What #yesphx can learn from Boulder Startup Week

Rocky Mountain High (no, not that kind of high) at Boulder Startup Week.

In the first three years of PHX Startup Week, the Valley of the Sun has done a lot right.

I mean, 6000 attendees and growing can’t be wrong. Right?

After attending Boulder Startup Week, I gotta say there’s plenty we can still learn from the original Startup Week. Eight years in, these guys have really found their groove.

But first, here’s some of what PHX Startup Week gets right.

As long as we’re comparing, I want to highlight some of what PHX Startup Week does so well. These aren’t shots at Boulder. Some of what we do well is reflective of our unique culture and wouldn’t fit the scrappy (crunchy?) vibe of Boulder.

Rotating basecamp. As far as I know, ours is the only Startup Week that moves from city to city. There’s no need to move around in the 28-square mile Boulder Bubble. In the sprawling Phoenix metroplex, it’s critical to take the content to the people.

Consolidated buzz. Boulder overwhelms you with content. At any moment, there are three or four sessions at venues spread across downtown. We tried that in Year 1 and it just didn’t work. Arizonans don’t walk. So we streamlined to one venue per day and gained incredible energy in the process.

Professional polish. Boulder Startup Week squats in any venue they can get — libraries, art museums, training rooms, etc. It’s very casual. Very, umm, Boulder-y. With professional venues like the Tempe Center for the Arts, plus amazing sponsors and volunteers, PHX Startup Week has a different vibe. Year 3 especially leveled up the professionalism.

And, now, here’s what we can learn from Boulder Startup Week.

Lesson 1. Welcome noobs into #yesphx.

In the spirit of radical inclusiveness, Boulder Startup Week offers a New to Boulder track including noob-specific mixers, a resume and interview workshop, and a job fair. My favorite session is a welcome dinner where each noob is paired with a veteran for a one-on-one community intro.

The Valley receives a steady flow of new residents and #yesphx is such a new concept that even long-term residents don’t know we exist. We can’t leave a warm welcome of folks like Jeff Booth to a chance discussion of muffins.

And don’t get me started on the challenge of activating ASU students and recent grads into the community.

We gotta get these noobs into #yesphx before we lose them to Corporate America … or to a town like Boulder.

Lesson 2. Celebrate what makes Arizona special.

One of the first things I heard at Boulder Startup Week was Galen Bernard explain the town’s culture. It’s all about incorporating your extracurricular activities into your career. So, Boulder Startup Week had yoga classes, group hikes, brewery tours, and tracks dedicated to natural foods and cannabis.

Go figure, Boulder startups are innovating in hydroponics.

We’re working toward that in Arizona, but I don’t think we’ve quite locked in yet. Greg Head’s SaaS Day was a big step in the right direction and I dig Jonathan Cottrell’s focus on love and generosity.

Is there more that we can do to celebrate Arizona? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe we’re still trying to figure out who we are as a community.

If you have ideas, drop ’em in the comments.

Lesson 3. Channel traffic to other organizations.

PHX Startup Week is one week and #yesphx has two or three signature social events per year. In between, there’s a ton of free, inclusive, amazing stuff happening in the Valley — from 1 Million Cups and House of Genius to lunch and learns at our OG startup hubs like CO+HOOTS and Gangplank.

Boulder Startup Week hosted events by SheSays Boulder, Tech Friends Front Range, BoulderBeta, Rockies Venture Club, and more.

How can we use the #yesphx and PHX Startup Week megaphones to drive awareness and attendance for our many other outstanding organizations?

Lesson 4. Focus on the Damn Startups.

One of the best things about Boulder Startup Week is all the startups!

The stage was set at the kickoff party, where attendees walked from table to table engaging with founders and voting for their favorites. The exclamation point dropped at the Boomtown Accelerator demo day on Friday evening.

In between, there were pitch events, happy hours in startup offices, and more.

In-office jam session at Gorilla Logic during the Startup Crawl.

We shied away from pitch events in the first two years of PHX Startup Week. We didn’t want to interfere with Invest Southwest and Venture Madness the following week.

With Venture Madness scheduled later in the spring in 2017, Raoul Encinas and team brought us the Ignite-style Street Pitch in Year 3.

We have a lot of early-stage startups that aren’t ready for a deep Venture Madness run but are starving for community attention. Mat Sherman’s PubLoft and Rafael Testai’s Eventkey come to mind.

Would it dim the fun to throw out a few high-top tables and let folks engage with actual founders?

Like these ideas? Got your own? Hit me up!

Each of us owns a piece of PHX Startup Week and #yesphx. So, each of us bears responsibility for building this community.

Would you like to see these ideas implemented at PHX Startup Week? Do you have any other ideas for #yesphx?

Comment here or email me and we’ll push the ball forward together.

❤ This is my fifth Medium post. Please give me a little love! ❤


Stories, thoughts, and news from the Greater Phoenix startup and entrepreneurial community.

Matt (Meanders) Simpson

Written by

I’m a community-building, tree-hugging, road-tripping, yoga-loving, veg-eating hippie. I own a digital marketing consultancy in Tempe. #yesphx



Stories, thoughts, and news from the Greater Phoenix startup and entrepreneurial community.

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