PHX Startup Week 2016 … and Beyond

We did it. PHX Startup Week wasn’t just a one-time thing. It didn’t stay flat. It grew. It got better. And the stories I’ve heard in the week since have been amazing. Allow me to share my personal reflections on the whole thing.

But first, you might want to watch this video that was produced by beeing, the dynamic duo of Patrik Matheson and Taze Raney who donated their entire week to shoot and document the entire event.

Measuring Success

By the numbers

To begin with, you’re probably wondering about the numbers. Everyone does. In an effort to be completely transparent, here is the stuff we know (so far) about PHX Startup Week’s 2016 quantifiable impact…

  • Over 5,000,000 social impressions were made, reaching over 1,000,000 social media accounts
  • Over 15,000 photos were taken and 2,400 minutes of video footage was recorded
  • 3,200 drinks (yes, happy hour drinks) were poured and enjoyed
  • 1,400 lunches were served by 4 food trucks and 3 caterers
  • Over 4,400 people were present, nearly double 2015’s attendance
  • 140 gallons of coffee energized the crowds
  • 175 speakers provided their valuable insights to attendees
  • 75 volunteers helped make this thing run as smoothly as it did
  • 130 mentees enjoyed 1-on-1 sessions with 53 mentors
  • 35 sponsors helped make this event a reality, with 12 paid sponsors donating $112,000, plus another 23 in-kind sponsors
  • 18 media outlets reported about PHX Startup Week across television, radio, print, and the web
  • 15 venues hosted our Valley-wide events
  • Attendees registered for an average of 12.5 sessions
  • 5 politicians — 2 mayors, 2 vice mayors, and 1 congressman — participated throughout the week
  • 4 cities were home to the week-long event
  • 1 state was wonderfully highlighted: Arizona

By any stretch of measurement, PHX Startup Week’s sophomore effort was a resounding success. But there’s something I care about much more than simply the numbers.

By the stories

It’s overwhelming how many positive stories there are to share from the week. We can (and will) be sharing many of them throughout the rest of 2016. But for starters, these are just a few of the inspiring anecdotes I heard last week, proving the fact that PHX Startup Week is a life-changing event for more people than we even know:

  • A local realtor attended PHX Startup Week in 2015 and applied all she learned. She credits what she learned last year to doubling her business in the last year, planning to becoming an angel investor in startups herself. She volunteered everyday of PHX Startup Week this year and made a huge impact.
  • Two founders shared with me that they cried in their car on Thursday night after all they had been learning through the week, realizing the community that was here to support them, re-invigorated to accomplish their vision.
  • One mentee happily wrote a mentor the next day: “You brought an immediate positive impact to my business by providing clarity and endorsing an order of operations to my next steps that empowered me to clear roadblocks that were dampening my progress … and gave me a practical solution which I implemented before the close of business.”
  • A high school teacher of 15-years brought 6 of his high school students to PHX Startup Week to give them real-world exposure to entrepreneurs, working with the school to give them extra credit for attending and volunteering their time.
  • Or how about this from a recent newcomer to Arizona: “For my team and I, Startup Week was a transformational experience. We weren’t aware of the energy and momentum of the tech community out here, but the number of connections we made and insights we gained in just one day of attendance have proven to be the most valuable opportunities we’ve had here in the past two years as a young education company.”
  • Not to mention, every single person I spoke with commented about this year being far more organized and running even smoother than last year.

And this was just the beginning. How were these stories made possible?

Generosity Made it Possible

Before sharing what will happen in the future years of PHX Startup Week, I must thank some of the amazing people and organizations that made 2016’s celebration possible. Unfortunately, it is impossible to thank all of the people by name who made PHX Startup Week happen this year, but I’ll do my best. I confidently speak on behalf of the entire community when I say that we are incredibly thankful to each and every person, team, and organization who contributed their time, effort, and resources to making PHX Startup Week happen. It would not have been the same without everyone’s remarkable generosity.

