For most, the new year is a prime opportunity to declare and prioritize personal and professional progress. Some swear off soda beginning New Year’s Day; a few vow to spend more time with family; others re-work their budgets so they can save up for special vacations. But as the years go by, it can grow difficult to come up with fresh New Year’s resolutions that provide both fun and a bit of a challenge.
Luckily, TechAZ has your back. Since we published our first article in March, we’ve paid close attention to what Arizona’s entrepreneurs and innovators (that may mean you!) hold closest to their hearts. And in anticipation of 2017, we’ve made New Year’s resolutions out of all of them.
Whether you’re looking for a resolution to share at your New Year’s Eve party or truly hope to make a change this year, we think you’ll love our suggestions.
Help improve Arizona’s venture capital climate.
When we ask our Faces of the AZ Tech Scene features what they like least about living in Arizona, most say that venture capital is simply too difficult to acquire. Metro Phoenix and Tucson aren’t known nationally as entrepreneurial hubs yet, and as a result, most capital is directed to more appealing places: San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, and so forth. According to Ryan Quinn of BrightGuest, our local investors tend to “wait until startups can sustain themselves, then offer growth funding,” which is understandable yet frustrating, since many startups require capital sooner. At the most basic level, Arizona investors aren’t taking as much risk as we’d like—potentially slowing the state’s entrepreneurial growth in the process.
While we can’t fix this problem overnight, we can take steps to improve Arizona’s venture capital climate over time. When we meet with investors, we can give them examples of startups in other states that have required more risk, but have given their own investors significant returns. We can help the founders of awesome startups build relationships with local venture capitalists. We can even help newer startups build the ultimate pitch, so their odds of acquiring funding are better when it’s finally show time. Rome wasn’t built in a day—but neither was Silicon Valley.
Build a better education system for Arizona’s youth.
Another common complaint we hear from Faces of the AZ Tech Scene interviewees is that Arizona’s education system is severely lacking. We may boast some amazing universities—not picking favorites, here—but our elementary, middle, and high schools need some serious improvement. As Rising Tycoons founder Olenka Cullinan says, “We cannot ignore the fact that we are 47th in the nation for education. We cannot raise the next generation of talent in silos—schools cannot stand alone and work in silos.”
This is another goal that will take time to achieve, but it’s one that has an everlasting impact on the generations to come. In 2017, consider supporting your local school’s science clubs, leadership summits, art classes, and other extra-curriculars through volunteering or a donation. Almost any business has something useful to teach young people; try partnering with a nearby middle or high school to teach students about app-building, medtech, web security, or whatever you do. You never know if the special school day you provide will shape a future career.
Strive to make our brand of entrepreneurship more human-centric.
Entrepreneurship already requires significant social effort. In order to make your business succeed, you often have to build relationships with bankers, investors, customers, clients, other startups… and the list goes on. But this often leaves entrepreneurs themselves feeling a little dry; all that effort goes more toward the business than toward the person who started it. “We need more human-centric programming,” says Amber Anderson of MORE and Kayson. “People are multi-dimensional. We need more programs and services that take into account all of their different roles and needs.”
Business owners have families, hobbies, passions, and struggles just like anyone else. Amber takes care to point out that “if you’re a parent, you go to a parent event. If you’re a woman, you go to a women-focused event.” Entrepreneurs’ needs are too compartmentalized, and all too often, their needs can only be taken care of one at a time. This year, consider organizing a networking event for entrepreneurs with day jobs and families, tech business owners with disabilities, or another niche group with several different facets. You’ll build valuable and long-lasting relationships while helping to create a more human-centric entrepreneurial climate.
Make your home or business just a touch greener.
Arizona is an excellent place to practice environmental sustainability. Our sunny environment makes us the perfect host for solar panels, our foliage requires little water, and we have plenty of space left in which to build new homes and offices out of “green” materials. But what’s another thing Arizona’s entrepreneurs think the state needs to work on? Environmental responsibility. “We should be the mecca for alternative energy and solar startups, but I see very little in that area,” says Martin Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals. And it’s true—we as a state are not living up to our full potential.
There are countless actions you can take to make your home or business more sustainable. Simply recycling paper, glass, aluminum, and electronics is a great start. Installing mist faucets in your home or office will minimize the amount of water you use without changing your daily routine. Hosting a paper recycling event or clothing drive will help your neighborhood reduce the amount of trash going into its landfills. If your business is looking for fun team-building exercises, think about organizing a park cleanup or tree-planting day. It isn’t hard to preserve the environment, but each small step will go a long way.
Take time to enjoy Arizona’s geography.
Most of us take our state’s physical attributes for granted. Sure, we deal with a few months each summer that leave us sweating as we walk to our cars—but the rest of the year is gorgeous. No matter where you live in Arizona, you’re just a few hours away from a beautiful hike at sunset, a snowy ski slope, a grassy park, or bubbling creeks. And, as Kevin Boesen of SinfoniaRx points out, “We are close to a number of vacation destinations: California, Las Vegas, and Rocky Point.” If a day-trip doesn’t quite cut it for you, a weekend getaway is easily attainable.
In 2017, carve out some time each week—or each month—to go for a hike, jog by your favorite lake, take in Sedona’s red rocks, or breathe in Flagstaff’s crisp pine scent. An adventure is only moments away, and we should make the most of it.
Lend someone a helping hand.
Every one of our New Year’s resolution suggestions are impactful, but this one is sure to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling. Our communities (both entrepreneurial and not) always include people who need a bit of support, and if you’re reading this right now, you probably have something great to offer. And no one knows this better than Jonathan Cottrell of Hopscratch, who likes to say that he “serves entrepreneurs and their communities in love.” Jonathan is big on sharing his entrepreneurial spirit and skills with others. He even says that “Arizona is full of people not just building businesses, but building lives. There’s a real sense that we’re all on this journey together.”
Pay close attention this year to members of your community who need an extra boost. You can make a big difference in another entrepreneur’s life by offering to help them with their website, giving them a “shoutout” on social media, or introducing them to investors or other valuable contacts. If you feel that you’re a seasoned business owner, you could even become a mentor to a newer founder. There are plenty of fun ways to serve your community in love—and in return, they may just serve you, too.
Since March 2016, we’ve loved reading your favorite and least-favorite things about Arizona. Now it’s time for all of us to make our state an even better place to live, work, and play. What is your New Year’s resolution for 2017?