At the Global Entrepreneurship Summit a few days ago, Google co-founder Sergey Brin advised fledgling startups to stay away from Silicon Valley. In the Valley, it’s “hard to make a scrappy initial business that’s self-sustaining, and in other parts of the world you might have an easier time of that.” The best move, it seems, is to start building your business wherever you call home.
All three of us founders are fortunate enough to call Arizona home, and Phoenix is an ideal place for a scrappy, self-sustaining business. Since starting Somatic Labs here in the Valley of the Sun, we’ve found even more reasons to love our hometown.
There’s the obvious one first—burn rate. As Phoenix-based mattress company Tuft & Needle noted, costs in this city are pleasantly low. Here, it’s entirely possible to bootstrap a business and live comfortably at the same time. We’re living and working minutes from the vibrant heart of downtown—for under $500/month each. Silicon Valley tears such a large chunk out of your wallet that it’s completely untenable by comparison.
Cheap rent is certainly enticing, but Phoenix’s business community is what really made us want to put down roots. As fellow Phoenix business WebPT wrote about the burgeoning entrepreneurship community in the city, the scene here is small, but its energy is palpable. People are ready and excited for nascent Phoenix businesses, and everyone in the community pulls together to help. Since we’ve started here, we’ve been mentored by the founder of a larger company here in town, met with a policy advisor for the mayor of Phoenix to get plugged into the business community, and connected with other startups getting off the ground. All because we’ve chosen to stay in Phoenix.
The City of Phoenix and the state government have thrown their support behind the entrepreneurship community, as well. There are many resources to take advantage of as a young startup:
The main location of the Phoenix Public Library, Burton Barr, has a coworking space that is free for any resident of Arizona to use. Not only does the library provide plenty of books and free WiFi, but they now also have dedicated desks, whiteboards, projectors, and meeting rooms for small businesses and startups in the Phoenix area.
The yesPHX movement is now an official part of the city’s agenda for encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation. There are many ways to be part of yesPHX—from using the hashtag #yesPHX on Twitter to attending a meetup every month or two, you can be engaged in the community however much you’d like.
Startup Grind is an organization that helps host lightning talks and events that help small startups get the resources they need to succeed. The Phoenix chapter has an active community of startup founders who help each other out whenever they can.
The Arizona Commerce Authority is an economic development organization for the state – it promotes local businesses and helps new founders with several useful resources:
- Rev AZ – The ACA helps hardware startups find local manufacturers to produce parts or handle the final production of products to encourage growth of the manufacturing sector in Arizona
- Venture Madness – A startup competition between 64 Arizona companies each year hosted in partnership with Invest Southwest
- Innovation Challenge – The ACA also hosts a startup competition every year with awards ranging from $100,000 to $250,000
- Arizona Innovation Accelerator Fund – $18.2 million loan participation program that finances small businesses and manufacturers
- SBIR/STTR Resources – Access to grant writers and training with the expertise to help draft and submit small business grant applications to the federal government.
The City of Phoenix sponsors or supports many of the aforementioned resources – not only are many founders interested in starting companies, but the local government makes business and economic development top priorities. Phoenix offers a number of services to small businesses in particular, including the Management Technical Assistance program, which provides free business consultation to small business owners.
Telescope Ventures partners with local businesses to provide students with paid internships. In return, businesses can have a direct hiring channel with some of the most talented students in Arizona.
Focused on improving the state of the art in biomedical engineering and biological sciences, the Flinn Foundation in Arizona provides an equity-free grant for qualifying bioscience startups.
The Arizona Technology Council holds events, runs seminars, and provides educational materials that can help you deal with issues ranging from intellectual property protection to finding the right business partnerships.
There are many Phoenix-area startups with great founders. Here are just a few: