Updated: March 22, 2014 at 10:40 pm
A team of twenty and thirtysomethings huddled in a hot, brightly lit basement room, crammed elbow to elbow over MacBook Pros - a single display monitor pumping out code to represent data on a map of El Paso County.
In wool sweaters and shapely beards, the group of coders, developers, designers and entrepreneurs, paused only for a moments to refresh with beer, Coke or energy drinks before returning to their keyboards.
The group, named Local Sage, is one of five local teams participating in the statewide Go Code Colorado challenge this weekend. The competition, the first of its kind in Colorado, was spearheaded by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office and sponsored by Google's Boulder office.
The challenge: develop apps that make public data more user-friendly and accessible to Colorado businesses.
The team chose the name Local Sage in reference to the idea that it would be the wise old man, the Obi-Wan Kenobi - the Gandalf - to local businesses, one team member said.
Scooter Wadsworth, a Colorado Springs resident with experience in geolocation services, led the team effort to create an app aiding businesses in site selection, one of the problems outlined by Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Other challenges included competitive landscape, access to capital, workforce resources and business partners.
"(The Local Sage) is not there to be the hero, he's there just to answer some of the hero's questions," said Mark Rantal, 28, who is in charge of branding Local Sage. "Anyone starting a business in Colorado is a hero, and we want to figure out how can we be their Obi-Wan."
Epicentral Coworking on North Tejon Street downtown was the site chosen for the Colorado Springs challenge. Other locations included Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Durango.
"What we've done is take a bunch of databases, streamlined them, put them in a consistent format so that it's usable data, and then this group here is going to help solve these problems," said Gessler, as he sat at a table near coders at Epicentral on Saturday.
Based on Colorado Springs representation at the Go Code kickoff Wednesday in Denver, Gessler said Colorado Springs is the most enthusiastic city, and organizers said it's one of the most popular locations.
"There's a lot of sophisticated technology and companies down here," Gessler said.
"I don't want to be just Denver. We need to serve everyone throughout the state," Gessler said.
The weekend has already been a success, said Hannah Parsons, co-founder of Epicentral Coworking, who was called a few months ago by Gessler's office to host the Colorado Springs challenge.
Epicentral was likely chosen because of its success hosting similar events, Parsons said, including the Open Coffee Club and Peak Venture Group Pitch Night for entrepreneurs.
"It's really important to our community, to our downtown city, to build that kind of energy and also to connect the people that are doing those things," Parsons said. "Colorado Springs is pretty siloed and people don't know people that do similar work."
The Downtown Partnership was the regional sponsor for the weekend, which cost about $6,000, Parsons said.
Two finalists from each of the locations will be selected this weekend and receive tech and business coaching before competing in the final competition on May 9 in Denver. Prizes there range from $10,000-$25,000 for third through first place, the top three automatically entered as finalists for a shot at up to $250,000 through the Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant Program, managed by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
Those involved hope that members of the business community in general will be able to use the developed technology.
"If you are a developer or company that is not here this weekend, go ahead and use the data anyway," Gessler said.
"When someone is looking to start a business there is always going to be some nervousness, some fear, some trepidation," said Rantal.
His group hopes to give businesses the opportunity to say, "Hey, we want to not only give you this information but communicate it in a tone that takes you from anxious to confident."
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