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Hope for the Arizona Technology Sector

There’s hope for Arizona’s technology sector according to three expert speakers at today’s Arizona International Growth Group (AZIGG) event. Weighing in with cautious optimism were CEO Hamid Shojaee (Axosoft, AZTechBeat.com, TransferBigFiles & AZ Disruptors), AVP Gordon McConnell (ASU) and CEO Steve Zylstra (Arizona Technology Council).

Hamid Shojaee started by noting that there’s probably more happening in Arizona technology – especially in software – than people realize. Just as AZIGG was started to highlight international business in Arizona, AZTechBeat.com started in May to communicate news on the important tech sector for those who live and breath it in Arizona every day.

For instance – Hamid asked – did you know that Arizona is home to page.ly, web retargeting (FetchBatch) and the largest electronic health records firm for physical therapists (WebPT)?

Hamid’s startup AZTechBeat.com was first to report on the announced expansion of Infusionsoft in Chandler last week and aims to be a continual source of tech information for the community on items that often might not meet the ‘news’ bar in larger more general publications like the Phoenix Business Journal and Arizona Republic.

Welcome AZTechBeat.com!

Gordon McConnell is Assistant Vice President of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Venture Acceleration at Arizona State University. At the AZIGG event he shared challenges for the tech sector in Arizona including many still not yet understanding the importance of foreign direct investment, the relatively poor image around the world of Arizona and the lack of venture capital for startups – less than 1% of the U.S. total. Local investors know real estate, and getting them to think beyond that is tough.

Gordon shared plenty of good news for Arizona, too. He shared that the startup ecosystem is alive and thriving. With a little more money for funding, progress will accelerate. ASU has a program to find the money – including connecting with retired and semi-retired technology executives – getting them thinking about investing in tech from ASU and Arizona instead of tech firms wherever they’re from.

More good news for Arizona and the world is that Gordon is seeing more social venture activity by younger people – who are interested in making money but also dealing with social causes, too.

Steve Zylstra CEO of the Arizona Technology Council rapped up the morning event by summarizing what Arizona really needs to continue making progress. The good news is that plenty of progress is being made in tech – including more collaboration across a variety of groups that is creating lower business taxes, reduced regulations and more understanding of what the key issues really are to make more future progress.

A couple Arizona myths that Steve rebutted are 1) that companies coming to Arizona can’t find enough tech resources to grow and 2) there is a brain drain from Arizona.  Number 1 is only partially true – the real issue is that there is a shortage of software engineers in Arizona, and Arizona Technology Council is working with the local universities and on STEM programs to get this addressed. Regarding the ‘brain drain’, the Tech Council found in a recent study that it’s not true.

Steve mentioned that more progress is needed to increase the number of software engineers, provide better ‘real world’ training for IT graduates and get more funding to technology companies in Arizona.

On funding, Steve discussed efforts made in the past on creating an Arizona Fund of Funds, which has not yet been successful.  But another attempt will be made in 2013 and Steve feels that Arizona may at last be at a tipping point for public, private and government resources to work together on providing more funds to technology businesses.

Growth Nation is a sponsor of Arizona International Growth Group events. Contact us for more information on growing your technology company.

Thanks to Hamid, Gordon and Steve for an excellent event!

About Doug Bruhnke

Growth Nation is a global full-service marketing and business growth firm that creates more leads, stronger brands and higher revenue for clients in technology, manufacturing, healthcare and professional services. Our growth process has created over $1 billion of new revenue.

Comments

  1. Doug, this was a great event as usual. Thanks for having me involved. I personally loved both Gordon and Steve’s presentations. It’s an exciting time for Arizona’s tech community!

    Hamid

  2. We should have never lost hope for AZ, but we are foolish if stop ignoring the brutal reality of how hostile our environment still is to startups. It is nice that people are optimistic, but I think AZ still has a LONG way to go. Giving the people the impression that we are well on track and things are looking up might push people into the Stockdale Paradox.

    “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

  3. Hope is not a strategy. Thanks Derek – keep fighting the good fight.

  4. And we loved yours too – thanks Hamid. Thanks for your leadership to focus attention on the opportunities.

  5. Derek, ps. I disagree that Arizona has a hostile environment for start-ups. There are many positives – including a business community that is open to buying from new companies, inexpensive office space (including co-habitation), some critical mass in many tech areas, a pool of students to pull from, etc. On the flip side AZ lacks funding opportunities versus California, Texas and the East Coast, and we need more software engineers (per Hamid’s comments at this event). Lots of positives, and some real negatives. If anything Arizona is mostly positive for startups and more challenging (hostile?) for next stage company growth – the successful ones seek money outside and can be forced to relocate to other areas. My 2 cents.

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