PHX Startup Week brings with it the brightest of spotlights on our ecosystem but - when it is all over and the entrepreneur basecamp has been vacated - it can leave a void that is difficult to fill if you are not well-versed in our little community. You might be surprised to know that there are hundreds of networking events, workshops, and conferences throughout the year that can satisfy your entrepreneurial cravings. Here a few of my favorites, in no particular order:
#yesphx Happy Hour
Born out of last year’s incredible PHX Startup Week turnout, the leadership behind #yesphx launched monthly happy hour meetups as a way to extend the tremendous goodwill and turn an event into a movement. Held all over greater Phoenix, you can join 300 or more of your closest friends and new Startup Week acquaintances to enjoy mixed drinks and meaningful conversation.
Startup Grind Phoenix
A global message with a regional focus - that is how one might describe the Startup Grind series. With hotspots all over the world, the organization’s mission is to educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs and advance startup ecosystems in the more than 70 countries in which it operates. The Phoenix chapter, led by ASU entrepreneurship executive and all-around startup enthusiast Christie Kerner, regularly features honest conversations with successful founders as an educational bridge for the next generation of our city’s finest business leaders.
Who would say “NO” to watching 16 of Phoenix’s best startups pitch live at Talking Stick Resort? Well...obviously enough to maintain appropriate crowd control levels, but not many after that. Created by Invest Southwest in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority, Venture Madness is a way for young companies to earn street cred amongst their peers and for the community to meet some amazing entrepreneurs. In full disclosure, the tickets are $300 to attend, but everyone with whom we have spoken has said it was worth every penny.
Seed Spot Demo Day
Before PHX Startup Week and Venture Madness emerged, Seed Spot’s biannual Demo Day was THE startup gathering in Phoenix (and in many ways still is). Every six months, the socially-focused incubator showcases its latest venture cohort on the big stage to tell their stories; these are all innovators committed to changing the world through some type of product, service and/or giveback, and their energy and passion is enough to inspire an entire community of nearly a thousand evangelists for at least one night. An absolute must-attend evening.
AZ Tech Council Lunch and Learn Series
It would be counterproductive to try and list all the “lunch and learn” style workshops that occur in the Phoenix area, but the Arizona Technology Council series is worth noting simply because of the volume and breadth of events. In early 2016 alone, sessions topics have included everything from SEO and digital marketing to intrapreneurship and intellectual property; and they host an impressive two per week! If you want to meet like-minded people and learn from leading subject matter experts, be sure to attend a few of these throughout the year. (Hint: Corporate executives and decision makers should attend our intrapreneurship lunch & learn with GoDaddy's Shawn Pfunder and Adobe's Hart Shafer, it's going to be good!)
To wrap things up, I want to share one thing I have learned after three-plus years working with and around entrepreneurs and experiencing dozens of events Valley-wide: we are the most generous ecosystem for a reason. You do not have to feel intimidated attending one or all of these events; founders, lawyers, investors, startup team members - from top to bottom, we open our arms with a “come one, come all” philosophy for those who believe in the power of our community and are committed to pushing it forward. So grab a good drink, chat it up with a new friend and impact your business and your life!
And don’t forget to attend the biggest startup showcase of them all, PHX Startup Week, February 22-26. Sign up and fill in your schedule here, including the numerous sessions featuring CEI staff, mentors and friends: phxstartupweek.com/schedule. We’ll see you there!