CEI Blog


Entrepreneurship Beyond Borders: CEI Hosts Pitch Practice for YTILI Fellows

September 19, 2017, 10:00 AM | Posted By: Amanda Mollindo

CEI strives to support Arizona startups so that they can create future jobs and strengthen our local economy. But you’d be surprised to learn how many international entrepreneurs have made the decision to call the Phoenix Valley home! With founders from France, Germany, India and more, CEI is proud to serve as a melting pot for innovative ideas that come from all over the globe.

We’ve discovered that entrepreneurs need access to people with different perspectives to solve today’s toughest problems. That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to host YTILI Fellows for two weeks!

The YTILI (Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative) Fellowship is a program through the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Their mission is to “strengthen transatlantic cooperation” and encourage international dialogue about innovation and entrepreneurship. Of the 11 participating American cities, Phoenix was lucky enough to host four of these inspiring young entrepreneurs!

Split between Seed Spot and CEI, YTILI Fellows have had a packed schedule learning about entrepreneurship in the U.S., meeting leaders in the community, and using these new experiences to inform their own ideas.

So that our Fellows have a taste of what investors are looking for in the States, we organized a pitch panel to help them practice. That way, they could get feedback and feel better prepared when they have to pitch to the real deal.

Keep reading to learn about Phoenix’s YTILI Fellows and see photos from their practice pitch!

Top Three Tips to Get the Most from Your Advisory Board

June 26, 2017, 5:19 PM | Posted By: Tom Schumann

As we review best-practices at CEI, the creation and management of an advisory board that provides a well-rounded sounding board for our clients rises toward the top.

We are not talking about the formal Board of Directors who are responsible for the governance of the company and is typically composed of the founders and investors in the company.  As the name implies, an advisory board is created to advise the founders in subject matter areas where they may be lacking knowledge and skills.  In the article linked to this message we talked with Jean Ekobo, CEO of BioNovelus, an ecofriendly agriculture fungicide. We explore how he uses his board of advisors to guide his strategic vision, to fill critical knowledge gaps, and to leverage a network of connections.

Topics: yesphx

CEI Celebrates Client Wins

April 13, 2017, 12:49 PM | Posted By: Tom Schumann

How do successful incubators track and report their success and impact on the communities in which they live? Simple; the stories of achievment of milestones and the success of the people, the business heros and champions, who put it all on the line to succeed.  I want to share these current stories of our client successes as they compete for grant opportunities and as they achieve significant milestones along their growth paths.  Here are few example of the stories we get to share when CEI clients emerge as successful operating companies ...

Don't Bore Your Audience - Pitch Like Steve Jobs

January 30, 2017, 6:16 PM | Posted By: Patti DuBois


We’ve all heard for a long time that there is no better presenter than Steve Jobs. He was entertaining, inspiring, and informative. He never failed to grab our attention. Now, put yourself in this picture….you are an investor listening to pitches on a regular basis. The majority of the pitches are a monolog of facts, detailed translations about a technology, a seemingly unrealistic chart about revenue, and at some point, wouldn’t it feel all a bit boring, even if the product was great? Now, imagine someone steps up, they tell an interesting story that engages and moves you. You sit forward in your chair…you are focused on each word as their story unfolds. Their voice reflects the drama of the story, and even as they move through the business portion, the story is present, the “why” and the point are clear, and you feel it viscerally like they just plugged you into the wall socket. Electric. The pitch ends. The next company begins their pitch and immediately you are back to the “same old”. This round of pitches ends. Who do you remember?

Topics: yesphx

Taking the Leap - Validate First

December 1, 2016, 3:10 PM | Posted By: Patti DuBois

I remember when I started my second company many years ago. It was a dog food manufacturing business. I developed a recipe after my dog became very ill and no veterinarian could figure out what was wrong. My last option was exploratory surgery. I took a gamble and developed a food after researching what an optimal diet should look like for dogs with similar symptoms. I watched anxiously to see how my dog reacted. When my dog not only started eating again, but her energy increased and her coat looked fabulous, I figured it was time to go into business.

Running With My Assumptions

I’m going to rush to the heart of the matter, but I will tell you, I did my dog food homework and researched heavily what was important for a dog’s health. I learned all about the dog food regulations. I had the licenses. I had the equipment I needed. I even had some money to get going. Yet, just like many other companies I work with, I did not go and talk to the people who might buy my product. I didn’t find out if they really wanted another food or even if they liked to change their dog’s food. I assumed that my product was great based on comments from my friends and family and my dog’s experience and I thought it would be flying off of the shelves and that the favorable comments would spread like a haboob. So, again, like many entrepreneurs, I jumped in with both feet and a heap of my own money.

Topics: yesphx

The Greening of Things

October 28, 2016, 9:42 AM | Posted By: Patti DuBois

The Greening of Things
Written By Tom Zender

Phoenix-area interest and activity is increasing in the Greening of Things. Clean energy, food, technologies, equipment, supplies, ecology, and more are fueling our local economy. We are now part of the growing clean, green economy.

Within the scope of social entrepreneurship, there are some notable trends with green innovation and startup businesses – particularly those focused on solving major, global environmental concerns. Both consumers and investors are interested in this expanding marketplace.

Topics: yesphx

Taking Your Pitch Deck to GREAT

October 28, 2016, 9:38 AM | Posted By: Patti DuBois

This is the first article in a series focused on building a great pitch deck, and if you are an entrepreneur and you need funding, at some point, you have to get out there and pitch. Yup, it is inevitable. And, it isn’t entirely enough to talk a good talk. If you have a shot at delivering an outstanding presentation, then your pitch deck design must stand out as well. There are a lot of businesses looking for money. Design can be the deciding factor for getting major funding, attracting key media, and landing big customers. A winning pitch deck is a mixture of great design and focused, clear content. It also has to fit into a time structure. Are you overwhelmed just thinking about how to do this? Let’s break down the design portion.

Design is the other half of the equation to a great pitch. The best presentation design is visually appealing, simple and today’s “fashion” is to not use standard bullet points. Think imagery. Think simple. Why? When a slide has a lot happening, your audience is not paying attention to you, they are figuring out your slide. You’ve LOST them. Here are the dirty dozen:

Topics: yesphx

Thoughts on Rise of the Rest Event

October 26, 2016, 12:49 PM | Posted By: Patti DuBois

CEI was please to participate in the very exciting Rise of the Rest event sponsored by AOL founder and entrepreneurial investor, Steve Case. His U.S. bus tour is promoting the acceleration of entrepreneurship and innovation in cities beyond the startup strongholds of Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin, and New York.

Topics: yesphx

3 Major Funding Announcements from CEI Clients in One Week

June 12, 2016, 7:33 PM | Posted By: Greg Bullock

We learned early on in the development of our business incubator that our story would best be told by those businesses in the program. More than the services we provide or the facility that we built, the true measure of success would come from the milestones attained by CEI clients. It would prove that the combination of their unique innovations and hard work - and ultimately our ability to support and develop viable businesses for Phoenix - made a difference. So when three member companies announce major funding in as many days, you can count that as a HUGE win for the incubator that houses them. Indeed it has been a good week for the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation.

Phoenix Entrepreneurs Should Be Sweating from the Summer Grind, not its Heat

June 5, 2016, 12:46 PM | Posted By: Greg Bullock

The summer is upon us here in Arizona. With record-high temperatures hitting us this past weekend - including the earliest date in our state's history for 115-degrees - the heat is definitely on. But it’s also a chance for you to make moves for your business if you choose.

Topics: yesphx, summer