Competition Supports, Promotes Arizona As A Top State for Startups


Arizona has ranked among the top states for entrepreneurial activity since 2000, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. In 2011, it hit No. 1 with 520 startups for every 100,000 people. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also recognizes Arizona as a top state:

  • 8th for innovation and entrepreneurship
  • 7th for business climate
  • 5th for infrastructure

Even though Arizona took big hits during the recession, it’s shown consistent rebound year over year with decreases in unemployment and increases in short-term job growth.

Arizona As A Startup Destination

Invest Southwest (ISW) is celebrating the state’s prominence in the startup community with Venture Madness, presented in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority. This unique event pits 64 startups against each other as they vie for the title of Venture Madness Champion and cash prizes totaling $25,000.

“We’re inviting startup companies from across the Southwest to apply to Venture Madness,” Jonathan Ariano, Invest Southwest 2014 chairman said. “We want to showcase the quality of ventures not only in Arizona, but also in southern California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.”.

Year-Round Entrepreneurship

ISW has a 20-plus-year history in the state, connecting new ventures with potential investors at the annual Invest Southwest Capital Conference. Starting in 2014, the organization shifts from an annual event-centric model to a year-round organization that supports the investment and startup communities.

“We are planning networking and meetup events, webinars, Twitter chats, and speaking engagements that will take place throughout the year,” Ariano says.

Get Into The Madness

Venture Madness competition begins online Feb. 3 with the first round of voting. Thirty-two startups have been selected from previous Arizona Innovation Challenge, and the other 32 will be selected through the online application process. Winners will advance based on a weighted combination of scores from a panel of expert judges and the voting public, with the judges’ votes carrying more weight.

Sixty-four companies will be divided into four to-be-determined regions. They will not be divided by sector.

“We’re looking for the most promising startups, regardless of what they make or do,” Andy Lombard, 2014 marketing chair for Invest Southwest says. “You can have a mom who invented a gadget go up against a software engineer.”

He says Venture Madness is about which company has the most potential to succeed as a business, not about who makes the better widget.

To stay connected with Invest Southwest and Venture Madness, follow them on Twitter at @Invest_SW and @VentureMadness, as well as via the hashtag #venturemadness, and connect with them via Facebook and LinkedIn.