Four Years In Boulder

Four years ago today I moved to Boulder.


Why did I move here?  I graduated college in Rhode Island, didn’t want to move back to Oregon.  I threw a dart on the map, and it landed in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.  I called my sister, who had been to Boulder once on a road trip, to discuss what next for my life.  Where to go, what to do.


I graduated college with an AS and BA in 23 months (26 credits a term will do that).  I needed some time off.  Needed some time in a beautiful place.  Needed to keep learning, to keep engaged, to grow, to be creative and to find adventure.

I am so glad I moved here.

I have been happy almost every day since.  All my stresses seem to be related to challenges.  I am able to be creative everyday.  I am around people who want to be in the situations they want to be in.  There are some brilliant folks that live here, some amazing athletes, and most importantly, some peaceful friends.  My commute is a 3 minute bike commute where I run into two lights, which are rarely red.  It is an amazing place for me.

But Boulder of now was not the Boulder of 2004.  The job market, especially for designers (I graduated with a degree in New Media and Computer Graphics) was horrid.  I applied for a 30k/yr job at CU, with almost no benefits, as a junior designer.  There were 350 applicants, and the final round was no more than 6 former art directors.  I got turned down for the 30 jobs that I applied for.  I got turned down for the 15 paid internships I applied for.  I got turned town for six unpaid internships.  My portfolio was strong, I graduated the top of my class, and I had great recommendations from past clients and professors, the economy, at least from a designers standpoint, was in the dumps.

My first portfolio, at a splash screen stage:


Finally, someone I met during an interview offered me a $500 full website redesign.  I took it, $500 can pay my rent (which goes down as the funniest thing I have been excited about since)!  That project led to ten more $1000 projects, which lead to more and more.  Pretty soon, there was a staff, office space and stresses of a service based industry (that year I alone has 2150 billable hours (that is 6 hours per day, not just business day).  Not particularly what I had in mind, that business folded (at a profitable point) and I spent a good year doing enough freelance to get by, listening, learning and trying to figure out what the strategy was to meet my goals.  I learned an amazing amount about entrepreneurship and startups, and wanted more.

Four years of living was paid of the reputation built off of that $500 website.  My fierce bootstrapping tendencies come from this start.

On an aside, Tomas Keller, the founder of the French Laundry, was confronted why he was picking up cigarette butts in the parking lot after his shift bussing tables early in his career.

“If you don’t act like you will own it, you never will.” was his response.

2005 Pic, on Top of Torry's

If I look back on the four years living here, a great memory will be building up two companies, exceeding my goals, and acting like I owned something bigger.

TechStars was in the paper the day I folded my company.  I knew it would be a big part of my life, and oh is has been.

But what is it like living here?  It is exhausting in every good way imaginable.  It is a constant struggle to decide what conversations to be in, what activities to do and what to make of yourself.  Challenges are common.  Excellence is common.  Phenomenal meals are common.  Humor is common.  Life is uncommon.

But in a brilliant way.

A few days ago a friend sent me a message:

I was wondering if Mr. Hyde has benefited more from being in Boulder or Boulder has benefited more from Mr. Hyde.

which has to be the nicest thing someone has said to me.  Boulder has taught me a substantial amount, humbled me, and built me up stronger.




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