued growth," Lund says.

It's easy to see. From 2009 through 2012, this year's 50 winners, alone generated S1.1 billion in revenue and added 815 employees, reflecting a 149 percent increase in revenue and 135 percent increase in jobs for the four-year period. That translates into a 36 percent annual revenue growth and 33 percent annual growth in employees.

And there's no stopping them. If projections for 2013 hold, this year's class will have generated S1.7 billion in revenue and added 1,275 employees over the last live years--a 279 percent increase in revenue and 212 percent increase in jobs.

Colorado's first class of winners stepped out in June 2009, a time when the economy was suffocating under a crippling recession.

"Right when we needed good news stories more than ever, we had them--50 amazing successes to talk about when had news was dominating the media." says founding Program Director Stephanie Steffens.

The Companies to Watch program was developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation, which was Started by the late Edward Lowe, creator of Kitty Litter, and his wile. Darlene, to promote entrepreneurship.

To be considered, companies must he Colorado-based, privately held, employ six to 99 full-time equivalent employees and have $750,000 to $50 million in sales or a similar range of working capital. And perhaps most importantly, they must be more than surviving, but thriving.

This year's winners' circle includes Adaptive Innovations Corp., a Lakewood engineering firm specializing in custom machine automation, robotics and test equipment that has quadrupled its work force and seen an eightfold increase in revenue in the last live years, including a nearly 300 percent revenue increase in 2012 alone, Another 2013 winner. MM Local, has increased revenue by nearly 3,000 percent since 2009 and expects another 30 percent growth this year through produce-preserving partnerships with local family farmers.

But it's not all about the bottom line. Company culture and community impact count, too.

One World Labs, a Denver-based team of IT security experts, belongs to Hackers for Charity, which solves technology challenges for various nonprofits and provides food, equipment, job training and computer education to people in poverty.

Cycla LLC a family-run professional thrift recycling company in Federal Heights. provided the seed money in 2011 to start Recycle That LLC, which partners with nonprofits to help them raise hinds through textile recycling. Combined efforts of both companies nationwide has diverted more than 230 million pounds of textile waste from landfills nationwide.

On the following pages, you'll find profiles of a star from each Colorado Companies to Watch class of the past, plus snapshots of the 50 stellar winners from 2013.

"These companies are the change agents in Colorado," says Sam Bailey, OEDIT's current Colorado Companies to Watch program director. "When I look at what has been built over the past five years. Colorado truly show government, local communities and businesses can come together in an amazing way.

--Lisa Ryckman


A Review of Colorado Compaines to Watch from 2009-2012

COCTW Class of 2009: Colorado Yurt Co.

Dan and Emma kigar's first home evolved to become their First business.

A tipi set up at 11,000 feet in Breckenridge in 1976 grew into Earthworks Tips, which morphed into Colorado Yurt Co. What started as a home-grown, two-person venture has grown into a 30-person operation with production facilities in Montrose that create everything from 12-foot diameter tips, wilts up to 700 square feet and yurts 30 feet-in diameter, all of which meet stringent structural parameters.

Since its inclusion iii he inaugural Colorado Companies to Watch class in 2009, Colorado Yurt Co. has posted 10 percent per annum growth and increased its payroll by 23 percent, founder Dm kigar says. And that's not all.

"Our company culture has become more transparent and responsive to the creativity inherent in the people who make our organization run," he says. "Our efforts in sustainability have become more comprehensive and measurable, and we've burnished our reputation for innovation, quality and professionalism."

This year Colorado Yurt's production department came up with a plan to increase output by 25 percent, and its marketing department developed a corresponding plan to increase sales.

"This potential growth challenged all phases of our company to develop more efficient and sophisticated systems and planning tools," Kigar says. "Sustaining this growth means hiring more employees and making capital improvements."

Kigar says being selected as a Colorado was a national market-opportunity that the company used to lasting advantage. Colorado Yurt's products were recently featured in a 1,000-item list OH the Science Charmers "How it's Made." which took viewers from the company's design and construction process to the formation of structures on Mount Sneffels.

Kigar says product innovation based on customers needs and suggestions plays an important role in helping the company maintain its edge in the marketplace.

"To survive in a locally based manufacturing tiring business, you have to be able to react quickly and intelligently to external pressures." he says.

The key: People.

"Talented, dedicated individuals make this operation run. And while talent is never in short supply, assembling a team that is willing to pull together has made all the difference," Kigar says. "Everyone counts."

COCTW Class of 2010: Funovation

Erick Mueller measures his company's growth in grins: 16 million and counting, a 350 percent increase since Funovation was named a Colorado Company to With in 2010.

One play of its patented Laser Maze Challenge equals one smile, Mueller explains. A smile counter on the company website tracks its global happiness impact--which is, of course, directly related to its bottom line.

"We're successful when our customers are successful," says Mueller, who founded the Longmont-based company in 2007 and now serves as chairman and vice president of sales and marketing. "Our team is available to make sure our customer's maze is up and running, creating smiles and making money at all times. We'll even help our customers hire staff."


Speaking of hiring: Funovation's work force has increased by 60 percent since 2010 to keep up with a 245 percent increase in installations of its patented Laser Maze Challenge around the world.

"Our biggest challenge has been scaling our business in the best way," Mueller says. "We've overcome this by always focusing on delighting our customers and growing our business around that. Specifically, we've stayed focused on building our team of Funovators with exceptional talent who buy into our vision of reminding the world to play."

Being named a Colorado Company to Watch has helped attract that talent, Mueller says, along with increasing the company's profile and credibility with customers.

"It was a great win for us to celebrate the value that we had created from just three guys sitting around a table with an idea to generate millions in revenue and locations around the world," he says.

One key to the company's success: Taking fun--but not themselves very seriously. So product development becomes "our Fungineering team playing in the sandbox." And Friday afternoon might find the Funovators pelting each other with Nerf balls or opening the office Laser Maze to school kids or youth groups.

As for the future: more mazes, more countries, more profit--and tons more fun.

"In 2010, we created one smile every 8.7 seconds. Today, we create a smile somewhere in 20 countries around the world every 4.9 seconds," Mueller says. "We're really excited to progress in our goal of creating one smile per second."

COCTW Class of 2011: Moots Cycles

For the serious cyclist, sweet dreams are made of Moots: light-as-air, tough-as-nails, titanium beauties, lovingly designed, mitered. welded, finished and machined by Butch, Nate, Bryce, Willy, Caleb, Amy and the rest of the gang up in Steamboat Springs.

They're not cheap--a Moots can easily set you back $5,000--but for those in the know who have got the dough, nothing less will do.

"Even during the tough economic times, consumers were willing to 'pay up' for high-end products, but they demanded more value in those products," says Moots President/CEO Rob Mitchell, who joined the 32-year-old company in 2007. "So it dovetailed nicely into the value we offer cyclists in our Moots bikes and components--lifetime bikes, handcrafted in the U.S."

In 2009, Moots wowed the cycling community with its leading-edge road bike, the Vamoots RSL, a testament to the possibilities of aerospace-grade titanium, then, the rapidly rising price of high-end carbon steel bikes has helped Moots thrive, Mitcliell says.


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