Phoenix Startup Week Kicks Off Bigly

Yesterday I saw two people I hadn’t seen for five years. One, Justin Lesko, founder of real estate collaboration startup Mrkt Street, has been in Phoenix all along, but I just haven’t seen him. The other, Brett Hudson, worked with me on an initiative in downtown Phoenix five years ago, left for a fellowship and a couple of interesting jobs, and arrived back in town two weeks ago. Both men were in the SAME entrepreneurship roundtable group I facilitated five years ago, and I ran into both of them on the steps of a building in what used to be a rundown neighborhood in downtown Phoenix that has been reborn into The Warehouse District, a tech center for entrepreneurs.

What propelled this coincidental meeting?

This week is Phoenix Startup Week. It’s the third year we’ve come together as a community of volunteers and held this event, and from what I can tell, it will be another great event. Yesterday’s kickoff, at the spectacular new Galvanize facility, was amazing. Thousands of people drifted through the building, a converted warehouse that wasn’t even finished before the weekend.

Let’s pause a minute on what Galvanize has brought to the community: a real San Francisco vibe, evident even in the tenant improvements to its converted warehouse space, and its beautiful private offices. Galvanize offers open desks, slightly private desks, offices with windows and glass doors, kitchen, coffee shop, and even an amphitheatre. The cost of membership is on a sliding scale, depending on what kind of space you or your company needs.

Judging by yesterday, just bringing the Galvanize space plan to the Valley levels us up a notch. Even better is Galvanize’s intention to train web developers and data scientists at its facility. Classes will start in April. Finally we’ll have a code boot camp.

So Monday morning, the community gathered in the brand new amphitheatre to hear the kickoff by principal sponsor Chase, whose #ChaseforBiz program has been with us since StartupWeek’s inception. And then it attended a day of talks interspersed with networking and, of course, food. (A moment of thanks to the other sponsors: APS, SRP, Hool Coury Law, Dev Mountain, and Volo.)

Tuesday the event moves on. Part of the joy and glory of Phoenix Startup Week is how it travels around the Valley from Phoenix to Tempe to Scottsdale, to wherever there is someone willing to give a venue over to a day of speakers, meetings, networking, and yes — revelry. This is especially important because the Valley is 9200 square miles and has no “center.” There’s startup activity everywhere from Peoria to Gilbert. There’s no way to aggregate it on a regular basis without something like this.

As a community, we’ve had a tough time telling outsiders and newcomers where the action is, because the action takes place over such a wide area. I think Phoenix Startup Week has developed the traction it has because it takes into account the unwillingness of busy startup folks to travel for 90 minutes for networking, and moves the networking out to them.

And networking is the key to a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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