Silicon Desert offers a rich environment for startups, advantages over other tech hubs

Greater Phoenix could become a post-Silicon Valley center of entrepreneurship the world has never seen before, according to university officials and business experts.

How? Through community initiatives, hands-on, use-inspired academic research, strong infrastructure, and more resources, it all leads to accelerated innovation and a better quality of life.

“Soon, Phoenix could become synonymous with innovation, says Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “Phoenix’s business environment has become innovation-driven and supportive of start-ups. All possible signs point in a positive direction.

Silicon Valley wasn’t always a $3 trillion neighborhood. Over time, advanced STEM and technology-based R&D have attracted venture capitalists to the San Francisco Bay Area, cultivating a strong business environment.

A similar phenomenon occurs in Arizona. The nation’s number 1 school for innovation, Arizona State University, a Tier 1 research university, has become a leading driver for change initiatives.

And many tech companies have made record investments. For example, Intel announced a $20 billion expansion in Chandler. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has started building a $12 billion advanced manufacturing plant. Aerospace and defense company Raytheon Technologies continues to thrive. And more recently, Virgin Galactic announced that its next-generation spacecraft would be built in Mesa, bringing thousands of highly skilled jobs to the valley.

In addition, technology startups are increasingly present in the valley. In a report by Gregslist, a free resource for local software vendors to communicate and connect leadership talent, job seekers and tech industry investors, Phoenix has 813 software vendors, of which 285 are startups and 102 are funded by venture capital.

But Camacho and Ji Mi Choi, vice president of ASU Knowledge Enterprise and founding director of the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute, don’t think a comparison to Silicon Valley provides an accurate representation of the Arizona market. .

According to Choi and Camacho, the community separates us from all the other cities. Arizonans are fully embracing the steps necessary to compete in the 21st century economy.

“We don’t have to aspire to be Silicon Valley; we want to be our own identity,” Camacho said. “We can go much further. We want to be the most generous entrepreneurial community. There is more of an approach to helping each other. We want to see companies reach billion dollar valuations. We believe we can achieve this by being generous with our time and resources. No matter where you come from, your pedigree, if you have a brilliant and disruptive idea, you will attract attention.

Choi agrees.

“How to inspire entrepreneurship? Through our culture. Arizonans are willing to try new things, to take on new challenges,” he said. “ASU’s entrepreneurial mission is anchored in our charter. We measure our success by who we include, not who we exclude, and we take a fundamental responsibility to the community around us. We are taking all possible steps to support the next generation of changemakers. »

According to experts, networks can be insulating and used as a form of power tool or leverage. But in Arizona, Choi says our networks are scalable.

“There is a history of entrepreneurs only being for a certain group of people. Our goal is to educate students – to be a knowledge institution, and then to help entrepreneurs deploy that knowledge effectively and efficient,” Choi said.

The business world avoids insularity and corporations are not interested in working in a bubble economy.

Experts say our companies believe strongly in mentoring. Leading organizations like GPEC give start-ups the ability to connect with industry partners to deploy solutions.

“While innovators are the engine of our rapidly growing economy, we have many regional nonprofits and academic institutions that are incredibly supportive of us. GPEC’s goal is for the market to be a driving force to induce innovation. innovation,” Camacho said. “Entrepreneurial nonprofits create a culture between students, innovators, and businesses. Our universities and community colleges are sources of talent. And we help entrepreneurs realize their dreams.” , reach their next business. It’s an intentional culture shift we need to undertake to develop new technologies that don’t yet exist and help businesses reach their full potential.

According to Choi, the emerging culture of startups is why we are seeing more venture capital, more opportunities, more accessible resources, and a stronger infrastructure that includes leading people, innovative organizations, and universities.

More than 155,000 students attend ASU, where research spending has a profound impact on Arizona and the country.

“How do you go from problem to solution? Our research spending is significant in the entrepreneurial community because we can move from basic research to practical applications inspired by use,” Choi said.

Silicon Desert could gain an advantage over Silicon Valley due to greater cooperation between municipalities.

“We take a multi-faceted approach in Arizona. Each community participates and fulfills a role in the regional economy,” Camacho said. “With the growing population, we are continuously evaluating and implementing strategies for additional housing stock in Arizona. We have made significant progress in meeting our water conservation and augmentation needs, and we continue to ensure that we have sufficient and reliable energy. All of these aspects are vital for business growth.

Experts agree that a systems approach to entrepreneurship will allow greater Phoenix to become a unique economic giant.

“We are looking at the long term. We need to create a regenerative and cyclical business community with ways to restore itself,” Choi said. “Arizona needs more affordable housing, more housing supply, steadily improving education, more investment. We want industries to be self-serving as we look to the future. Looking forward, we need ASU and the state legislature to continue to work together to examine the multifaceted challenges of community development.

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