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Tracey Dodenhoff named vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation

Portrait of Tracey Dodenhoff, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at ASU.
July 26, 2023

Tracey Dodenhoff is on a personal mission to alleviate suffering with practical solutions that empower others. And her new role as vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for Arizona State University provides her the perfect opportunity to do just that.

“The way I translate my personal mission into my profession is truly through entrepreneurship and innovation, which addresses suffering in so many ways, whether it’s bringing a new medical technology to the table or giving someone a path toward more financial autonomy,” she says.

Dodenhoff brings a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur, investor and innovation consultant to her new position. In fact, she can trace her entrepreneurial origins back to the age of 13, when she sold handmade sketches from her front lawn. Since then, she’s fulfilled her mission as a venture CEO, founding executive, board member, investor and advisor across multiple industries.

Most recently, she served as CEO of digital therapeutics for company Medly Therapeutics Inc., as well as a commercialization advisor for robotics-as-a-service company Avendly, an entrepreneur-in-residence for Northeastern University, and an embedded entrepreneur for several DARPA-funded ventures.

“I get it. I get waking up at three o'clock in the morning and wondering how you're going to pay your rent, or how you’re going to make payroll, or how you're going to fulfill that customer order,” she says.

Knowing the challenges of starting and managing a venture firsthand, she says, gives her the dedication to bring together all of ASU’s resources in a way that empowers entrepreneurs at every stage and inspires her as a catalytic agent to bring ASU’s entrepreneurial offerings to the next level.

Dodenhoff will strategize and lead ASU entrepreneurship throughout the ASU community, as well as collaborate with the local Phoenix area and the state of Arizona. It’s part of ASU’s universitywide effort to grow inclusive entrepreneurship across sectors, educational backgrounds and career stages. Supporting this larger effort is the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute, which is a major ASU hub led by Linda Ricchiuti that provides resources like training, guidance and workspace for ASU and local entrepreneurs.

“Tracey Dodenhoff brings a valuable perspective from her professional experience as an entrepreneur, as well as a vision for a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem at ASU and a passion for delivering impact that aligns so well with the university’s charter,” said Sally C. Morton, executive vice president of ASU Knowledge Enterprise.

We spoke to Dodenhoff about her thoughts on leading entrepreneurship and innovation at ASU and where she hopes to take it in the future.

Editor's note: Answers may have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Question: Why did you choose to come to ASU?

Answer: The university’s charter says it’s not about whom you exclude, but whom you include and their success. That just resonates with me. There’s an opportunity to empower students, faculty, staff and people across the Arizona community to succeed in making their own impact in the areas that inspire them. This entrepreneurial mindset is also embedded in the culture of the university; throughout the interviewing process, consistently everyone I talked with was mission driven. You know, let’s not just talk about it. Let’s try it. If it doesn’t work, let’s learn from it and try a new idea. Walking that walk of impact is the thing that has me so excited about and grateful for this opportunity.

Q: What do you hope to contribute to the university?

A: I'm walking into an amazing ecosystem already, and I have this fire in the belly, particularly around entrepreneurship as a path to empowerment. And it's not just about technology. Entrepreneurship is also farmers trying to access more customers and scale their business. It's older folks who maybe have been in a corporate job and want do something that's more self-directed. It's young kids who are maybe going down the wrong path, who have really strong entrepreneurial skills that could do amazing things with some redirection and coaching. The ability to have a platform and engage across a community is fertile ground to ultimately help seed and grow entrepreneurship as a thought process, as a philosophy, across all different types of personalities and stages of life.

Q: How will you draw from your past professional experience in your new role?

A: Oh, in so many ways. I've been an entrepreneur since a young age. I've always been involved in ventures, whether it's as an entrepreneur, as an investor, embedded within a university or as an open innovation consultant. I see myself helping to bring together all the different resources that the university has in a way that's going to make a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem and expand its scale at ASU. And then on a personal level, helping people make connections that will help them reach their full entrepreneurial capabilities in a way that will serve them and also serve their community or whatever the mission is that they're going after.

Q: You have a lot of experience in the medical technology industry. With the creation of ASU’s new medical school, will you want to create more opportunities to help medicine and entrepreneurship connect?

A: The medical school has a vision for a new model of education that integrates innovation and entrepreneurship. So it's certainly a priority. I am excited to contribute my deep network and experience to accelerate ASU Health’s role in transforming health care. I've already started exploring possibilities with the executive vice president of ASU Health, Sherine Gabriel, and there's so many transformational opportunities through collaboration. That said, I'm not just a medtech entrepreneur. As long as there is an opportunity to empower someone to create growth to have impact, it's going to be in my purview. Health care and medtech are absolutely a priority because it's an area desperately in need of innovation. However, I don't want anyone to feel that if they're not in the medtech space, we don't have something to offer them. If I'm not the right person, I or our group will help them find the right person. The ecosystem at ASU is just so dynamic; it would be very unusual to find a situation where there couldn't be some tangible value add to anyone who’s ready to explore or fully immerse in the entrepreneurial mindset.

Q: What is your big-picture vision for the future of entrepreneurship and innovation at ASU?

A: I'd love to stimulate a dynamic investment community across the spectrum. So from proof-of-concept all the way to series B, maybe even series C funding rounds, and corporate partnerships such as strategic partnering to gain access to a channel or acquisitions to bring more resources to the table, there are many opportunities to attract resources and create an investment culture. With the indisputable excellence for innovation happening within ASU, and the growth across the greater Phoenix area and Arizona, the natural next step is to get the catalytic resources flowing. In addition, creating a platform to scale the reach of ASU’s entrepreneurial ecosystem beyond geographic boundaries and economic constraints excites me. I envision ASU to be a force multiplier for entrepreneurial support and success, creating a collaborative, dynamic ecosystem that helps people create a fulfilling and empowered path.

Top photo: Vice President of Entrepreneurship + Innovation Tracey Dodenhoff. Photo courtesy Tracey Dodenhoff

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