PHX Startup Week Aims To Draw Entrepreneurs, Grow Community
PHX Startup Week is taking place in four Valley cities from February 22-26, with more than 125 free events held in Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and Chandler.
This is the second year for PHX Startup Week and organizers are expecting more than 4,000 participants, up from about 2,300 last year. Attendees can hear from community and business leaders and learn about marketing, branding and fundraising for startups, as well as sales techniques and community development.
The goal is to grow and connect the startup community in the Valley.
Entrepreneur Jonathan Cottrell, who leads Startup Week in Phoenix, said it’s all about creating meaningful content and making meaningful connections. In 2014, he launched the #yesphx hashtag to try to connect disparate pockets of entrepreneurial activity throughout the Valley. That hashtag has turned into a movement among entrepreneurs here. He said, Startup Week brought many of them together last year.
“There were so many stories that came out of last year’s event about the change in peoples' lives,” he said. “Students that were at ASU thinking that they had to move out of the state to get involved in startups, and they saw what was happening here, they said ‘I’m sticking here. I’m planting my roots here. I’m going to get involved in the startups and the community here.’”
Startup Week is one brand launched by the nonprofit Up Global, which held the first Startup Week in Denver four years ago. Now, more than 10,000 people participate in Denver’s Startup Week annually, according to Cottrell.
The event is all volunteer-run and features a few specialty tracks this year, including women in entrepreneurship and a Latino track. It’s sponsored by Chase Bank, Salt River Project and 1Mission, among many others.
Christie Kerner, assistant director of the W.P. Carey Center for Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, said Startup Week can look like networking on the surface, but, in spirit, it’s much more than that. It’s about helping each other.
“It has come forward to be an amazing community that we have here that is just so dedicated to generosity,” she said. “Instead of competing with each other, we realize that, as we come together, we can really hugely impact the benefit of all.”
As this startup community has grown it’s developed its own identity, she said.
They realize they will never be Silicon Valley, but that’s okay. “We have a different angle,” she said.
“Because we have less cash flow here, it forces our entrepreneurs to be a little extra scrappy and to really look at how to build something that can be sustained.”
Both Kerner and Cottrell said there is a spirit of generosity that fuels the Arizona startup community. They think that generosity will only help individual businesses in Arizona find success.
According to Cottrell, Startup Week plants seeds for future entrepreneurs in the community who will continue to grow businesses, as well as the larger economy, in the state.
“We want to just continue to see that grow and to make our state one that isn’t just focused on Real Estate development and really focus on things that also have stability, high growth capabilities and, ultimately, building the economy,” he said.