Business

Colorado Tech Industry Still Trying to Woo Silicon Valley Talent With Ad Campaign

Posters displayed in BART trains and stations in California's Bay Area.
Posters displayed in BART trains and stations in California's Bay Area. Pivot to Colorado
A consortium of Colorado tech companies, with some help from the Downtown Denver Partnership and Colorado’s Office of Economic Development, are still pumping money into advertisements trying to draw tech workers from California’s Silicon Valley.

The “Pivot to Colorado” campaign was unfurled earlier this year with great fanfare — and a $500,000 budget — with plans to run advertising in California’s Silicon Valley and Bay Area for six months. But toward the end of that run, reporting from the Denver Business Journal took some wind out of the campaign’s sails when the publication revealed that the costly marketing campaign had not resulted in a single verified hire.

At the time of that reporting, on November 7, representatives from the Colorado Technology Association, which is behind the effort, said that there would likely be a “phase two” of the campaign, but organizers were evaluating how they might move forward.

Just two weeks ago, I happened to be in San Francisco and took a BART train — part of the Bay Area’s light-rail system — one afternoon into Oakland. Sure enough, among the posterized advertisements displayed in the train car was one that read, “INNOVATION <at> ELEVATION,” in bold white letters on a red background. Underneath was an image of the Colorado state flag and the URL pivottocolorado.com.

Afterwards, I reached out to Kelly Stevens of the Colorado Technology Association, who confirms that specifics about the future budget and how long the campaign will continue are still being decided. 'We should know by the end of March,' she says. 'We're looking at all fronts in terms of the marketing campaign, and also how this group can find traction on other strategies.'"

"We're showcasing the amazing tech economy here, which still can a little bit of a secret outside of the Colorado boundaries."

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Pivot to Colorado still hasn’t logged any hires through the job postings section on the campaign’s website, though Stevens says that hires shouldn’t be considered the only measurement of the campaign’s success.

“In terms of success, we've been looking at the individuals who are signing up on the Pivot to Colorado website to learn more. We have more than 600 folks who have done that to date, and we've had 85,000 views," she says. "It is also challenging to know how someone might land at an organization or what the short- or longer-term impacts that a campaign like this might have. Someone may find Pivot to Colorado but end up going through a different job posting board, and all hiring information is really proprietary to each organization."

What the campaign is really trying to do, she says, is prop up Colorado’s tech sector as a whole rather than net any one company a California tech transplant. "We're showcasing the amazing tech economy here, which still can a little bit of a secret outside of the Colorado boundaries," Stevens says. “We’re a collection of folks saying we're all in this together, and that we all have a great tech economy. And I think that's a key message we want to continue to enhance: that people can move here and be really successful in growing a tech career, even if they move here for one company and choose to change companies."

Asked whether there’s been any pushback against the Pivot to Colorado campaign similar to some of the criticism that arose when Denver landed on the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2 — how some Coloradans, including Westword readers, really didn't want techies (and elevated costs of living) from the West Coast coming here — Stevens says she isn’t aware of any such outcry.

"To my knowledge, no one has drawn a connection between large companies like Amazon and the Pivot to Colorado campaign," she says. "We don't want to be Silicon Valley; we want to be our own collaborative tech community."

And on that front, Stevens says, "I think Colorado is gaining momentum."
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker