Phoenix Entrepreneurial Community is Worth Looking At

by francine Hardaway on January 7, 2012

Old and new Phoenix

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This time of year, everyone comes to Phoenix. They come for the Phoenix Open Golf Tournament, the Barrett Jackson Car Auction, and a host of other tourist-related events.

They never notice the startup ecosystem. This angers me. They drop money all over town, except on what really matters: the innovation that’s desperately trying to stay alive here.

I spent yesterday in downtown Phoenix for the first time in a long time, because + Gangplank is in Chandler, Avondale and Tucson and Stealthmode Partners works out of + Gangplank.

]You’ve heard me talk about Gangplank many times. It’s a free, collaborative, community-based (501c3) space in Chandler where geeks, designers, foodies, musicians, and all others who belong to the creative class can work, meet, and help each other. It’s three years old, and it already has a global reputation. It has a long list of mentors who donate their time to entrepreneurs, including +Jim Goulka, who runs the Arizona Technology Investment Forum,  a patent attorney, and myself.]

But this isn’t the time to talk about Gangplank. This is the time to tell you that great things are happening in Phoenix, downtown and central Phoenix; visitors don’t notice those.

At the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU, downtown, + Retha Hill, formerly of the Washington Post and BET, runs the New Media Innovation Lab, where students work on mobile apps for local news organizations. And +Dan Gillmor, who runs the Knight Center for Digital Entrepreneurship, just spent an exciting week helping journalism professors from all over the country cope with the changing situation in their profession and teach students how to deal with it. He brought in + Richard Gingras, head of news product at Google and former CEO of Slate, and +Jeff Jarvis, author of “Public Parts.” (I talked about boostrapping).

From there, I went to the reception for the Masters of Health Innovation students at the ASU College of Public Programs, and met some of the fall grads who are available to work on projects for innovative health startups (I needed that for a company I advise).

And then I stopped in at Kitchen Sink Studios, a creative and collaborative consultancy owned by+ Nicolas Hower and + Kory Kapfer, who bought a non-descript building in downtown Phoenix and have rehabbed it into a gallery, web design company, and place for the creative class to hang out in Phoenix. I found out that an old buddy and client of mine from the 80s, +Mike davis, runs a design firm called Urban Initiatives out of there, at which he designs innovative downtown projects. And a group of entrepreneurs and creatives hang out there, as they do at Co+Hoots, up the street, and Urban Labs.

And then it was cocktail time, and I retreated to Hilstone at the Biltmore, where I sat at the bar with all the folks who never see the startup environment, don’t fund it, and don’t even notice it, but talk about the crummy real estate market while playing with their iPhones.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyler Hurst January 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Perhaps potential outside investors are waiting for Phoenix metro to come up with a hit before they bother paying any attention.

We have a lot of great stuff, just doesn’t seem to be anything marketable to the masses.

hardaway January 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Limelight Networks is/was a great hit. Unicorn Media will be one. But both of them are in the enterprise space, where they deliver content for big clients. Tech Crunch and them don’t notice that, and in the case of Unicorn, few investors even understand ad tech.

Fred von Graf January 8, 2012 at 1:38 am

Francine we are seeing a lot more investment coming from outside Phoenix.  Sure we have some high net worth individuals the support what we’re doing but most of the game changers are still external.  With enough of us working on changing the community and making people aware of what we have to offer in Tempe, Phoenix, Chandler the more people will engage.  Keep shouting!

hardaway January 8, 2012 at 5:14 am

I see that, too, but in the past it has meant that the companies leave and don’t grow inPhoenix.
Francine Hardaway, PhD
Stealthmode Partners

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