The sponsors

Chase for Business came through yet again as our Title Sponsor, building upon the amazing contributions they made in kicking this thing off in the first place. The event wouldn’t exist without them, and I know the entire community is incredibly grateful for how they show up at #ChaseBasecamp, not only financially, but as sweat equity partners with staff volunteering their time throughout the week. They put their money where their mouth is, too, kicking off our entire celebration with $400,000 in grant announcements to some of the very organizations keeping our entrepreneurial community both active and diverse.

SRP was a first-time sponsor this year, and they contributed hugely as our Growth Round Sponsor! I couldn’t be more thankful for getting to know their leadership personally. I’m looking forward to seeing how they continue to help build and foster the entrepreneurial and small business community in Arizona, which they have already been supporting for quite some time.

1MISSION joined the party, too, as our Series A Sponsor. With a focus on generosity this past week, it was wonderful to showcase a non-profit right in our own backyard that exudes such a generous spirit. I’m looking forward to building community with them and other startup community members on October 14–17, 2016 when we go to build a house in Rocky Point — you’re invited, too.

As Seed Round Sponsors, Hool Coury Law, Startup AZ Foundation, MRTNZ Ventures, APS, Carvana, Fennemore Craig, Osborn Maledon, ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation, and The City of Scottsdale all helped us make great things happen, some of which came through at the very last minute when additional budgetary needs popped up unexpectedly — let’s just say our community responds quickly!

And then, we have all our Bootstrap Sponsors to thank, who contributed time, resources, and marketing weight to making the event what it was. In no particular order, this includes: The City of Phoenix, DTPHX, The City of Tempe, Downtown Tempe, Eliances, Co+Hoots, GoDaddy, Infusionsoft, Tipsy, Sticker Giant, Wired PR, Hopscratch, DiscountMags, Volo Digital, Paz Cantina, AZ Tech Council, The Department, Tanga, Corner Bakery Cafe, Startup Grind, SEED SPOT,, Phoenix IT, and Uber.

The organizers

This thing didn’t just happen. It took nearly a year of effort, and we have some amazing people — friends — to thank for it.

Paige Soucie was an instrumental leader and organizer, donating hundreds of her hours and many nights and weekends to make Startup Week run as smoothly as it did. There is no one else to thank but her for such a smooth operation through and through. Considering she left the very next day for a year-long trip around the world, she may have just been throwing herself one big going away party, but we sure are grateful. She will be sorely missed by the community this next year. (Come back to us!)

Matt Simpson, once again, came through like a boss, making things happen when no one else could make them happen. When he says he’ll do something, he does, and he does it quickly and perfectly. I remain thankful for his partnership — and friendship. Year one, let alone year two, wouldn’t have happened without him.

Andrew Knochel was the man. He has a way of slipping into the background, but make no mistake, we wouldn’t have had screens, sound, or even venues without him. The logistics of PHX Startup Week would not have been possible without his amazing blood, sweat and tears (though he didn’t show them).

Beth Cochran stepped up this year, too, filling in some marketing and PR needs that were greatly needed. You saw and heard many of the fruit of that labor, especially in the final weeks, as the coverage of PHX Startup Week increased and the excitement grew.

Kunal Laroia is an amazing story. Not only did he help recruit, wrangle, and manage volunteers heading into the week, we have him around because of Startup Week in the first place. He was going to move back to San Francisco after graduating ASU, but because of what he saw and his involvement last year, he decided to stay. Well, not only has he stayed in AZ, he’s playing an important and generous part in the ecosystem. Next time you see him, thank him.

Caitlin Waters, wow! Did you see all of @PHXstartupweek’s hundreds and hundreds of amazing tweets? Did you love watching what was happening live via social media? Did you think, how are they doing that? Caitlin, that’s how. She not only scheduled every tweet heading into the week, she put organized an incredible team of social media volunteers and built solid, engaging content for the entire event. Caitlin is the real deal, all around.

Lauren McDannell made mentorship awesome, like she does. From recruiting and organizing the mentors to connecting them with eager recipients, the impact on entrepreneurs and their startups was dramatic and immediate, as noted earlier. We’re lucky to have her bright, bubbly contributions in our community.

