Where innovation meets the road.

by Staff Written

March 7, 2016 at 4:44 pm

All things startup, all week. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, co-founder of a multimillion dollar company or just interested in learning about the startup boom, PHX Startup Week had something for everyone.

As a young professional, it was an awesome experience to discover a somewhat unfamiliar world. From a public relations perspective, it was helpful to hear from startup founders how they perceive the media and how they wish the media to perceive their startup.

Here are my daily takeaways:


On the top floor of 111 Monroe, my PHX Startup Week experience began. I kicked off the week with AZ Storytellers, an afternoon session all about real stories from real startup entrepreneurs. This national storytelling program was started by Megan Finnerty, features editor at The Arizona Republic.

From startup wins and fails, these entrepreneurs left the crowd feeling inspired with a sprinkle of worry. You could say I felt a touch out of place. I mean I wasn’t there to learn about how to boost my startup career, but then I realized I was surrounded by people who are all on a different life trajectory with various goals where fitting in isn’t an option.

Seeing people who started with one small idea on stage now giving advice to others with the same dream was an inspiring first glimpse of how my week was going to go.


Storytelling. Design thinking. Creating value. Generating opportunity.

I kicked off my morning listening to Park Howell, who said, “story is important to our brains as oxygen is to our lives.” Once you think about that, you’re more easily able to understand how your story, from beginning, middle and end, must intrigue your audience.

Next, I switched gears and headed to a session on design thinking and lean product development. The best advice I gathered from the presentation was from innovation coach and consultant, Hart Shafer, and that was this:

Don’t guess.

Don’t ask.

Observe behavior.

When it comes to design and development, it’s crucial to prioritize measured behavior over reasoned opinion. AMEN.

The fireside chat with Dan Veltri, co-founder and CPO of Weebly, provided great insight about the two best foundational pieces of every successful startup. With a stereotypical startup story, an idea turned reality in a Penn State dorm room. Veltri and his two co-founders grew their drag-and-drop website creation service to 34 million users today.

He offered two key pieces of advice:

  1. Co-founder relationships are a lot like marriage. You have to understand one another’s quirks, align on business decisions and be able to be around them day and night. Take this decision very seriously and test the waters, co-founding gone wrong will destroy your business.
  2. Don’t worry about your competition. Do something fundamental and create value. Pick an area of focus and be the best at it. Weebly chose customer service, and though they have many competitors they strive to outshine all through customer support.

My last session of the day was The Festival Generation, presented by Rehan Choudhry the founder of Life is Beautiful. This Las Vegas based music festival was founded to create opportunity for people to be more thoughtful and showcase the good in the world.

Choudhry pointed out that we as a society have gotten to a point of being forced to choose between meaningful thought and quick likes or comments. With technology where it is today, we are no longer given time to think about rational responses because we are expected to respond quickly in order to stay relevant. His mission was to create a space of positivity and thoughtfulness, out of which, the Life is Beautiful festival was born.


What’s the most important area of focus for an entrepreneur? Getting shit done, according to SEED SPOT National Director of Expansion, C’pher Gresham.

Here are the five steps to getting shit done:

  1. Focus
  2. Prioritize
  3. Be productive
  4. Find your support network
  5. Celebrate

The next session covered all aspects of changing customer behavior when launching a new SaaS product through a presentation inspired by “Hooked” by Nir Eyal. Iris PR CTO and Co-Founder Anila Arthanari turned something very complicated into an easy to understand concept.

Users don’t adopt products because of the following:

  • There is a barrier to adoption, such as it is too complicated
  • There are too many stumbling blocks, therefore users give up
  • Nothing impresses users, meaning the product isn’t providing enough value

How to change customer behavior to promote adoption:

  • Motivate – send a survey to gather potential customer pain points
  • Ability – create a product that looks familiar to software they already use
  • Trigger – use a message display system to prompt the user through the software

Last but not least, I attended the keynote, Models of Impact, with Matthew Manos founder of design strategy consultancy Verynice. The key takeaway from this presentation was to contemplate how incorporating pro bono services in your business model might fit with your startup. But beyond that, Manos helped the audience recognize the networking benefits of pro bono projects. Needless to say, he left everyone thinking what their social impact will be.

Did you attend PHX Startup Week? Share what you learned in the comment section!





March 7, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Staff Written