About AZ Disruptors

AZ Disruptors is a startup incubator for software companies.

For the latest Arizona Startups and Arizona Tech News, visit AZTechBeat.com.

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AZ Disruptors Pivots

When I was a kid, the only people who pivoted were 6- and 7-footers. They wore colorful jerseys with logos that had numbers on them. That's no longer the case. Today, there are far more people pivoting in business than on basketball courts. This is thanks to wide adoption of this term in the tech start-up world, via Eric Ries’ Lean Startups.

Pivot is the newest euphemism for, “Oh, shit! My startup’s not gonna make money!”

The pivot is a crucial concept for entrepreneurs to understand. New businesses rarely succeed by forcing ideas into a given marketplace or landscape. This approach puts the onus on the entrepreneur: i.e. if your idea doesn't catch on, you have a problem -- not the marketplace.

AZ Disruptors is pivoting. 

I have come to believe that the landscape in Arizona will not currently support an incubator and an early-stage investment accelerator like AZ Disruptors. Now don’t get me wrong. The enthusiasm is certainly present. The talent exists. There’s even some money. There are other great resources. And we still want to invest in early-stage startups.

Then, what’s the problem?

First of all, if you’d like to place your finger on the pulse of the Arizona tech scene, there is currently nowhere to turn. There is no convenient resource that provides you with:

  • a list and profile of current tech companies
  • news about these companies and other tech news that affects the valley
  • a schedule of tech-related events in the valley

Let’s face it, the TechCrunch’s and the Mashables of the world don’t cover Phoenix tech.  I’m not sure I remember the last story on a major tech blog, covering a Phoenix tech company.

Not only does the Arizona tech scene get very little national coverage, it also gets very little local coverage. Even on AZCentral.comthe website of the Arizona Republic, there is no tech section. Interestingly, there is a Pets section, so you'd have a better chance getting coverage if you are a dog than if you are a software company in Arizona. 

We can also hypothesize about a lot of other problems we may have in the valley that spell trouble for a startup like AZDisruptors. Among them: the lack of later stage funding sources and a strange sense that there is no tech community.

But what if these other problems are derivatives of the first problem? That there is no tech news scene. There is no TechCrunch for Arizona.

The time has come, and we want to help fill this void. That’s why we’re starting AZ Tech Beat, the valley’s forthcoming Arizona tech news blog.

We are focusing our efforts on helping to improve the current landscape, nudging it in a direction that will be a more nourishing environment for projects like tech incubators and startups to succeed. This is a lot tougher than complaining about the current tech vibe, a lack of community, a lack of funding, or a lack of whatever, throwing our hands up in the air and calling it quits. Rather, we’re committed to the Arizona tech scene, and we're going to do what we can to bring some attention to tech in the Valley of the Sun.  

We have amazing success stories all around us, and I’m not just talking about the billion dollar stories, like GoDaddy and JDA Software.

Have you heard of Dapper GentlemenBulbstorm or CX.com? One is growing at a rate of 30,000 subscribers per week; another has displaced Angry Birds from atop the iPhone App Store. If you haven't heard of these companies, you should have. 

Other startups like Page.ly and SpyFu aren’t covered as much as they deserve, either. 

Or how about Fetchback -- did you know that it was funded with a $1 million round in 2008 and was later purchased by GSI Commerce in 2010 for $40 Million? GSI Commerce was later purchase by eBay for $2.4 billion in 2011.  Fetchback is still running strong with 100 employees and is running as an eBay subsidiary headquartered in downtown Tempe.

It’s borderline insane that no one is covering these businesses seriously. All of these companies are our neighbors, right here in Arizona.

These companies (and many, many more) will be profiled, covered, and even scrutinized when we think it's appropriate to do so.  

Check out AZ Tech Beat -- your new resource for Arizona tech news, event listings, tech jobs, and more.


Event: Kicking Off Round 2 on December 15th

It's time for us to kick off Round 2 of the AZ Disruptors incubator companies. We are looking for 5 awesome startups to participate in AZ Disruptors second class of startups. They'll get $20,000 in cash, office space, mentorship and a crash course on running a software startup. The deadline to apply is Friday January 13th. Apply Now.

