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6/19/2003

Hundreds sign up to work for no pay

The Associated Press

BOULDER — With Colorado’s unemployment rate at about 6 percent, some 300 executives and highly trained workers have signed up to vie for jobs that pay nothing.

The forum at the University of Colorado campus Tuesday was arranged to match job-seekers with eight startup companies that hope workers will agree to deferred compensation.

They’ll get paid if the company is successful.

Another 200 hopefuls are on several waiting lists for the event sponsored by CTEK, a group of business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“This isn’t an answer to the unemployment rate,” said Lu Cordova, president of CTEK, which was formerly known as the Colorado Technology Incubator. “This is an answer to how to get these companies unstuck.”

The unemployment rate in April in nearby Broomfield and Boulder counties, home to several tech companies, was 5.6 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively.

The idea of accept deferring compensation until the company is successful is appealing to some who lost their jobs in the tech bust.

“You put your blood, sweat and tears into a startup company. And then if it works out, you get paid very nicely,” said Rick Zwetsch, a marketing professional and former entrepreneur from Boulder, who planned to attend the forum.

“It doesn’t surprise me that 500 tried to sign up,” he said. “But I think there are going to be a lot of people there because they have nothing better to do — how can it hurt?

Cordova said venture capitalists aren’t investing in companies until they have a track record and revenues. Without a staff, that cannot happen.

“It’s modeled out of desperation,” she said, adding she was able to hire an executive team years ago with no compensation.

“I knew it worked — I had no idea if it would on a grand scale,” Cordova said.

More than 80 percent of those attending are job seekers, and more than 60 percent of those attending have advanced degrees, Cordova said.

Littleton-based Air-Grid Networks, which makes a multimedia product for live sporting events, is looking for a network administrator and a chief financial officer.

“We’re at the point where we need some assistance to grow, but we’re not at the point where we can pay market rate for them,” said Jeff Buckwalter, founder and chief executive of the eight-employee firm.