50 COLORADO COMPANIES TO WATCH: Fueling the economic fire for a decade.

Author:Ryckman, Lisa

They've got game, gumption and a get-it-done attitude that pushed them to the top of a mountain of great businesses. This year's field of Colorado Companies to Watch (CCTW) represents 37 industries from tech to plumbing to shoe-making and everything in between. They are expected to have a more than $618 million economic impact this year, up 126 percent over the year before. Their employee rosters of 1,658 people in 2017 is expected to grow by about 30 percent in 2018 in the Denver metro area and across the state.

They stand out for their excellence on every level, be it revenue growth, employee satisfaction or commitment to giving back. And they have other distinctions: three of the 50 winners (you'll have to read on to find out which ones) pitched to the big fish on ABC's "Shark Tank." One walked away without an offer, one rejected an offer and one took the offer--but in keeping with the best tradition of CCTW, they all used the opportunity to improve and grow.

This year also marks CCTW's 10th anniversary, and the decade's numbers are impressive: the 500 companies honored during that time have generated more than 19,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in revenue.

"What we set out to create over 10 years ago, a year-long program to recognize and elevate second-stage companies that fuel our economic fire, has become a movement," says Stephanie Veck, director of the Colorado Workforce Development Council and founding program director of CCTW. "It is now 500 winners strong, a nonprofit organization with a committed working board of directors, hundreds of volunteers, partners and sponsors that have made it a community that empowers second-stage companies to continue to thrive and brings awareness to the great impact they bring to our economy."

In 2009, in the midst of a global economic recession, CCTW recognized companies with the potential to both survive and thrive, with an inaugural class that included such industry standouts as Justin's Nut Butter, Oskar Blues Brewery and OtterBox.

"These second-stage companies consistently represented a modest percentage of businesses in the state yet were responsible for nearly a majority of jobs in the state," says Joy Kitamoriz, partner relationship manager at the Edward Lowe Foundation and CCTW Legacy Board Director. "It wasn't enough to count jobs or sales as a measure of business success. This program put philanthropy, innovation and workplace culture on par with job creation and revenue generation--recognizing the full impact of a small business on the citizenry and communities of Colorado."

This year's class of 50 was selected from more than 1, 100 nominees, founded as early as 1976 and as recently as last year. Some, like GitPrime Inc., started with a meeting of minds; others, like Xero Shoes, grew out of an idea that at least one of the founders thought would never work. But regardless of age or origin, all of the 2018 CCTW winners are great businesses with great stories. Read on for an inside look at the Colorado companies you should be matching.


Colorado Companies to Watch is an awards program honoring second-stage companies headquartered in Colorado. The 500 companies that have been honored since the program's inception demonstrate high performance in the marketplace or exhibit innovative products or processes. The program is designed to seek businesses from a wide range of industries throughout the state, not just the major metropolitan areas. The 50 companies selected each year make an astounding impact on Colorado's economy by collectively providing thousands of jobs and contributing millions of dollars in revenue. The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) launched the program in 2009 in conjunction with the Edward Lowe Foundation and community partners from across Colorado.




Denver | Since 2000 | Marketing

When a highly successful lead generation campaign was met with frustration rather than enthusiasm, 90octane's team revised its approach. Its Lead Calendar--a tool that starts with sales goals and calculates targets for impressions, engagement and leads--evolved into a way to engage with clients based on predictability, accountability and transparency.

The company sees digital technologies such as search marketing, social media and marketing automation as catalysts for bigger changes--breaking down the walls between a company and its customers, making marketing measurable and marrying sales and marketing. Company leaders say innovations that create competitive advantage for 90octane have more to do with strategy than technology. In addition to the Lead Calendar, the company uses team leads--a dedicated team of experts from strategy, storytelling, design, technology and media who are equally responsible for client success--and "Top Pursuit Marketing," which are programs designed specifically for clients' most valuable opportunities.



Durango | Since 2015 | Software as a Service

Founders Travis Kimmel and Ben Thompson bonded over a challenge they'd both experienced In their respective professions: how to lead software engineers effectively with objective data. They believed it was an idea worth pursuing, so they quit their jobs and began working full-time without pay on what would become GitPrime.

In July 2015, GitPrime landed its first paying customer with a $50 monthly subscription. It wasn't much compared with the contracts the company sells today, but it provided validation, gave the founders hope and proved the market wanted what GitPrime was building. GitPrime core values are to be data-driven, outcome-focused and to have a high standard of care in everything it does. Its remote-friendly culture means employees are scattered across the state in locations that are best for them and their families.



Golden | Since 2012 | Custom software development

Woodridge clients often come to the company after they've hit a wall and decided their problem can't be solved--and they've come to the right place. Woodridge developers are engineers first, hired for overall intellect, coding talent and problem-solving capability. They eschew building websites or simple apps and savor tackling the biggest challenges they can find.

The company launches an innovative product every two months for one of its clients spanning industries from fintech to security, education and even psychology. Keeping up with such a diverse list of industries and products requires Woodridge to always be on the cutting edge of technology and custom software development. The company keeps its competitive advantage with an ongoing commitment to learning and education by investing in a Tech Seminar program where each member of the staff takes turns preparing and presenting on relevant topics to keep everyone up to speed on developments in software.



Denver | Since 2006 | Software solutions

The company considers itself a "disruption enabler" that allows clients to disrupt their own industries through its strategic planning and software development. The mobile app the company built for Pursuit, for example, Is a game-changer for those who manage and hold hunting and fishing licenses.

Financial transparency and personal accountability foster a culture of trust and respect. Equally important to the 303 Software team: The Big Table, a communal workspace that seats 16; office dogs Tater, Zedo, Murphy, Finn, Marley, Daisy, Honey and Zuna; flex Fridays, where half of the company alternates Fridays off; and the Happy Hour Foundation, hosted with partner Ligature Creative, featuring quarterly happy hours to support local nonprofits.



Durango | Since 1996 | Wireless internet service provider

In 2004, AlignTec provided the first wireless internet network for a small neighborhood outside Durango, and it's been growing ever since. Its innovative technology allowed it to offer reliable higher speeds more than a year before any other area wireless provider. AlignTec also recognized that there are areas in which wireless technology is not the best solution: In places where trees or terrain prevent a quality connection, AlignTec brainstormed a hybrid wireless/fiber network.

AlignTec is one of the last area wireless internet service providers that is 100 percent locally owned and operated. The company supports local nonprofits and charities including the food bank and animal shelter, and it recently donated a high-speed connection to the 2018 Durango Independent Film Festival.



Denver | Since 2014 | Oil & gas gatheringand transport

Analyze, identify, execute, operate: That's ARB's mantra. Using its market-leading analytics, ARB builds scalable, sustainable models and systems that allow it to quickly analyze the oil and gas market. The company combines that analysis with a team of highly experienced market professionals who identify the specific opportunity.

Since its founding, ARB has developed some of the market's most sophisticated production and supply/demand forecasting algorithms. Recently, ARB teamed up with a Silicon Valley-based group of data scientists to help develop a first of its kind "Crude Oil Network Model," which enables ARB to quickly identify how the crude oil market will react to market shocks as well as to identify long-term trends. ARB uses this information to opportunistically buy and sell crude oil and develop early stage infrastructure to alleviate transportation bottlenecks.



Colorado Springs | Since 1998 | IT support & cybersecurity

On the verge of going under because of the recession, founder and CEO Trevor Dierdorff decided the best move would be to hire smarter, not...

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