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ASU partners with Chandler on new model of startup incubator open to all

Chandler Endeavor Venture Innovation Incubator to provide advice, space, funding to entrepreneurs

People working in private booths and open seating in an incubator space.

A new coworking space that is available to the community has opened at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

August 24, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2023 year in review.

Arizona State University has a new entrepreneurship resource in Chandler that is perfectly aligned with the university’s charter — open to anybody in the community.

A ribbon-cutting event on Wednesday celebrated the opening of the E+I@ACIC coworking space at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center and the start of the Chandler Endeavor Venture Innovation Incubator, which will be based in the building.

The incubator program, a partnership between ASU’s J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute and the city of Chandler, is a unique model.

Typically, incubators require entrepreneurs to apply, and they may or may not be selected to join a cohort of other startups.

The Chandler Endeavor Venture Innovation Incubator invites any entrepreneur in the community to join simply by registering. Then, they can collaborate with peers and get expert advice, according to Tracey Dodenhoff, the new vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at ASU.

“It’s an integration of community and ASU assets,” she said of the coworking space and the incubator.

“No one will be turned away.”

Dodenhoff, who has experience in technology entrepreneurship, said that starting a business is not a linear process.

“You learn and you make mistakes. You learn from that and you try again and expand your network and you share with other people,” she said.

“That’s what this is all about. It’s that collective force multiplier effect. It could be somebody trying to come up with a new pizza formula or it could be somebody trying to solve a genetically driven disease.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton told the crowd that entrepreneurs are needed to innovative solutions to the big challenges facing the local community and the country.

“We need the people who are going to use this facility to help prepare ourselves for the issues of tomorrow,” he said at the ribbon cutting, which was organized by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.

“The people coming into this space have the power to make a real difference to our economy, our way of life and our futures.”

A new kind of incubator

Kristin Slice, director of community entrepreneurship for the Edson Institute, said she’s gotten a lot of feedback from founders about typical incubator programs, many of which require homework, provide irrelevant information or demand endless rounds of pitches.

The Chandler Endeavor Venture Innovation Incubator will trust founders to do what’s right for their startup, she said.

“We’re going give you the tools every month to learn about innovation, the evidence-proven tools that many people have used to help build innovative, high-growth ventures in the past,” she said

“Then we're going to surround you with the resources that you need to master those skills — peers, mentors, resources in the community. You'll come to a monthly forum and visit us online and talk about, ‘How do these actually apply to my business?’”

Startup founders who register with Chandler Endeavor will be grouped into cohorts for collaboration and have a six-month timeline to help them stay on track.

The monthly forums, which will feature advice from successful entrepreneurs, are open to everybody. September’s event will teach participants how to take inventory of their ventures to understand next steps. Other forums will cover how to find customers and how to be aware of environmental issues.

The institute also is creating online modules to teach entrepreneurship concepts.

“We have launched a new custom portal that allows you to access these resources and to connect with each other on demand,” Slice said.

Besides the coworking space in the ASU Chandler Innovation Center, participants can get access to the building’s fabrication studio to create a prototype.

At the end of the six months, participants can join a pitch competition for funding.

Slice said she doesn’t know of another incubator program like Chandler Endeavor, which is funded with $275,000 from the city of Chandler.

“We are setting the standard for what it might look like out here,” she said.

“Standard incubators serve 10 to 15 people a year. I stood in front of the city council two months ago and told them we would serve over a thousand.”

Making connections

E+I@ACIC is one of five coworking spaces managed by the Edson Institute. The others are 850PBC and Fusion on First, both in downtown Phoenix, 1951@Skysong in Scottsdale and The Studios @ Mesa City Center in downtown Mesa. In addition, the Phoenix Forge makerspace in downtown Phoenix, in partnership with GateWay Community College, is open to the public.

ASU student Hope Anderson was one of the entrepreneurs chosen to cut the ribbon at the Chandler coworking space on Wednesday.

“I came to a networking event here and I got some good connections,” said Anderson, who is seeking a Master of Science degree in innovation and venture development, a transdisciplinary program that’s a partnership between the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Design School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Her venture is Teaching Solved, an educational technology company focused on supporting teachers of world languages.

“Rather than being a language-learning app like Duolingo or Babbel, which is aimed directly at the student user, I’m aiming at the teachers because I want to support teachers in making their classes more effective for the students,” said Anderson, who also is a clinical assistant professor of Spanish at ASU.

She’s been to several events at different entrepreneurship ASU spaces.

“I know some of my classmates don’t even have internet at home, so they take advantage of on-campus resources or coworking spaces to access hardware, software or just internet connection,” she said.

“Whenever I visit these spaces, I see people working and it’s great because a lot of small businesses don’t have an office, so if they need to have meetings or need an area to cut out distractions, it’s so helpful.”

The first monthly forum of the Chandler Endeavor Venture Innovation Incubator will be 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center, 249 E. Chicago St., Chandler.

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