By Brian Heuberger
The Innosphere incubator group and the Commons on Champa campus are leading the charge to help Denver startups grow and Colorado communities flourish. The Commons on Champa is celebrating its one-year anniversary as the primary campus where startups can receive resources to help their companies succeed. Innosphere is a pivotal organization on the Commons campus, and the first year of the partnership was highly successful. Innosphere has helped many entrepreneurs grow their businesses, introduce their innovative products into the market, and expand to create jobs and stimulate the Denver economy.
Innosphere is a nonprofit incubator that originated in 1998 in the city of Fort Collins. The incubator group specializes in providing assistance for impressive startups that create technological products in the digital health, cleantech, bioscience, and software industries. The booming technological community in Denver then encouraged Innosphere to expand its operations throughout the Denver area. However, Innosphere recently recognized an urgent need to establish a new office headquarters in the city.
“We were trying to make a decision about how to keep growing in Denver,” said Innosphere CEO Mike Freeman. “We approached the city of Denver about two years ago to get council on how Innosphere would best fit into the city’s economic development strategy. When the Commons on Champa opened up we saw it as a great opportunity to move there and join the Commons.”
The Commons on Champa campus is a very compatible match for Innosphere. For instance, Innosphere and the Commons both strive to maximize the success of local startups and the growth of the Denver economy. As a result, Innosphere established its Denver headquarters in the Commons on Champa campus, and the relationship has been mutually beneficial for both sides.
Innosphere benefits the Commons by providing comprehensive acquisition training programs. “We provide a technical training program on how to strategize and position a business for acquisition,” said Freeman. “In the past, Innosphere hasn’t opened that training up beyond our own client base, so being here we thought we definitely need to help the broader community and let anyone who joins the Commons use that resource.”
The Commons on Champa campus has also benefitted Innosphere. The cohesive collaboration between Commons partners has been especially productive. “What Denver has done well is coalesce this building around entrepreneurship,” said Freeman. “Entrepreneurs can easily find this place when they need help, and then they’re going to get placed with the right resource. We’re all in this together and we all provide a different slice of worth for entrepreneurs, and so it is much easier to collaborate being in a facility like this.”
The Commons has also increased the exposure and client base of Innosphere. “We get referrals from the Commons on Champa staff and we can also advertise our services through the Commons,” said Freeman. “So being in a building like this helps build our brand identify, it helps companies find us easier, and that’s been very good for our business.”
Tech startups can attain many services from Innosphere. Although tech and science companies often create useful products, many of the companies lack advanced business knowledge or extensive networking capabilities. Innosphere can help solve these problems and effectively perpetuate the products throughout the market. However, companies must meet certain criteria to be accepted into the Innosphere program.
“You have to match the technology areas we support and match our capabilities,” explained Freeman. “The company also has to be far enough along where the product is already defined and has been tested. And then there has to be a large enough identifiable market for the product.”
Many resources benefit the tech startups that are accepted into the Innosphere program. The mentorship services provided by the incubator group are very efficacious. Innosphere has relationships with hundreds of advisors, the advisors are often former CEO level experts in their given industry, and Innosphere matches startups with the particular advisors that are most conducive to their needs. The advisors then convey strategic advice for the companies.
Innosphere has already helped stimulate the economy of Denver by facilitating the growth of local companies and by creating more well-paying jobs for workers.
The networking capabilities of Innosphere have also helped several Denver startups excel. The incubator uses its vast business connections to help companies raise funds, get backed by ventures, or facilitate early exits through mergers and acquisitions. “Each company has a customized fundraising plan because it depends on the type of company and the objectives of the leaders,” said Freeman. “We provide different support strategies for building the companies, finding ventures to back the companies, or finding buyers to complete mergers or acquisitions.”
The first year of the partnership with the Commons on Champa has been very successful for Innosphere and its clients. “We had a good year,” said Freeman. “All of our companies are in the market, making revenue, serving customers, and getting their products out into the world. We had several companies get venture backed, we had three companies get acquired, and we are hoping to see another company get acquired soon.”
With the first year being a success, both Innosphere and the Commons on Champa will continue working together to establish Denver as a premier hub for technological startups. Innosphere has already helped stimulate the economy of Denver by facilitating the growth of local companies and by creating more well-paying jobs for workers.
Now the organization plans on building on its relationship with the Commons, adding more capabilities to its programs, and supporting more tech startups that can introduce innovative products into the market and improve the quality of Denver communities.