Phoenix Startup Week begins in a building under construction. The metaphor is glorious. Attendees trickle in for coffee and networking. You can hear a faint sense of longing in the tone of their chatter. The reason for their presence is one common to many growing cities: a connected, vibrant entrepreneurial community.
The barriers to making this dream real are persistent. Some barriers are self-fulfilling prophecies of resource scarcity and historical territorial elbowing. Others are as local and specific as problems of geography; this city’s sprawling 100-mile-wide limits can be daunting — as Bilbo says, “like butter scraped on too much bread.” This lack of density can turn location silos into comfort zones. The result is a fragmented community building momentum without connection.
To become the entrepreneurial ecosystem it aspires to be, Phoenix has some work to do. A great step is increasing exposure and awareness here at Phoenix Startup Week. Those who are taking the time to discover and celebrate community are realizing it’s good, fruitful work. There’s nothing like a good party to bring people together. With over 2,000 people taking part in 160 events this week, there are near-constant echoes of the anthem of unexpected connection: “I had no idea this was here!”
“Startup Week is an important opportunity to say, ‘This, right here, is the Phoenix startup community,’” says Nima Jacob Nojoumi, CEO of Sourcely and city director of House of Genius. Nima spent his Wednesday in Tempe offering mentoring hours. He also shares how exciting it is to see people breaking out of their East and West Valley silos and making new connections. It’s a beautiful thing.
Every day, Startup Week opens in a new and different location around Phoenix. While potentially a risk for this commuter city, the community has shown up.
“I think that one of the things that has made this successful is that has been in all these different locations. And that is the key thing that has been lacking in the community is a unified event in all these locations,” notes Francine Hardaway, one of Phoenix’s long-standing startup community builders.
A common phrase being used to describe Phoenix here is “tipping point.” This description is okay if you’re discussing weighty commodities, but this community is more than a simple transaction of influence; it’s alive and emerging.
Phoenix may not be thriving and vibrant yet, but they will get there as long as their members continue to break out of of their silos, discover and celebrate. Startup Week provided a taste of what it’s like to create the community this city needs. Next year and the year after, it’ll be even better.
Francine Hardaway is glowing as she talks about what has been happening here: “I’m excited because [Startup Week] finally bought the players together to a point where there can be critical mass — we can get something done. It’s created a situation in which people have to play and they have to play together.”