There is perhaps no greater force than that of the collective. Collective actions have made things that were previously thought to be impossible, possible. When communities work together, it's a powerful thing.
We're seeing this in innovation communities throughout the country --particularly in emerging innovation ecosystems. Collective action among city and state entities, entrepreneurs, and universities is spurring an upheaval of economic and social good, and it's attracting investment, national attention, and even talent away from the major startup hotbeds.
Good ideas can start and scale anywhere
"We saw that very clearly on this tour," said Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution, the organization behind the Rise of the Rest tour. "We saw how important it was for communities to find ways to stay connected--for founders to regularly meet with each other and for local and state leaders to stay in contact with the entrepreneurs they are trying to help."
This spirit of collaboration and the power of community is very much alive in Phoenix. Groups like #yesphx, Startup Grind Phoenix, and StartupAZ Foundation, among others, have created a flurry of activity, excitement and connectedness that is working to spur innovation and garner the national spotlight.
"The Phoenix startup community put itself on the Rise of the Rest map with the most nominations of any of the 80 cities we considered," said Anna Mason, director of Rise of the Rest Investments at Revolution.
It takes a village to build and sustain an economic engine
In his TED Talk, "The new power of collaboration," Howard Rheingold said, "You can't hunt mastodons while you're fighting with the other groups." This mentality couldn't be more important for budding innovation ecosystems to take to heart.
For Phoenix, that has meant founders from startup to rapid-growth companies like WebPT, Infusionsoft, Tuft & Needle, AppointmentPlus, and Local Motors, coming together to share best practices and support one another in reaching the next level.
"In Phoenix there was a strong desire to come together as a community and celebrate the benefits of working here," said Steve Case. "We saw that with the #yesphx movement. People felt good about starting companies here and wanted to create a strong community of support for others."
Like a number of other up-and-coming innovation ecosystems, Phoenix's tightknit innovation community has proven to be one of the city's greatest assets in attracting innovators as well as movements like Rise of the Rest, which further helps displace the stereotype that Phoenix startups are not interesting or secure. But it hasn't come without work and the efforts of the collective.
"I'm not sure an entrepreneurial ecosystem truly existed in the Phoenix area when Local Motors opened its first microfactory in Chandler in 2009," said Adam Kress, Local Motors director of public relations and content. "But as Local Motors has grown, so has the startup community around Phoenix. There is a palpable energy now that is starting to produce impressive results, and we're thrilled to be a part of that success."
Investing in a budding ecosystem
Founders are not the only ones watching burgeoning innovation communities like Salt Lake City, Denver and Phoenix, to name a few. Now venture fund executives from other larger metropolitan cities like New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco are starting to take note -- agreeing cities like Phoenix are no-brainers for starting a business.
Why? The affordable cost of living, ease of running a business, quality of life, and the thriving communities these markets offer means companies can stretch the investment dollar --capital simply gets more mileage relative to places like the Bay area, New York City and Boston.
"Greater Phoenix continues to be an attractive destination for companies looking to expand or relocate, largely due to the region's momentum with technology ventures and the robust pool of talent," said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC). "A community of supportive, collaborative and creative entrepreneurs who are committed to Greater Phoenix are bringing disruptive innovation and scalable business models that are positively impacting the region's economy. Our innovation ecosystem is stronger than ever, and it is helping to attract businesses from across the country and globe, who are discovering the many benefits of doing business in Greater Phoenix."
But what comes next for these developing markets? At least for Phoenix, it will be a maturation process. It will require taking the innovative ideas and companies sprouting up daily, and supporting them as they scale and gain the momentum necessary to have more success stories, IPOs and exits. That will continue to fuel the entrepreneurial collaboration, mentorship and capital necessary to building the disruptive, best-in-class businesses for a self-sustaining ecosystem.