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GPEC, StartupAZ enter partnership to further cultivate entrepreneurial ecosystem

Published: 06/12/2024

Greater Phoenix startups, entrepreneurs will have more access points and connections to industry leaders

PHOENIX (June 12, 2024) — Today, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and StartupAZ announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) highlighting efforts to collaboratively cultivate Greater Phoenix’s startup ecosystem. The new partnership will create additional access points at the top of the funnel to drive regional competitiveness by activating local talent, offering expanded events and programming, aligning stakeholders and creating brand visibility for the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.

StartupAZ, which has worked to cultivate a dynamic, founder-centric ecosystem in Arizona since its establishment in 2015, will lead the development and execution of programming and initiatives that highlight the ecosystem and provide resources to local entrepreneurs. Through core programming, the organization has already supported more than 120 early-stage founders with a combined venture enterprise value approaching $2B. This year, StartupAZ brought on Daniela Santangelo as their new director of community, and with her, Freeway which she founded in 2023. This combined effort includes the first ecosystem-wide performance dashboard and job board launched in April, the creation of targeted promotional videos, and the planning and hosting of talent cultivation events like the Tech Talent Summit that was widely attended in April, as well as a global Tech Festival coming in the fall of 2025.

“This is new territory for StartupAZ designed to push Greater Phoenix to become the most vibrant and accessible large market startup ecosystem in the country,” said Brandon Clarke, co-founder and chair of StartupAZ. “Partnering with GPEC and their high-performance delivery model is exactly what this ecosystem needs.”

“Freeway is pivotal for Arizona’s startup ecosystem because it provides essential visibility and resources to local entrepreneurs. By joining forces with StartupAZ and launching the first ecosystem-wide performance dashboard and organizing events like the Tech Talent Summits and upcoming global Tech Festival, we are not only highlighting the ecosystem but also empowering founders to reach their full potential,” said Daniela Santangelo, StartupAZ’s Director of Community and Founder of Freeway.

GPEC, a globally recognized economic development organization representing 22 member communities, Maricopa and Pinal counties, and more than 200 private investors, will serve in an advisory capacity, facilitating regional alignment and offering connection points with broader assets and stakeholders across Greater Phoenix. The partnership underscores GPEC’s strategic shift from industry diversification through attraction to the cultivation and acceleration of local innovation as a core offering. Aligned with GPEC’s strategic vision to drive innovation in a dynamic, anti-fragile and equitable economy that enables all residents to benefit and prosper, the organization touts the partnership as a key measure in building the next phase of the regional market, one focused on enhancing growth through local innovation first.

“With the momentum of the market, Greater Phoenix is positioned to build a startup ecosystem that rivals the most competitive in the United States,” said GPEC President & CEO Chris Camacho. “In partnering with StartupAZ, we can help entrepreneurs create more connections, gain greater access, scale faster and cultivate innovations across industries with some of the most forward-thinking minds in the nation.”

By increasing global visibility on local successes, Greater Phoenix will be better positioned as the connected, future-focused innovation hub it is. The region’s venture capital funding figures echo its upward trajectory: in 2023, startups in the region have raised $1.9 billion in funding, an increase of 6% from the previous year — making Greater Phoenix one of the only large regions in the country to experience increased VC funding year-over-year. The national average was a decrease of 36% over that time frame.

About the Greater Phoenix Economic Council

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), globally recognized as a top economic development organization (EDO), works to attract and grow quality businesses and advocate for the competitiveness of Greater Phoenix. A data-driven regional EDO, GPEC works with 22 member communities, Maricopa and Pinal counties, and more than 200 private investors to accomplish its mission and serve as a strategic partner to companies across the world as they expand or relocate to Greater Phoenix. Over the past 34 years, GPEC has fueled the regional economy by helping over 980 companies, creating nearly 182,000 jobs and more than $65 billion in capital investment. Greater Phoenix is in a relentless pursuit of innovative and entrepreneurial-focused companies looking to thrive and scale in a vibrant, dynamic region. There is an undeniable spirit about Greater Phoenix; one rooted in strength, collaboration and resilience. Greater Phoenix is Greater Together. For more information about GPEC and how we can assist your businesses, visit www.gpec.org.

About StartupAZ

StartupAZ was formed in 2015 by Mario Martinez II and Brandon Clarke with the mission to help Arizona’s most innovative startups improve their leadership, performance, and connections, while inspiring generosity and philanthropy within their communities. StartupAZ’s cohort-based Founders Collective and its pay-it-forward model with the Generosity Pledge became the bedrock of the organization’s work building a community of early stage company-builders through its performance and generosity flywheel framework. StartupAZ is proud to have supported over 120 early-stage founders since 2015 – some of whom have gone on to be among the most successful, and generous, tech founders in the region. Learn more at startupaz.org.