Stephen “V” Viramontes and Chris Smith were some wonderful, last minute additions to the organizing team, as well, and they stepped up big time. I’ll share more about them and their part in the whole PHX Startup Week thing by the end of this article, just you wait.

Specialty organizers

Not only are these folks constant supporters, they took their time and resources to plan great specialty content. Mary Juetten did amazing planning the women’s track (that wasn’t just for women!). Eric Diaz coordinated the Latino entrepreneur track we had happen at Coworking on 15th. Greg Bullock made stuff happen at CEI GateWay. And last but certainly not least, Heather Dunn, Erin Graff, Paul Parent, and Gregg Scoresby got “wow” reports from everyone who attended the EdTech track at SkySong.


Last year, we learned that we really need a captain of the day, an emcee with a personality who could keep the crowd alive and engaged, even in between sessions. The following people gave of their time and resources to make that happen, keeping the energy up all day long, every day.

We must thank our main stage emcees especially: Dan Tyre, Raoul Encinas, Dorina Bustamante, Marco Ceglie, and Hayfa Aboukier. These five leaders are already recognized in the community for their generosity, but it was undoubtedly showcased and highlighted throughout the entire week.

And we also must thank the emcees and show-runners who kept our less equipped rooms running with aplomb: Caitlin Waters (again), Matt Jonas, Gabe Ramirez, Katherine Pappas, Zach Snader, Jenn Kaye, Andew Phelps, Colby Gergen, John B. Johnson, and Kimberly Roland. What a team!

The volunteers

Talk about some amazing volunteers. We had them all! JP Taxman, Thomas Stocklein, Mat Sherman, Kelly Dieball, Molly Powell, Chad Luchiano, Sasha Lopez, Micheala Griffin, Paulina Orqueda, Laura Blakesley, Ajay Bavle, Chris Smith, Nick O’Brien, Daniel Martin Mora, Jorge Sanchez, Pat Blakesley, Yiyang Zhang, Ang Li, Nick Lord, Srikanth, David Frood, Brina Kaiser, Susie Fishleder, Deborah klatt, Andrew Linderer, Jennifer Jermaine, Dan Gould, Valorie Valencia, Parisa Vassei, Jennifer DeMarre Jermaine, Jayd Lem, Daniel Schenck, Brandon Dickens, Jacob Schoen, Ethan Schreiber, Adam Baker, Sean Shepherd, Tamara Juntiff, Aaron Richards, Martin Bencic, Andrew Veatch, Chris Toward, Kevin Cherrick, Christopher Martin, Drew Needs, Matt Nixon, Lindsay Palmer, Kia Bess, Nicholas Trimmer, Brandon Willey, David J Roman, Quita Remick, Sara Ahmadi Derfus, Yuyu Bao, Wendy, Phil Bradstock, Aunssi Barfoot-beels, Kyle Thomas, Ethan Jensen, Julian Verdugo Ojeda, Nick VanDerNaalt, Brian Gatti, Caitlin Waters, Matt Jonas, Gabe Ramirez, Katherine Pappas, Zach Snader, Jenn Kaye, Andew Phelps, Colby Gergen, John B. Johnson, Kimberly Roland, and Eduardo Borquez all gave of themselves and their time, without the expectation of notice or applause. But we all noticed.

