The No Bullshit Way To Grow The Phoenix Tech Scene

More Nerds and More Rich People

To start this off, here’s a list of things Phoenix doesn’t need to grow our tech scene

  • Another coworking space
  • Another networking event
  • Another program put on by the government
  • Another program to support our entrepreneurs
  • Another mentor
  • Another mention in Forbes
  • A “Warehouse District”
  • Vanity statistics to make us feel better about ourselves
  • Another company moving here to validate that we’re growing
  • Giving founders false hope that their product is great when it isn’t
  • Investor groups asking doing more due diligence than they should
  • Shaming of Silicon Valley
  • Another Phoenix Business Journal Award Ceremony

What does this leave? If we don’t need any of these things, what’s left? Everything listed above is everything you need for tech ecosystem right? There may be a few things missing. Great Scott! There are indeed a couple of items missing there!

What’s missing?

  1. Nerds (Hackers)
  2. Rich People (Investors)

This just came to me after reading a Paul Graham essay on “How To Be Silicon Valley”.

“I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds. They’re the limiting reagents in the reaction that produces startups, because they’re the only ones present when startups get started. Everyone else will move.” — Paul Graham

At this point, if you are thinking that I’m full of shit because Phoenix is trying to be the best Phoenix it can be, not trying to be the next Silicon Valley, then you’re dead wrong. We should attempt to do exactly what Silicon Valley has done without being assholes about it OR branding ourselves as a subset of Silicon Valley. So, what has SV done?

They accumulated a lot of nerds and a lot of rich people in what we call the Bay Area.

So let’s break this down.

Nerds (Hackers)

We oftentimes complain about the lack of tech talent in the area. It’s true. There really aren’t that many talented programmers here in the Phoenix area when you compare it to Seattle, Boulder, or New York. Well, guess what? That’s our own damn fault. Why?

We have one of the top universities in the world right in our own backward producing hundreds of engineers a year. So actually, we do have tech talent. We just don’t have tech talent that doesn’t want to stay. I know this first hand, as I am friendly with dozens of computer science majors at ASU. Phoenix isn’t an attractive destination for these young guns.

Well, hold your horses there, ACA. There’s actually nothing you can do about this. No money, no program, no salesperson will convince these engineers to stay. What will? A kickass startup to join. So these hackers should be starting here, then staying here OR joining another startup that’s growing quickly here.

Rich People (Investors)

I’m not a rich person, so I can’t speak on this as much so this section will be short. But if you are rich, fund some smart hackers working on something useful. You probably won’t get your money back. That’s okay. Phoenix needs to develop the idea that losing money is okay for the sake of the founder’s growth. Think that’s stupid? SV Doesn’t.

Also, if you wait for an idea to mature enough before you fund, the founders are going to move, like the founders of Mixpanel. They went to ASU. Then they moved to SV. Now they are a billion dollar company. Startups are about bets. Founders bet on the ideas. You gotta bet on the founders. You don’t have to, but Phoenix relies on you.

So, the plan? Get the nerds to stay here and get the rich people to invest into the nerds. Everything else matters a little less.

With that, here is my set of tips if you want to grow the Phoenix Tech Scene.

  1. Get to know ASU engineers: They are the future of this scene and our growth depends on them. Befriend them, learn from them, and help them where you can. I’ve done this with no agenda. I could name 10 engineer friends at ASU. They may move or they may not. Either way, i’m glad to have more friends who are smarter than me.
  2. Learn to Code Well and Join a Quickly Growing Startup: The keywords are “well” and “growing”. If you learn to code well, you are in high demand for every startup here. Make sure to join a quickly growing startup, as ten great hackers are more effective all one one team. I’d prefer the best engineers in Phoenix to join just one startup, and let all the others suffer from lacking tech talent. The top talent should all be together, not dispersed, to maximize the potential for a billion dollar exit in Phoenix.
  3. Sponsor someone to go through Galvanize or Dev Mountain: If you have expendable dollars, please don’t donate it to one of the organizations claiming to grow our ecosystem through events or awards. Donate it to expand our base of hackers in Phoenix. I promise your ROI, if they stay here, will be 20x-50x compared to your donation to ________.
  4. Fund a startup: Expect to lose your money. Don’t even consider it an investment in the founder if you can’t think like that…Consider it an investment in Phoenix…and maybe, just maybe, you will have found the right founder to bet on and you could get a whole lot richer.

In conclusion, if you want to grow this place, focus on the nerds and the rich people, or you’re likely not going to leave the impact you’d like to.


I’m Mat. I run PubLoft, I am a mover in the Phoenix startup scene, and I have no idea what i’m doing. If you don’t hit ❤ below, I will take it personally.

Want to connect? I’m active on Twitter, Facebook, and starting to experiment with telepathy.