Persosa co-founder CEO Kirk Morales knows his startup needs all the help it can get, especially when that help is free from local company founders who have been in similar situations. Morales’ Phoenix-based online personalization software company is among 11 startups chosen for a new group of the Founders Collective, funded and operated by the nonprofit StartupAZ Foundation.
The collective, launched unofficially two years ago, is a group of startup-business leaders who are banding together to get advice from each other as well as company founders who have seen their businesses grow well beyond the startup stage.
“Based off of the other startups we’ve seen go through Founders Collective, and knowing who is on the advisory committee, any sort of guidance and support we can get from startups from the local community at the stages we are marching towards is helpful,” said Morales, whose startup raised a $550,000 seed round in April led by LifeLock co-founder and former CEO Todd Davis.
StartupAZ Foundation began in February 2016 as a component fund of the nonprofit Arizona Community Foundation. It aims to support the local startup community and get other companies to commit to helping, including by pledging at least 1 percent of a company’s equity or time to grow the local ecosystem.
Its Founders Collective recruitment process in the spring brings in selected Arizona-based early-stage tech founders whose companies have between $500,000 to $5 million in revenue. The founders are asked to participate in a Flagstaff summer retreat at the end of June as well as a monthly meet-up to network, receive help from the experienced founders-in-residence and share any ideas or problems they are encountering.
“We look at this model as a more established way of paying it forward,” said Brandon Clarke, StartupAZ Foundation co-founder and acting executive director, who started the nonprofit with angel investor and tech entrepreneur Mario Martinez II. “(The founders) leverage each other as resources and a collective brain trust.”
The collective’s first year accepted 21 startups from 45 that applied. Fifteen founders are continuing with the program this year, while only 11 were chosen this year, Clarke said.
“We were more deliberate on the types of folks we wanted. Some companies reached out, and others were direct invite because they were at the right stage,” he said.
The new group includes Deanna Montrose, founder and CEO of Paraffin International Inc., Chris Ronzio, founder and CEO of Trainual, and Jeremy Gocke, founder and CEO of Ampsy.
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