Female founded Spot Parking was one of 15 global companies chosen to participate in the GLP without even stepping foot in the Mile High city. Here, Spot’s CEO Elizabeth Zealand shared her experience of a virtual immersion at this year’s event.
The Global Landing Pad is an annual program hosted by the Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) agency in partnership with the World Trade Center Denver (WTC).
The program is a free business acceleration initiative that provides business owners an introductory tool kit with best practices and key information they need to know when doing business in Colorado’s capital. They empower companies looking to begin their operations in Denver by providing them with the tools to successfully position their business in the city and prepare for future expansion.
This year, 15 firms were competitively selected to represent a variety of industries. The winners went through a series of collective workshops with experts holding executive-level discussions on topics such as leadership, strategy, business climate, regulatory, legal, and financial frameworks, according to Denver, the Mile High City.
For the first time since its launch, the GLP program met through virtual platforms in an effort to comply with COVID-19 health and safety policies.
Spot CEO Elizabeth Zealand was thrilled to be selected for the Landing Pad. “The Global Landing Pad confirmed my decision to choose Denver as our global headquarters. I have not seen a city where government, business, academia and community are so consistent in the message and support to attract businesses. The “give first” mentality is not a slogan - I’ve experienced great generosity of knowledge and experience from diverse members of the Denver ecosystem. It was amazing how the cohort bonded without physically meeting, largely due to the inclusive and interactive nature of the program and charisma of the hosts. Spot was excited to recruit our first hire in Denver off the back of our connections through the Landing Pad.”
“We had to reinvent ourselves for this event, we had to be very creative,” said Vanessa Simsick, Global Business Development Specialist at DEDO. Last year, the Global Landing Pad program was an in-person experience where companies from all around the world would come and stay in Denver for two full weeks.
However, the program was forced to move virtual after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, challenging the event organisers to pivot and host the event differently. The new program consisted of weekly virtual sessions for seven weeks to limit the number of hours participants had to stay in front of their screen. The Global Landing Pad was able to achieve these by offering both live and pre-recorded classes and making participants present their findings through homework assignments.
Another challenge this year's program faced was creating engagement and networking opportunities through an online platform. “We had to proactively curate introductions with key Denver connections so that the participants were sure to meet the right people,” says Tim Martinez, Manager of Global Business Development at DEDO.
Even though circumstances made it impossible for participants to meet in-person, the program organisers did their best to make the most of this unique experience. By hosting the event virtually, more companies from around the globe were able to apply, which added both diversity and talent to the program. “We were able to get executives from truly scaling companies, such as Spot Parking, that we might not have been able to get if they were to visit Denver in person,” said Martinez. “Although virtual was just as effective, it is always more fun to host the participants in real life.”
Generating engagement is key to all events, however, creating it online posed a greater challenge. Yet, this wasn’t a problem for the 2020 Global Landing Pad. In fact, many participants and organisers were surprised at how engaged and hooked participants were.
“What surprised me about running the program virtually was the high level of engagement among the cohort and the ability to convey our city’s vibrancy and welcoming spirit through online conversations and presentations,” said Stephanie Garnica, Director of Global Business Development at DEDO. The comradery of the cohort was fantastic, and participants really made an effort to get to know each other, even though some of them were on different continents.
“Another thing that I found surprising was that we had 15 companies from seven countries, and a lot of different timezones. We were surprised that people would be willing to wake up at 2 a.m. or start the session at 10 p.m. and then have it go until 1 a.m. Even though the hours were very unusual, people were still willing to sit down and participate for seven weeks in a row. That was a big commitment on their part,” says Martinez.
Spot Parking was one of the 15 companies to be selected for the Global Landing Pad program. This year’s pile of applicants was extremely competitive, featuring companies from several countries such as India, New Zealand, Colombia, Mexico, United Kingdom, Australia, and Switzerland.
Spot was selected for numerous reasons that differentiated them from other companies. First, Spot is a pioneering technology company with lots of opportunities for it to be utilised in Denver. Second, it is a growth-stage company with well-known customers and an impressive sales pipeline. Finally, but no less important, Spot was one of the only female-led and founded companies at the cohort with a focus on diversity.