Two Boulder companies make Top 10 in Extreme Tech Challenge

Two Boulder tech companies are among the 10 semi-finalists in the Extreme Tech Challenge, hosted by billionaire businessman Richard Branson.

Robotic toy manufacturer Sphero and Kickfurther, an inventory crowdfunding site, will be among the presenters Jan. 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Joining them from Colorado will be Denver’s MassRoots, a social media network for cannabis users.

At stake is not an investment or prize package, (although one winner will receive business services) but a far rarer award: A chance to be one of three companies to pitch Branson on his private Caribbean retreat, Necker Island, in February after a week of sun, surf and — the Virgin founder’s favorite — kite boarding.

“We’ll be honing our kite boarding skills,” said Erik Straub, chief marketing officer for Kickfurther, of himself and chief technical officer Andrew Westwick. “Sean (DeClercq, CEO) is already an expert kite boarder and water skiier.”

First, they’ll need to impress the expert panel at CES, a global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow. And they’ll face some stiff competition, including Sphero, which partnered with Disney to manufacture the BB8 droid for the upcoming “Star Wars” sequel.

The toy quickly sold out on Amazon, Disney’s online store, Sphero’s own website and at several local retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble stores.

Paul Berbarian, Sphero’s CEO, called the company’s growth “incredible” and said he was looking forward to introducing new products and competing with other local businesses at CES.

While Sphero will be spinning a story of wild success, Kickfurther is banking on a tale of market potential to get them to the Caribbean.

“I think what they’re looking for is an idea that’s met its time that really is the next big thing,” Straub said.

Read the full story on the Daily Camera.