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Credit: Larry Johnson, "Denver Skyline at Sunset," December 17, 2009

New West Daily Roundup for June 7, 2016

Today in New West news: Denver-based Convercent gets $11M in venture capital, an update on CAISO, and black-footed ferrets to be reintroduced into four states.

According to the Denver Business Journal, Denver-based software company Convercent (whose clients include Airbnb, AMC Entertainment, LinkedIn, Under Armour, Petco, and Ruby Tuesday) got a big boost from Seattle-based Tola Capital, along with a host of other firms. All told, Convercent raised $11 million to expand their business. From the DBJ:

The company’s latest funding round should help Convercent create predictive software to help clients understand compliance risks. Convercent is hiring to fill 13 positions this summer in Denver — 10 of them software engineers — which would give it a staff of 80, CEO Patrick Quinlan said.

Convercent has hit a an 80 percent annual revenue growth rate and is approaching $10 million in annual revenue, he said.

“That’s a huge leap from where we were 18 months ago,” Quinlan said.

That success has been fueled by landing big, international clients including The Kraft Heinz Co. (Nasdaq: KHC) and Altria Group Inc.’s Philip Morris as customers, Quinlan said.

Some other big names should be announced soon, he added. Convercent’s considering establishing a European office later this year due its success landing customers there.


What’s now Convercent started in 2012 when Quinlan and others bought Aurora-based Business Controls Inc., founded by ex-Aurora cop Steve Foster. Quinlan sought to transform Foster’s consulting and technology business into a cloud software company that could grow more quickly and reach clients anywhere.

Convercent grew to employ 70 people but, a few months raising its last round of VC backing in late 2013, laid off a significant number of its employees. Quinlan said at the time the company had grown in ways that weren’t aligned with the company’s market.

The company has grown back and will soon be bigger than ever, because it has grown to be laser focused on creating software that keeps client happy, he said.

Over in Utah, we previously reported on the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), a nonprofit angling to create a regional grid for 11 western states, a move decried by Utah legislators who say it would come at a cost to the state. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, environmentalists are also wary of the grid, saying the flow of solar power from California could prompt Rocky Mountain Power to invest more in coal-powered electricity rather than shift way to local renewable power generation. From the Tribune:

CAISO’s environmental study has drawn the attention of the Sierra Club, which points to predictions that electrical sector carbon emissions would increase from 64.2 million tons per year to 64.3 million tons per year by 2020, before dropping off to something in the range of 48.2 million-54.1 million tons per year by 2030.

“The report that came out shows that there is an immediate and significant increase in coal dispatch,” said Shane Levy, spokesman for the Sierra Club. “That is something we’re really concerned about.”

Levy said the Sierra Club objects not so much to the idea of a regional grid as to the players involved in the current proposal. PacifiCorp, which operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Utah, is on track to become the first participating utility, Levy said, and it tends to be a very coal-intensive company.

But other environmental groups, such as Western Resource Advocates, are supporting the proposal, arguing a regional grid could boost generation from renewable resources.


“From Western Resource Advocates’ perspective, we’re here to ensure our power is as clean as possible,” and a regional grid would make clean energy more feasible, said staff attorney Jennifer Gardner.

Environmental advocates aren’t the only ones arguing this line. A study released in January and funded by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration concluded that a nationwide grid had the potential to cut U.S. electrical sector emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas thought to contribute to global warming, by 80 percent relative to 1990 levels, without decreasing the amount of electricity generated.

Gardner said CAISO’s research indicated that the use of coal generation, and therefore carbon emissions, likely would increase in the years immediately following grid integration. But, she said, the Sierra Club’s position didn’t consider the increased feasibility renewable energy would gain in the long run.

“Everyone has to look at long-term benefits here,” she said. “Sometimes you have to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.”

The Sierra Club is looking at the long term, Levy said — if demand for coal power spikes, even in the short term, it could prolong the life of coal generation in the West.

A regional grid could affect PacifiCorp’s current plan to retire many of its coal plants and replace them with natural gas generation units in light of market dynamics, Levy said.

“If a regional market would increase the dispatch of some of PacifiCorp’s coal units in Wyoming or Utah, it could extend the lifespan of those plants versus retiring them or converting them,” he said. “There are both immediate consequences and long-term impacts related to this decision.”

Keeping with the region as a whole, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to reintroduce an animal once thought extinct in the wild: the black-footed ferret. According to the Billings Gazette, 220 ferrets (rediscovered 35 years ago) will be reintroduced to select locations in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Kansas. The ferrets have been bred at a USFWS facility outside Fort Collins. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department told the Gazette they plan to release their allocation July 26 at the Pitchfork and Lazy BV ranches in western Wyoming. From the Gazette:

A member of the weasel family, the black-footed ferret easily ranks among the most charismatic endangered species. Long and sleek, they are nocturnal and resemble masked robbers because of the black splotches around their eyes.

They live in vast colonies of prairie dogs, upon which they prey and depend on for food. Typically cattle ranchers out West do their best to poison off prairie dogs to prevent pasture damage.

That hasn’t been the case lately on the Pitchfork and Lazy BV. There, Wyoming Game and Fish has been experimenting with feeding prairie dogs plague vaccine and dusting the rodents’ burrows with insecticide. Plague, a disease carried by fleas, is among the top killers of prairie dogs.

“We are doing what we can to make sure that these ferrets are going into healthy prairie dog colonies,” said Zack Walker, the department’s non-game bird and mammal supervisor.

Biologists for several years had thought the black-footed ferret extinct until a dog named Shep brought one home on the Lazy BV in 1981. Scientists captured all the remaining ferrets they could find from the nearby Pitchfork about 40 miles east of Yellowstone National Park.

The rounded-up ferrets helped establish the federal captive-breeding program that has released hundreds of ferrets into the Western U.S., including the Shirley Basin in southeast Wyoming, since the early 1990s. The process of preparing young ferrets, called kits, for release includes training them to hunt prairie dogs.

In Colorado, the ferrets will be reintroduced to six places across the state, including the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver. In Montana, the ferrets will be released on the Crow Reservation.

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