Spotlight on the Maker Track
The Denver Startup Week hype is on the up and up, and Colorado Lending Source is thrilled to be a sponsor of the Maker Track for a second year in a row! The energy and excitement for entrepreneurship surrounding this week is something beyond words... you must experience it for yourself!
Below is a blurb from an article featured on the Denver Startup Week blog about why we're so passionate about being involved and what great things the Maker Track has to offer.
Lauren works on the marketing and communications team at Colorado Lending Source — a non-profit small business lender that supports entrepreneurs in a variety of ways throughout the community. Something that Lauren is especially passionate about is the organization’s entrepreneur development program called Ice House, where she has the opportunity to witness and assist in the growth of budding entrepreneurs across many different industries. She also enjoys telling the story of the businesses that Colorado Lending Source has touched.
Callie is an electrical engineer by background, with an entrepreneurial turn doing business development and project management for a contract design company. She brings her experience in the physical product development and manufacturing processes to the Maker track, and is especially interested in the emerging field of Smart Cities.
First things first — how did you both get involved in DSW?
Callie: I first heard about the event back in the early days when the Manufacturing Track was added [ed: back in 2013, the second year of the event, the Manufacturing Track replaced Social Entrepreneurship as the fourth programming track, and the following year, the name was changed from Manufacturing to Maker]. I was intrigued by the combination of manufacturing and entrepreneurial programming, and kept haranguing Chuck Sullivan [Maker Track co-chair] with ideas for more topics to explore and areas where I thought the program could be expanded to provide greater value to professionals working on physical product. Eventually Chuck got tired of hearing me talk about my ideas and brought me on to help assemble the track itself!
Lauren: This is my third year with Denver Startup Week, all with the Maker Track committee. I got involved largely via my role at Colorado Lending Source, where I was approached by Chuck to see how our organization could get involved. Colorado Lending Source is on an endless mission to help entrepreneurs, and it just seemed to make sense to get involved especially since we work a lot with manufacturers and makers. The community ethos of the event is right in line with our values, and personally, it’s an incredibly rewarding event to be a part of.
Do you have a theme or particular area of focus for the Maker Track this year?
We make a good team because our interests vary — [Callie] is more deeply involved in the tech, IoT, and product development side of the ecosystem, and [Lauren] is plugged into the manufacturing scene, knows the interesting local makers across a wide variety of industries, and is very familiar with the financial side of things. While we don’t necessarily have a specific theme this year, we always strive to ensure that we’re reflecting the flavor of the community while keeping our slate of sessions relevant to broader trends in the field. Interest in IoT applications has been growing dramatically the last few years, and the ins and outs of physical product manufacturing for connected electronics is commanding a larger portion of our track programming this year. IoT has all of the challenges of both hardware and software, and we’re trying to address that by creating a curriculum around the physical engineering/manufacturing aspects that layers in the subtleties of software development as they apply.
Of the six programming tracks during the week, Maker is the smallest in terms of number of sessions, but we believe this is our year to make a big splash. While people tend to assume that the week is just about tech, one of the unique things about Denver is that there are so many other interesting entrepreneurial things going on across a wide variety of industries — outdoor rec, food & beverage, large-scale manufacturing, electronics, and more. We want to make sure people are aware of the breadth of that activity and help bring to life what we stand for as a community!
What are the “can’t-miss” sessions in the Maker Track?
We have a really big new event this year that we’re calling “IRL: A Physical Product Showcase” (Tuesday 9/26, 2:00pm — 5:00pm). The idea is to give attendees the opportunity to interact with all of the physical products that local companies are producing, and give those companies the ability to really show off the work they’re doing. It’s a unique aspect of this track in that we actually have something tangible to show off, and we wanted to figure out a way to showcase that for maximum effect. The lineup includes big and small companies representing a lot of different categories of physical products.
In keeping with good lean principles, we’re calling this our “proof of concept” event. We’re hoping to build a foundation that we can expand on for future years. Eventually we want to incorporate the other pieces of the product development chain that are upstream from the finished product and showcase those as well. For this first year though, we want to get people excited about what’s going on in Denver now and see the possibilities for what they can aspire to build themselves.
What advice would you each give someone who is attending DSW for the first time?
Callie: The days can be exhausting when you’re in sessions all day and at social events all evening. Pace yourself and don’t burn out too quickly — there are great events happening all the way through Friday. It helps to do your homework and research the sessions that you absolutely don’t want to miss in advance. Be sure to pick sessions based on speakers and content — not just on the title.
Lauren: Be flexible with your schedule. It’s worth signing up for events early but check in as the week gets closer because schedules can change. It also pays to have backups events, as popular events will fill up at the door. If there’s a session you really can’t miss, clear your schedule to get there early so you’re guaranteed a spot! . And as an avid bike commuter, I’d encourage you to definitely ride during DSW because it’s just the easiest way to get around downtown!
Colorado Lending Source is back sponsoring the Maker Track for a second year in a row. What is it like seeing the event from both a sponsor and organizer perspective?
Lauren: Yes! Colorado Lending Source is excited to be a part of Denver’s entrepreneurial community helping to fuel the maker, manufacturer, and physical product ecosystem here. Denver Startup Week is a resource that has helped so many small businesses get off the ground, so it’s important to us that it continues to thrive and to help support and build out new generations of entrepreneurs. Sometimes I get asked why a lender would sponsor Denver Startup Week. First, we offer financing to businesses that have been rejected by a bank, so we aren’t your typical lender. Second, there’s sometimes a fear around debt financing that can really turn people off. It can be a critical tool for helping businesses get off the ground, but it’s often overlooked as a viable option either when starting up or growing.
Is there anything else that you really want Denver Startup Week attendees to know about the Maker Track?
More than anything, we want people to know that Maker is not just for craft focused businesses and we’re relevant outside of just tech too — incorporating industries as diverse as manufacturing, outdoors, food and beverage, craft, and electronics — and that reflects a broad range of interests that are a big part of what makes Denver unique. Finally, we want to convey that while getting started in physical product can be intimidating, there are a ton of great resources and a very strong community that you can and should leverage to help get you off the ground!