Go Code Colorado: another year of data-driven competition

Simon Tafoya, the policy director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams, at the Go Code Colorado challenge kickoff Wednesday night in Denver (SOS photo)

Colorado’s funkiest and most fun data contest — Go Code Colorado — kicked off Wednesday night, marking the fifth year that the Secretary of State’s office has invited creative minds to use public information to build a product that helps businesses.

“We work hard to make data available and usable for Colorado businesses,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in his opening remarks.

Previous winners have developed a range of projects. One helped small farmers locate farmers markets and price information. Another created a platform for companies to connect with potential employees based on personality match.

Sen. Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, heaped praise on the Secretary of State’s office and the award-winning Go Code Colorado program during last year’s competition.

“This is, in my opinion, the epitome of how we should be thinking about government moving forward,” he said. “We should be thinking about how to take the assets and the innovation of the new industries that are popping up around tech and see how that expertise and that talent solves some of the problems that maybe government can’t do on its own.”

Andrew Cole, program manager, talks about this year’s Go Code Colorado competition during the kickoff Wednesday night at Great Divide Barrel Bar. (SOS photo)

Andrew Cole, a Secretary of State staffer who leads the awarding-winning Go Code Colorado program, explained at the kickoff how the competition works.

“We take public data from government, open data that is created often for other reasons, and once we release it into the wild you bring your creativity and ingenuity and turn that into insights for business decision-makers,” Cole said.

“Why business? Our office is funded by business filing fees so we seek to return value to those folks by way of the challenge.”

The challenge weekend begins April 13, in five cities statewide: Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Grand Junction and Fort Collins. Those who plan to participate over the three days can show up with a team or arrive alone looking for teammates. Two teams from each location will be named finalists, awarded $2,500 each and will head to Boulder for mentor weekend April 27-29.

“That, I promise you, is worth the entire competition,” Cole said. “We bring in some of the best and brightest from tech and entrepreneurship across the state. If you have never gone through the experience of building a product, bringing it to market and delivering it to customers, we’re going to help you get that done.”

Among those attending the Go Code Colorado kickoff Wednesday night in Denver were: Mike Hardin, director of business and licensing for the Colorado Secretary of State; Jack Arrowsmith, executive director of the Statewide Internet Portal Authority; Simon Tafoya, policy director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, Wendy Brors, assistant director of the Colorado Workforce Development Council; and Gary Zimmerman, chief of staff for Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)

The 10 teams will compete at the finale in Denver on June 7, where three winning teams will receive $15,000 each. (Last year, designer Emily Shirtz of Durango was a member of two of the three winning teams.)

Williams recognized former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who was in office when the Go Code Colorado challenge began.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his predecessor, Scott Gessler, who created the award-winning Go Code Colorado program. (SOS photo)

The program went on to win a series of prestigious awards, including a recipient of the 2015 CIO 100. CIO Magazine every year identifies and honors 100 organizations that have distinguished themselves by creating business value through the effective and innovative use of information technology. Other winners that year included Federal Express and Harley Davidson.

Williams thanked Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration for being such a supportive partner, singling out policy director Simon Tafoya, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the Governor’s Office of Information and Technology.

Cole also thanked the vendors and partners who helped make the competition free for contestants. Wednesday’s kickoff was held at the Great Divide Barrel Bar warehouse.