The speakers

Did you love the content as much as I did? Yep. In alphabetical order, our amazing speakers included Jeff Abbott, Christina Aldan, Ryan Allen, Norm Allgood, Rafael Amezcua, Ryan Angilly, Tom Vander Ark, Amy Armstrong, Anila Arthanari, Jerrod Bailey, Anthony Bajoras, Ryan Bartos, Lindsay Bayuk, Mary Benek, Maria Bailey Benson, Noreen Bishop, Phillip Blackerby, Greg Bullock, German Cadenas, Ruth Carter, Esq., Tim Castro, Marco Ceglie, Brad Cesmat, Andrew Chaifetz, Mai Ling Chan, Jay Chernikoff, Eli Chmouni, Rehan Choudhry, Tamara Christensen, Brandon Clarke, Matthew Clyde, Beth Cochran, David Cogan, Spencer Connaughton, Jonathan Cottrell, Nicole Cottrell, Jonathan Coury, Matt Coxhead, Michael Crow, Nate Curran, Tom Curzon, Marcus DeLeon, Becky DeStigter, Ruminder Dhillon, Kent Dicks, Bill Dolphin, Tishin Donkersley, Dave Drach, Anna Ebert, Ryan Edwards, Bryan Ehrenfreund, Michael Ellenby, Raoul Encinas, Sari Factor, Tim Falls, John Fees, Zach Ferres, Nikki Fica, Megan Finnerty, Colby Gergen, Matt Gottesman, John Gough, James Goulka, C’pher Gresham, Randy Gustafson, Susan Halverson, Felena Hanson, Francine Hardaway, Dallin Harris, Greg Head, Kristin Hege, Matt Hensler, Tim Holladay, Michael Hool, Park Howell, Sean Huntington, Mario Martinez II, Heidi Jannenga, Matt Jimenez, RJ Jones, Mary Juetten, Tania Katan, Jeff Katz, Jenn Kaye, Christie Kerner, Ron Kisicki, Courtney Klein, Vivek Kopparthi, TK Kuegler, Tom Lagerhausen, Mike Landis, Bret Larsen, Rod Lenniger, Jim Lundy, Matthew Manos, JT Marino, Liz Mason, Lauren McDanell, Elyse Meyer, Andrew Miller, Eric Miller, Kirk Morales, Brian Mueller, Nicole Mueller, Terry Mullane, Wayne Neale, Edgar Rafael Olivo, Mike Olsen, Paul Parent, Daehee Park, Bill Payne, Sidnee Peck, Russ Perry, Juliet Peters, Jacob Pfeiffer, Shawn Pfunder, Don Pierson, Matthew Pittinsky, Jenny Poon, Chad Porter, Phil Potter, Dipti Pratt, Mary Rabago, Joe Ray, Jamie Reardon, Michael Anthony Reyes, Keith Rezendes, Dan Roberts, Ron Robertson, Kate Rogers, Kristin Romaine, Chris Ronzio, Kathy Sacks, Scott Salkin, Aly Saxe, Amy Scerra, Gregg Scoresby, Shannon Scutari, Hart Shafer, Sam Shammah, Elle Shelley, Hamid Shojaee, Stephanie Sims, Kristin Slice, Chris Smith, Chris J Snook, Brian Sowards, Scarlett Spring, Keith Stoneback, Peter Sturgeon, Pat Sullivan, Richard Swanson, Justin Talbot-Stern, Uber Technologies, Spencer Thomason, Robert Thornton, Sean Tierney, Justin Topliff, Colin Turner, Daniel Tyre, Nicole Underwood, Roberto Valdez-Beltran, Daniel Valenzuela, Dan Veltri, Wasabi Ventures, Monica Villalobos, Robert Wallace, Scott Weiss, Jonathan Whistman, Brandon Willey, Darren Wilson, Adeel Yang, Jeremy Young, and Annette Zinky.

The mentors

You already read some of the impactful stories. In no particular order, the following mentors made a 1-on-1 difference with 130 mentees: Darren Wilson, Ryan Angilly, Scott Weiss, Jonathan Ariano, Robert Wallace, Francine Hardaway, Mary Juetten, Daniel Tyre, Bruce Law, Deric Frost, Scott Salkin, Chris Cardinal, Sidnee Peck, Kirk Morales, Raoul Encinas, Marty Zwilling, Greg Bischak, John Cosgrove, Zach Ferres, Andrew Phelps, Kevin Goldman, Don Henninger, Christie Kerner, Brandon Clarke, Ben Reichert, Kellie Zimmet, Wayne Neale, Jerrod Bailey, Bret Larsen, Daniel Janes, C’pher Gresham, Rick Stoddard, Alan Lobock, Mike Chadwick, Hamid Shojaee, Tim Porthouse, Ryan Naylor, Annette Zinky, Fred von Graf, Daniel Schenck, Ed Borromeo, Robert Haines, Vincent Serpico, Becky DeStigter, Bob La Loggia, Jeff Sauter, Brian Richardson, Chris J. Snook, Anila Arthanari, Christine K. Bailey, Curtis Reed, Noreen Bishop, Chris Smith, and Annette Zinky.

