Chandler Innovations helps East Valley businesses grow
This article originally appeared on TechAZ. For more content about all things tech and entrepreneurship in Arizona, please visit TechAZ.org.
Arizona’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem includes a healthy amount of business incubators and accelerators, but how many focus their efforts on startups from a specific budding geographical area? Enter Chandler Innovations, a “city-wide business incubation and entrepreneurial development program” that offers coaching to tech-focused, scalable businesses. Chandler Innovations is sponsored by the City of Chandler and supported by NACET, an Arizona-based non-profit that helps startups grow into viable businesses.
The organization is a relatively new one for Phoenix. Chandler Innovations was founded in fall 2015 after the city recognized that it boasted a lot of engineers and subject matter experts, but not the business-minded people it needed to bolster its entrepreneurial economy. The incubator features programs and workshops for businesses at a variety of stages and offers group coaching, one-on-one support, and networking events for all of its clients.
To get involved, local startups participate in a formal application process. Chandler Innovations currently observes pitches from four potential clients a month; once an applicant has a pitch date, they can begin to arrange their five-minute pitch. Each pitch is presented in front of a panel and followed up with a ten-minute Q&A session. At the most basic level, Chandler Innovations seeks clients who are coachable, tech-involved, innovative, and planning to scale—if the panel finds these traits in an applicant, that applicant is sorted into the appropriate incubation “track.”
Chandler Innovations breaks its program down into four main tracks. Clients don’t have to start from the beginning if they’re already a little further into the startup process. To graduate from one track to the next, client businesses have to present their progress to another panel of judges.
- Track 1: Ideation. Focuses on story developing, connecting with the startup’s audience, identifying a market problem, and validating a product or service idea. Participants meet once a week for 12 weeks as part of a group cohort.
- Track 2: Preparing for launch. Involves beta testing, tweaking a product, and building an infrastructure that will support a new business. Participants meet monthly, and the track moves on a rolling basis, which allows new clients to jump in at any time.
- Track 3: Marketing. Focuses on selling the product. Participants work directly with mentors or residents of the program.
- Track 4: Scaling. Allows the graduated client to run independently while still receiving occasional support from the program. Participants are asked to give back to the program by providing mentorship to newer businesses and closing the gap between generations of entrepreneurs.
The incubator’s sponsorship from the City of Chandler makes its pricing particularly unique. If a startup is based within Chandler city limits, or if its founder lives in Chandler, the program is free—the city covers the charge. If both the startup and its founder are based outside of Chandler, they can receive a referral to NACET’s affiliate program, which costs $3,000. Businesses who can’t afford the program or don’t quite fit into it are often given referrals out to other local incubators and accelerators.
Chandler Innovations may be at full capacity for September, but the program is always accepting applications for pitches down the line. If you think your startup is a good candidate for any of Chandler Innovations’ four tracks, apply online—pitches are first come, first serve!
If you’re preparing to pitch to investors but don’t want to go through a complete incubation program, you may be interested in Chandler Innovations’ upcoming Pitch Power event. Pitch Power is a once-a-week, 7-week workshop that helps small businesses get investor-ready. The event will consist of two identical workshops, one in Chandler (free to local businesses) and one at Galvanize Phoenix ($1,800 per startup). You can learn more and sign up for the event on Chandler Innovations’ website.