PHOENIX – PHX Startup Week launched three years ago. That first week, they had about 2,500 attendees. The next year, they doubled it.
And this year, organizers expect 10,000 people to attend the free seminars, events and speakers for the local entrepreneurial community.
PHX Startup Week kicks off Monday and runs through Friday.
“Startup Week by far is the single largest entrepreneurial and tech event in the state, and the growth of our event is a reflection of our tech ecosystem in Arizona as a whole,” Chief Organizer Stephen Viramontes said.
Arizona’s tech scene has shown signs of growth with an estimated 132,000 high-tech jobs in the state, according to a previous Cronkite News story.
Viramontes added that PHX Startup Week is a success if it empowers as many entrepreneurs and startups as possible to pursue their passion and scale their idea.
New this year, PHX Startup Week will take over part of downtown Phoenix for a street pitch contest in which 10 startups will pitch their idea to a panel of investors. The winning startup will receive $50,000.
Also new is a day dedicated to Arizona’s growing software company scene with panelists focused on software-as-a-service companies. The event takes place at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday.
Cronkite News spoke to a couple of the panelists scheduled to speak this week.
Hint’s Sun Devil CEO serves as keynote
When Kara Goldin attended Arizona State University, she said she never thought she would start a beverage company, but she knew she wanted to make a difference, to make a change in some way.
More than 20 years later, she serves as CEO of Hint Water, a San Francisco-based beverage company that specializes in naturally flavored water. The company has marketed itself as helping people get healthier and has been dubbed a disruptor in the industry.
Hint was expected to earn $90 million in revenue in 2016, according to Forbes. It has carved out a place in the beverage market by offering water with a hint of natural fruit flavor. It has no sweeteners, no artificial flavors and zero calories.
Goldin came up with the idea more than 10 years ago while taking a break from being an AOL executive. She had just had her third child, weighed more than she wanted and had a serious Diet Coke habit. She also, for the first time in her life, had adult acne.
She decided to give up Diet Coke and said she saw tremendous health benefits. She lost weight, her face cleared up, and she started to really look at the food and drink her family was consuming.
“We have a lot of trust in our food and beverage companies,” Goldin said. “I just really started to question that and wonder what exactly I am doing.”
She found water too plain though, and she started playing around with flavoring it with fruit essences in her kitchen. It was a hit with her family and friends, and she knew there was market for it.
Goldin has become a mentor in the entrepreneur community. She launched the Kara Network last summer as a way to give back and offer advice where she thought she could help. She said she is excited to return to Phoenix to share her story at PHX Startup Week.
She offered some advice for students.
“It is really important for you to stop and think, ‘with this education, what is going to make me happy?’ Then think, ‘is this something I’m really passionate about?’” she said.
Goldin will deliver the keynote at Arizona State University’s Tempe Memorial Union at 2 p.m. on Friday.
Downtown LA’s community builder
She started with an e-commerce business to get out of debt, now Audrey Bellis has become synonymous with the downtown Los Angeles tech scene.
Bellis is the founder of Startup DTLA, a community resource center for tech and entrepreneurs, and is cofounder of accelerator program Grid110. She also founded Worthy Women, a group that supports tech and entrepreneurial women and hosts monthly events across the country.
Bellis said she finds the partnerships that go into building PHX Startup Week an encouraging sign of Phoenix’s supportive startup community.
“Having things like this helps to bridge the reach,” Bellis said.
Her talk will focus on how a company builds a brand.
“Our barrier to entry is so low these days all you need is consistency and some brand awareness,” she said.
Bellis also offered advice for anyone considering pursuing their entrepreneurial dream.
“Do what you can with what you have where you’re at,” she said. “You have to start somewhere and the point is to get started. You just have to make the choice to do it.”
Bellis will deliver her “Building A Brand From Zero” talk 2 p.m. Monday at Galvanize, 515 E. Grant St. in Phoenix.