And of course, Techstars

I remain incredibly grateful to the entire Techstars team and how they support entrepreneurship around the world, but it is the incredible support of Christina Christian, Matt Helt, and Andrew Hyde who have made it possible for PHX to receive of that support. They’re good people, all around, and I’m thankful to know them each.

Special mention

Last but not least, I want to go out of my way to thanking the generous souls who may or may not have fallen into any of the previous categories, but deserve special mention for their tireless support and advocacy of all things PHX Startup Week and entrepreneurship-related, in no particular order:

Dan Tyre, Raoul Encinas, Mario Martinez II, Kristin Romaine, Brandon Clarke, Greg Head, Kyle Frazey, Dan Gill, Ajay Bavle, Stephen “V” Viramontes, Paige Soucie, Ironline and 111 W. Monroe, Michael Hool, Jonathan Coury, Brad Jannenga, Christie Kerner, Tom Curzon, Jonathan Ariano, Chris J. Snook, Spencer Thomason, Adam Mann, Matt Simpson, Ryan Naylor, TK Keugler, Francine Hardaway, Rob Cox, Angela Creedon, Ji Mi Choi, Lisl Stanton, Noreen Bishop, Curtis Reed, Vince Malizia, Maura Cordova, Phil Bradstock, Seth Mones, Hank Marshall, Nicole Pasteur, Mayor Greg Stanton, Vice Mayor Daniel Valenzuela, Mayor Jim Lane, Vice Mayor David Smith, Danielle Casey, Mark Paratore, The Phoenix Social Media Club, Donna Kennedy, Lori Foster, Mackenzie FitzGerald, Kelly Patton, Andrew Knochel, Dorina Bustamante, Thomas Hawthorne, Patrik Matheson, Taze Raney, Whitney Murray, Mallory Hutchison, Andrew Linderer, Jennifer DeMarre Jermaine, Ajay Bavle, Anne Rickard, Denise C. Hayes, Jason Law, Nate Hughes, Nicole Cottrell, and all the other friends and family members who supported their loved ones while making this event possible.

Phew…I hope I got everyone. If I didn’t, please accept my genuine, blanket appreciation:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. PHX would not be the same without your unique contribution.

What happens next?

After our inaugural event, my number one priority heading into PHX Startup Week’s second year could be summarized in one word: sustainability. Organizing this thing is a massive effort, to say the least, that cannot rest on the backs of any one person or team.

In my humble (but strong) opinion, organic, community-led efforts run the risk of eventually becoming stale, organized institutions that forget why they began in the first place. It is incredibly important to me that this not happen with PHX Startup Week, #yesphx, Team AZ, or any other community efforts that I’ve had any small part in shaping. It is up to our entire community to keep such organic efforts operating, growing, and evolving.

As a result, it is with great privilege and excitement that I have commissioned the responsibility of leading PHX Startup Week 2017–2018 to Stephen “V” Viramontes and Chris Smith, two humble startup servants who I know will do far greater things with PHX Startup Week than I can foretell now. In doing this, I have clearly set the expectation that they, too, hand off the organizing responsibility for 2019–2020 … and so on. I believe this two-year rotation cycle is critical to keeping new ideas and new leaders surfacing to the top of our startup ecosystem. I am honored to begin this trend with them.

Mark your calendars now

As the largest, most inclusive event (it’s free, for crying out loud!) for the entrepreneurial community of Arizona, we should begin to carve out a place in our entrepreneurial calendars for PHX Startup Week in the future. Regardless of the fact that I will not be organizing next year’s event, I will surely be present next year, cheering on our entire ecosystem February 20–24, 2017.

We have an incredibly generous startup community to celebrate, my friends, and we can all look forward to building that community every last full week of February for years to come. From the hundreds of names I’ve written above, you can see that there’s only one requirement:

We build together.
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