A Guide to Getting Connected in the Phoenix Startup Ecosystem
When you first heard about or got involved with Phoenix’s startup scene, what was your impression? Vibrant and exciting? A bit intimidating? We’ve all been there and can relate to how you feel!
Until a few years ago, the Phoenix entrepreneur community was separated into small pockets of talent across the Valley. Instead of collaborating and working to improve the ecosystem as a whole, we were isolated. In 2014, #yesphx was founded to provide a banner to unify these pockets as one startup ecosystem.
“Our power comes from the fact that we’re all connected and support each other. As one greater ecosystem, we now have even more diversity and strengths. We’ve learned to appreciate those differences and find ways to collaborate. We’ve raised awareness, and ultimately, we’re louder and stronger together.” — Christie Simmons, National Director, Americas of Startup Grind HQ
As part of the #yesphx mission, we also want to make it easy for anyone to participate. Whether you’re new to town, a seasoned entrepreneur, an investor or just intrigued about the concept of entrepreneurship, you belong here. This is your community. Your ecosystem. Your people.
We know it can be tough to figure out where to start. That’s what we’re here for. As you dip your toe into the local startup waters, here are 7 things a few veteran entrepreneurs recommend doing in your first 60 days to get connected in the community.
1. Follow the #yesphx hashtag
“Meaningful content facilitates meaningful relationships, creates meaningful opportunities, and makes a meaningful statement for all of Arizona’s entrepreneur ecosystem.” — Jonathan Cottrell, Instigator of #yesphx
The easiest way to start getting involved is by following the #yesphx hashtag on social media. As you’ll come to find out, that’s our community’s way of staying connected. Watch the conversation on Facebook and Twitter to get a feel for what’s trending. Then when you post something relevant to the community (not sales pitches or personal promotions!) include #yesphx to collectively amplify what’s happening around Arizona.
Pro tip: First think about why you want to get more involved in the local ecosystem. As with your own business, the more clearly you understand your own purpose, the easier it will be to stay aligned with it and connect in a meaningful way.
2. Attend an event
“I thoroughly enjoy going to events, listening to what matters to people, and connecting them to resources in the moment that would make a difference. You are only three handshakes away from anything and everything you want for yourself and your life.” — Quintin Baker, Executive Director of Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship
There are a number of local events that cater to any interest or goal. Whether it’s a weekly staple like One Million Cups, a monthly program like Startup Grind Phoenix and House of Genius, or a huge annual celebration like PHX Startup Week, there’s always something going on around town. Plus, local events are a great way to meet others face-to-face while you’re at it.
Watch the Phoenix Startup Digest calendar to see what’s coming up. Here are a few popular events and meetups to keep an eye out for:
- PHX Startup Week
- Venture Madness
- 1 Million Cups
- House of Genius
- Startup Grind
- HackerNest Phoenix
- Internet of Things (IoT) Phoenix
- Startup Phoenix
- CoFoundersLab Matchup
- Phoenix Mobile & IoT Technology Group
Pro tip: If you dread networking, why not try something different? Aim for quality conversations over quantity, focus on showing your value (just like you would if you were pitching your business), and trade the standard “What do you do?” intro for a more meaningful conversation starter, like “What’s going on in your world / business?” “What kind of people are you trying to meet?” or “Who do you go to for advice?” And whatever you do, please don’t call Phoenix “the Silicon Desert.”
3. Meet folks face-to-face
“Meet and befriend fired up entrepreneurs, angels, investors, and government officials in the AZ ecosystem. I mean physically be in the same room with them, sit next to them, chat with them, ask them questions, make connections, tell your story, and treat PHX Startup Week like one big cocktail party.” — Dan Tyre, Director of Hubspot
Community can’t happen without face-to-face connections. With the wide variety of events on a weekly basis, there are ample opportunities to meet other #yesphx community members. Don’t be afraid to ask active members to grab a coffee or beer to get to know them better. Nothing beats real connection, and if you want to jumpstart the process, meeting up in person will strengthen your connection to other startup folks pretty quickly. That’s how community is formed.
Pro tip: It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in our community. Be thoughtful about who you reach out to and follow up afterward to strengthen those connections. Most importantly, go into these meetings with the purpose of learning what you can do for that person and the #yesphx community, not what they can do for you.
