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Phoenix, AZ: Cool Tech in the Desert

Thanks to a supportive local government and a rising community of successful startups, Phoenix, AZ, has become an ideal location for emerging tech companies. Before its rise, Phoenix was known for being home to a plethora of call centers. But Governor Doug Ducey, who took office in 2015, helped entice successful companies by steering the city clear of any weighty regulations in the way of disruptive tech.

As a result, ridesharing companies, self-driving startups, and well-funded apps have come to Phoenix to ensure their businesses can continue to grow. So far, Phoenix and its nearby cities have housed tech giants like Apple, Uber and Yelp. In February, Intel invested an additional $7 billion in its Chandler facility and created 3,000 positions for engineers and technicians, according to the Phoenix Business Journal.

What Makes Phoenix Special?

Tech companies rave about Phoenix’s low cost of living, friendly tax policies and small operating costs. According to CTA’s Innovation Scorecard, which rates each state’s support for innovation, Arizona is ranked as an Innovation Leader – the second highest rating. The state is “a mecca for companies fleeing high costs,” the Scorecard says.

Arizona also ranks fifth in the nation for the amount of STEM degrees it grants students, resulting in a talented local workforce. According to the scorecard, Arizona produces 30.7 students graduating with STEM degrees per 1,000 undergraduates – roughly 10 more students than the national average. Nearby universities like Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University are to thank. For high schoolers, the Phoenix Coding Academy, an enrollment-based school focused on computer science, opened in 2016. 

Dr. Cody Friesen is the founder and CEO of Zero Mass Water, a Phoenix-based company. Friesen and his company created the “Source,” a solar panel-like device that uses sunlight and air to make drinkable water. Located in a desert, Phoenix served as both a “challenge and motivator” for the entrepreneur and scientist. 

He also founded the Avnet Innovation Lab at ASU, an accelerator program for tech entrepreneurs, and started the ASU Innovation Open, a student entrepreneurial competition where students can win up to $100,000 for “ideas that demonstrate social impact potential, a working prototype and investability,” Friesen says. With strong educational foundations, recruiting engineers and entrepreneurs has become much easier. 

Alongside accelerator programs and competitions, Phoenix also hosts its own tech conference: Phoenix Startup Week. The seven-day event is a huge networking opportunity for the area, as local companies – startups and established businesses – gather for panels, workshops and showcases. Both Ducey and Friesen gave keynotes, along with top executives from companies like LaneTerralever, Organizers Direct and bluemedia.

“As a community, we’re good at what we do because we’re not trying to copy anyone else,” Friesen says. “Instead, we’re digging into our unique culture and what we’re good at, and fostering growth.”

Jeremy Snow, Consumer Technology Association