To kick things off, we're having a networking event plus a recording of A Smart Bear Live Startup Podcast with host Jason Cohen (and cohost, me :-). Jason was the founder of Smart Bear Software which he sold and is now extremely active in the startup community with one of the best blogs on startups (A Smart Bear) and he's involved as both a mentor and an investor at the Capital Factory, a startup incubator in Austin Texas. Jason's advice to software startups is above and beyond good...it's amazing! If you're considering doing a software startup or have a software company, Jason's blog is a must read: http://blog.asmartbear.com/

This is one event you don't want to miss. Here are the details:

When: Thursday, December 15th, 5pm to 7:30pm

Where: Axosoft offices

Price: Free! (limited seating - requires RSVP!)

Must RSVP Here

We hope to see you there!


Starting Axosoft: My Talk at AZEC Conference

Yesterday, I was at the AZ Entrepreneur's Conference and I have to say it was a quality conference with a great attendee list. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also had Axosoft's video team at the event who recorded my talk. If you are interested here it is:

Watch it on YouTube



Event: AZ Entrepreneur Conference 11/16

Just a quick reminder that the AZ Entrepreneur Conference is coming up on November 16th. The conference, which is headed up by Francine Hardaway promises to be a good one with a great lineup of speakers. 

Check out the agenda here: http://azentrepreneurship.com/agenda/

Register here: http://azec11.eventbrite.com/

I will be one of the speakers. Hope to see you there.


Blogic Launches at TechCrunch Disrupt

Congratulations to Sean and Alan of Blogic (one of the startup companies in AZ Disruptors incubator) who is launching their beta product today at the TechCrunch Disrupt event:

Blogic has created an amazingly simple way to create a blog that matches the look and feel of your current web site. All you do is provide the URL to your site and your blog will look identical with all the existing navigation, header and foorter in place. No need to spend hours, thousands of dollars and lose hair trying to customize a WordPress theme. Just point and click to rip your existing site's look & feel. It's an amazing product!

Here is an example of the 3-step process to create a blog for TransferBigFiles.com:

Step 1: Enter your site's URL

Step 2: Choose the region of your site where you want your blog

Step 3: Preview your site and save!

It's like Blog Magic...It's Blogic! In less than 30 seconds you can have a blog that matches your site. It simply doesn't get any simpler (or better) than this!


Live from TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley

This week, Blogic, MemberDesk and TransferBigFiles will be showing off their stuff at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. This is the largest startup conference of its type with over 2,000 attendees and hundreds of startups.

The Startup Alley is where nearly 200 startups can show off their stuff (100 on Monday and another 100 on Tuesday). Check it out:

I will be posting updates about the conference as I see interesting stuff, so stay tuned...


Maker Bench is Where Makers go to Make Stuff

For all of my adult life, I've been a software engineer. I make bits. You can't really touch the bits I make which makes it hard to explain what I make to non-software people like my mom. I have always wanted to also make, ummm, stuff. Stuff is touchable. Bits are not. Stuff are easier to explain than software. 

Ideally, I'd like to make bits and stuff that work together. I think that's why I've always admired Apple as a company. They make stuff and they make bits. It's very rare for companies to do that. Google and Microsoft for the most part just make bits. So does my company, Axosoft. There's nothing wrong with that, I'm just saying I relate to Google and Microsoft more than I relate to Apple, which is probably why Apple has a more mystic awe for me. Bits, I know. Stuff, not so much. Bits and stuff, I've never done. It's interesting how companies generally do one or the other, almost never do they do both.

Anyway, I'm going off track here, except I'm not. A lot of software engineers feel exactly the same as I do. In fact that was one of the driving forces behind why David Uhlman started Maker Bench with his friend Jordan Bendor. David and Jordan wanted to create a place where people could make stuff. All kinds of stuff. Wood working, jewelry, sewing, metal-working, electronics and everything in between.

David (left) and Jordan founders of Maker Bench in Tempe AZ 

I love what Dave and Jordan are doing. Their idea is very disruptive. They've built a place that's open to anyone to go to and make stuff. They provide the tools and even help implement the ideas. For frequent visitors they have very affordable membership programs to provide access to all the tools and the shop 24/7. More importantly, they're building a community of people who also want to make stuff. They've put together classes for using a laser cutter, welding, making jewelry or even making your own mini CNC machine. That's very cool stuff!



