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Matt Cutter, CEO and Founder of Upslope Brewing in Boulder, Colorado, had a problem. His upstart craft brewery needed a technology to enable faster and more efficient canning of small batches of beer. Finding a dearth of satisfactory solutions on the market, Cutter did something that might seem curious. He engaged an engineering firm collocated in his building, Wild Goose Engineering, that knew nothing about beer or canning. Wild Goose’s expertise was instead in engineering, manufacturing, and fabricating products ranging from firefighter safety gear to airplane parts. In its collaboration with Upslope, Wild Goose nonetheless drew upon its diverse experience to design a new filling system that enabled far faster canning. The results were remarkable. So successful, in fact, that Wild Goose now exclusively manufactures craft brewing canning systems.
Wild Goose’s innovation in working with Upslope is an example of boundary jumping. Boundary jumping involves the exchange of information and knowledge between people across different industry sectors and disparate intellectual disciplines. Searching for new insights across boundaries might appear to be a recipe for inefficient and wasteful exploration. Mounting evidence, to the contrary, suggests the powerful effects of combining knowledge and experience across industries and disciplinary domains. Indeed, a better understanding of boundary jumping may be a key that unlocks greater creativity for startups in Colorado’s Front Range.
On November 15, 2013, the Silicon Flatirons Center convened a roundtable (the “Roundtable”) featuring entrepreneurial leaders from a diverse range of industries. The Roundtable analyzed how boundary jumping works and, additionally, where it already occurs among startups in the Front Range. Roundtable participants discussed their own experiences with boundary jumping and opined on structures and skills that facilitate increased opportunities for innovation. As this report details, boundary jumping occurs where the “modest anarchy” of Boulder’s Pearl Street facilitates interactions between entrepreneurs, where serendipitous conversations between different companies arise as designed by the architects of Denver’s Galvanize, and where digital messages in a bottle are broadcast as “problems” for unknown others to solve via the Internet.