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Can Phoenix Startups Save the World?

Phoenix, Arizona, USA cityscape in downtown in the afternoon.

Phoenix is now the world’s 20th-ranked emerging startup ecosystem according to an annual global report by Startup Genome. That’s good enough to be #7 in all of North America.

How does one even measure a good startup scene? Typically, rankings like these look at concrete metrics such as the $1.22 billion in venture capital funding that was invested in Phoenix startups between 2015 and 2020, or the 374 funded companies founded in Phoenix from 2017 to July 2022, according to Crunchbase.

If you talk to the founders and advisers, the intangibles are just as important. One common theme is that Phoenix startup culture better embraces the values of community, connection, generosity, and mutual support than its contemporaries. There is an “everybody can win” attitude as opposed to crushing the competition.

Thomas Barr of Local First Arizona, a nonprofit organization committed to community and economic development, believes some of this success can also be attributed to the entrepreneurial spirit and diversity of Arizona.

“Arizona is a small business state. Our ecosystem of small businesses is incredibly diverse,” Barr remarked. “Additionally, Phoenix is a great place to build connections and tap into active networks of entrepreneurs and small businesses. There are a lot of resources right at your fingertips.”

What might be worth celebrating more is not just the size, but the scope. Phoenix has proven to be a good home for companies that are pushing innovations in sustainability and social good.

“The biggest economic opportunity that Phoenix has in the coming years is to address the climate and water

crises,” says Barr. “Our state can entrepreneurially address the crises head on, while enabling the small business community to share their stories and develop new ways to do business and sustain our state.”

Let’s take a look at some of the exciting startups in Phoenix that are leading the way.

Greentech Startups

These well-funded Greentech startups (among many others) are putting Arizona on the map in the sustainability space.

Persefoni: The venture-backed, software-as-a-service company provides innovative tools for organizations to reduce climate impact by incorporating their carbon footprints into their financial analyses. The idea is to take out the guesswork in evaluating how to reach net-zero while helping meet stakeholder and regulatory climate disclosure requirements and requests. According to Crunchbase, the company has received $114.2 million in funding to date making it one of the hotter startups in the Valley.

Footprint: Developed by two former Intel engineers, the Gilbert based Greentech company is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastics by integrating new, organic materials across all types of industries. In December 2021 they announced intent to be listed on Nasdaq as a publicly traded company. With the added investment they can expand their reach and influence globally in pursuit of their mission. Ironically, it takes big shoes to be able to reduce our world’s carbon footprint.

SOURCE Water: A developer and manufacturer of solar-powered devices designed to extract drinkable water from the atmosphere, the Scottsdale-based company was the world’s first renewable drinking water system. SOURCE Hydropanel technology uses sun and air to purify water off-grid; no infrastructure is required. Developed by Cody Friesen at Arizona State University, it is used in over 50 countries including 500 homes in the Navajo Nation.

Emerging Small Businesses

Brick Road Coffee: An LGBTQ+ owned business in Tempe that launched less than a year ago. They are leading the charge in engaging the community in important issues while serving quality coffee and products. Proof you can do good while doing business.

Hot Sauce & Pepper: One of the most powerful choices you can make as an individual to reduce your environmental impact is to go vegan—even if only for a few meals a week. This local, Black-owned food truck is serving up the tastiest buffalo cauliflower you’ve ever had, winning over even the biggest meat-eaters.

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