I visited Maker Bench because my 6-year old son is very much into making stuff with Legos and he's ready to start building more advanced things. On our visit to Maker Bench he got his first soldering lesson by building a battery operated LED pin. Because he assembled and soldered it together himself, he absolutely loves that pin and he learned how to solder. I'm very jelous! He just loved the idea of melting metals together and who wouldn't? Melting metal is just a cool thing to do. It's worth at least a few lines of code.

During my visit to Maker Bench, I also learned about an open-source hardware device known as Arduino. WOW! Basically, the Arduino is a little 32-bit C-Programmable micro controller that costs $32.95. They sell them at Maker Bench and they also stock the Arduino Cookbook by Michael Margolis (published by O'Reily) which has hundreds of little projects that can be done with the Aruino device. The Arduino devices are taking the hardware prototyping world by storm. They've basically become cheap enough that people are making simple projects for personal use. At about $33 per device, it's also cheap enough to experiment with low-quantity commercial applications. Rather than having to build 10,000 devices to make hardware be cheap enough, you can build it from an Arduino board and it's already cheap.

The Arduino is an exciting and inspiring little device. After learning about this whole new world, we've decide to open up AZ Disruptor startup submissions to allow for software/hardware startups. That means we will be open to accept software startups that will make their products that much more attractive using a low-cost hardware add-on. Companies like Square are a great example of that.

So if you've ever wanted to make stuff, stop by the Maker Bench in Tempe. I love their motto: Less talking and more making. So perfect!

Great job to Dave and Jordan.


Event: Need a CoFounder? Here's Your Chance!

At AZ Disruptors we're always aproached by people who have great ideas but don't have the technical expertise to pull them off. In some cases, we're approached by people who have the technical expertise and want to be a part of a new startup. It'd be great to match up these two groups.

Nick Labadie, founder of PinfoB is putting together just such an event:

CoFounder Event

Startups are all about the Team. Good ones have a chance, bad ones really don’t. We know building the right team can be difficult and takes getting to know a lot of people. Cofinder is a place where folks looking to build those teams can meet and talk. We will also hand pick a panel of stars to give their insights and answer your questions about startup teams.  Space is limited so register for free today! http://cofinder.eventbrite.com

More info: http://cofinder.pinfob.com

When: Friday, Aug. 26th 2011 at 530p

Where: The Center 3rd floor, 21 E. 6th St. Tempe, AZ 85281 Map

Presented by PinfoB.com ("pin-fob") with hosted beer/wine bar

So if you're looking for a cofounder, this is your chance. Get moving. It's a free event!


Gangplank Event: Extreme Pitches

Extreme Pitch invites innovative local products and companies to share their vision with investors, media and experienced entrepreneurs. The event takes traditional pitches and adds a little flair to keep presenters on their toes, including a real-time rating board with audience input and an elimination round.

The initial round will include 10 pitches, with four-minutes alloted per pitch. During the dinner break, panelists will chose the top three pitches to move onto the next round, which will include audience questions and panelist feedback. A final winner will be declared based on highest number of votes.

When: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 from 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM (MT)

To view the pitching teams, as well as register, visit - http://www.eventbrite.com/event/1958298323


Event: Legal Issues For Startups...Lunch and Learn 

If you're a startup, you don't have time or money for the pesky little details that can turn out to be exceptionally important to your success. You know, things like making sure your legal structure will be attractive to VC Investment, your "Terms of Service" and "Privacy Policy" documents on your web site and whether or not to spend time and energy on Trademark details.

Learn from two of the tech industry legal veterans...AZ Disruptors is hosting Tom Curzon and Jonathan Ariano from Osborn Maledon for a "Lunch and Learn".

Here are the details:


Legal advice for startups. Topics will include preparing your startup for VC investment, privacy policies, terms of service, trademarks and Q & A.


Tuesday, August 2nd at 11am - 1pm


AZ Disruptors Offices

How Much

It's Free, but space is limited and you Must RSVP. RSVP NOW