4. Visit shared spaces
“Shared spaces have a built-in community made up of other people passionate about what’s happening in the community. These spaces usually also host all kinds of meetups and events as well as have partnerships or connections with other local organizations. At CO+HOOTS, we love welcoming new members, especially those who are new to Phoenix and want to get involved with what’s going on in the community.” — Jenny Poon, Founder of CO+HOOTS
Startups aren’t very territorial when it comes to their work environments, which is good for newcomers. There are a growing number of amazing shared work spaces all around Greater Phoenix that are great to visit, work from, and, once again, meet others like you. Choosing a new work environment is one of the fastest ways to find community. Proximity matters.
Visit the Arizona Commerce Authority’s directory for a comprehensive list of co-working and collaborative workspaces in town. Some of the most established spaces include:
Pro tip: Research the space ahead of time so you know the cost, walk-in policy, parking situation, and other logistics. Every shared space also has it’s own vibe, so it’s important to go check them out in person and see which environment is best for you. Be sure to bring your chargers, battery packs, etc. Even if you don’t run out of juice, someone else probably will. Bam! New friend made, just like that.
5. Learn something new
“Learning is so important to constant improvement, and we all have something to learn from each other. I try to share my focus and experiences as much as possible with those who can benefit in the community. I would recommend that other folks share their expertise and real world examples too, and challenge each other to constantly improve and innovate. Rising tides lift all boats.” — Lindsay Bayuk, VP of Product Marketing for Price Intelligently
Learning never ends. Whether you’re starting a new company or growing a mature one, every day is another opportunity to try something new, test an idea, and grow. Phoenix combines the robust educational opportunities that most big cities offer, but with the openness to sharing of a close knit community. Take advantage of the knowledge others provide, and consider reaching out to one of these organizations if you’re interested in brushing up on a new skill, prototyping a new concept, or accelerating your company:
- The Knight Foundation
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation at ASU
- CEI Gateway
- Cronkite New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab
Incubators and programs:
- Tallwave Capital
- Grayhawk Capital
- Sorenson Capital
- Canal Partners
- Valley Ventures
- Arizona Tech Investors
Know of another resource that should be listed? Let us know below!
Pro tip: Reward the generosity by paying it forward in another direction. Direct reciprocity isn’t necessary! Most of the people who work with these organizations are volunteers or staff who are willingly giving their time, effort, energy, and funds to make our community better. Please be empathetic and appreciative for their difficult jobs, and see if you can pitch in and return the favor. After all, becoming known as the most generous entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world is going to take more than a handful of us!
6. Treat everyone well
“By and large, what I’ve experienced in the Arizona entrepreneurial ecosystem is an abundance mindset. There’s a spirit of generosity here that’s based on goodwill, peer support, and genuinely wanting to see others thrive and succeed. Having lived and worked in both NYC and SF Bay Area, there’s a level of kindness here that doesn’t exist elsewhere.” — Raoul Encinas, Founder of PhosLabs
The cornerstone of the #yesphx community is generosity. This generosity extends beyond the office and into the personal interactions we have with each other on a daily basis. This means we all need to be gracious and kind to each other, even if there may be times we don’t see eye to eye. If you’re new to Phoenix’s large and diverse community of people, please help us to continue to promote this generosity by not expecting anything in return when you contribute, and, quite simply, treating others how you want to be treated.
Pro tip: Don’t just say you’re generous and inclusive. Walk the walk! If you’re curious what this looks like in practice, check out the #yesphx community guidelines.
7. Take ownership
“The startup community depends on a steady flow of new leaders to step in and take ownership of different elements of the ecosystem. This keeps things fresh and organic. Step in and volunteer at an event, re-activate a stagnant tech meetup, or spread the word about the good things that are happening on your social channels.” — Zach Ferres, CEO of Coplex
Becoming an active, contributing, respected member of a community doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re looking to truly help, participate in, and contribute toward building the world’s most generous community for entrepreneurs (whatever that may mean to you), you’ve found a home.
And now that you’re home, help make it a better place for all. No one person or organization owns #yesphx; it lives and breathes in the day-to-day actions, behaviors, and language we co-create together. That includes you.
You’re already thinking of other things to add to this list… such as volunteering. Giving kudos to others who walk their talk. Introducing two people from your network who should meet.
Welcome to #yesphx. We’re glad you’re here!
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This post was a community effort by Shaina Rozen of Sidetone, world traveler Paige Soucie, Raoul Encinas, and Chris & Brianne Snook and their #yesphx Definitive Guide to the Phoenix Startup Scene. Kudos to Adam Mann for the visual.