Jim Franklin is the CEO of Boulder-based SendGrid Inc., which recently opened new offices downtown at 1451 Larimer St. The company’s goal for its
Jim Franklin is the CEO of Boulder-based SendGrid Inc., which recently opened new offices downtown at 1451 Larimer St. The company's goal for its cloud-based e-mail infrastructure is to relieve businesses of the cost and complexity of maintaining custom e-mail systems. (Photos by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

The Downtown Denver Partnership and other organizations and companies known more for serving big business interests recently spent tens of thousands of dollars on a week-long party for the likes of 25-year-old David Meyer.

Meyer was among the hundreds of entrepreneurs who participated in Denver Startup Week, which featured a dizzying schedule of sessions featuring such themes as networking, and in many cases, complimentary cocktails.

"We're an education startup, so we were able to meet all sorts of people that are interested in funding and getting involved in projects like ours," said Meyer, co-founder of CampuScene, which provides virtual college tours.

The New York native moved to Colorado three years ago and works from a home office in Wheat Ridge with a childhood friend.

"It's a little isolated out here, so getting to interact a bit with entrepreneurs in the area who are doing really amazing stuff was really inspiring," Meyer said.

Those footing the bill for October's extravaganza hope CampuScene and other startups will follow the path of SendGrid, a Boulder-based tech company with money to spend and high-paying jobs to fill.

Founded in 2009 and backed by more than $27 million in funding, the company opened a 15,000-square-foot office in Larimer Square during Startup Week.

"We'll be starting off with 25 employees," said SendGrid chief executive Jim Franklin, who works from the Denver office. "We have room to grow to 100."

Catering to techies is a shift for downtown Denver real estate companies that have been accustomed to serving law firms and the like, a change perhaps born out of necessity.

"I don't know how much more growth there is going to be downtown in terms of uses like architects and lawyers and accounting firms," said Joe Vostrejs, chief operating officer of Larimer Associates. "But we do see huge growth in the digital world."

Brandon West, developer evangelist, works in SendGrid’s new space. It will employ 25 people and has room to grow to 100.
Brandon West, developer evangelist, works in SendGrid's new space. It will employ 25 people and has room to grow to 100.

SendGrid, which offers a cloud-based e-mail service and has more than 30 job openings, took over space previously occupied by an insurance company.

Delving into the tech world has pushed Vostrejs to think differently about his commercial real estate, trading the traditional 10-by-10 private office and 8-by-8 cubicle for the open, flexible workspace desired by startups.

"If I go from one tech company to another tech company to another tech company, their needs are pretty similar, so when the space turns over, you're not spending a fortune," said Vostrejs, who serves on the Downtown Denver Partnership board of directors. "It's a different approach to the space. It's looking at it more (with) a hotel kind of mentality."

In addition to growth potential, tech companies like SendGrid are attractive to Larimer Associates because they employ the type of workers that will boost traffic to nearby retail and restaurant tenants.

"We want to put the audience for those restaurants right upstairs," Vostrejs said. "They have disposable income. They are highly social, they go out a lot. They make heavy use of restaurants, bars and coffee shops."

For SendGrid, those same amenities can serve as recruiting tools.

Franklin said the company also considered consolidating into one metro area office at Broomfield's Interlocken neighborhood. It chose to keep the Boulder presence and open the Larimer office because of the downtown surroundings and high-energy vibe.

"It gives the right feeling for the kind of employees we want to attract rather than consolidating to one corporate office," Franklin said.

SendGrid's staple perk is offering free meals, and in Boulder it uses a nearby Chipotle as the company kitchen. In Larimer Square, that role belongs to The Market, a deli and coffee shop.

SendGrid hosted several events during the inaugural Denver Startup Week, which attracted 3,500 attendees over six days. Organizers already have plans for a second edition in 2013 as the downtown area continues its focus on creating a technology cluster.

"It's that density that makes places in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, or Boulder or Cambridge work," Franklin said. "With Denver, we'd love to see more people come downtown."

That's where startups like Wheat Ridge-based CampuScene come in. The company has raised $275,000 and is eyeing a move to the downtown area, home to a growing number of shared workspaces that cater to tiny startups before they may hit it big.

"We are hoping to (move to Denver) in the beginning of next year," Meyer said. "Being able to be around more entrepreneurs and draw from the experiences of people who are in similar situations would be a good change for us."

Andy Vuong : 303-954-1209, avuong@denverpost.com or fb.com/byandyvuong