Simply put, Derek Neighbors is a creator. A serial entrepreneur, Derek founded Gangplank HQ, one of Arizona’s favorite co-working spaces, and teaches entrepreneurship at Arizona State University. He’s also a partner at Integrum Technologies, a consulting services firm that helps companies build high-performing teams to compete in the new economy. Derek says he’s loud, obnoxious, and known to enjoy craft beer and fine bourbon.
What part of Arizona do you call home?
I have lived here over 40 years, so I have few areas that have captured my love over time. I grew up in North Phoenix in Moon Valley. I spent a few years in Carefree on Lone Mountain. My heart is in the East Valley. Chandler, Gilbert, and Queen Creek specifically. That is where we raised our kids and built our roots.
What was your very first entrepreneurial venture?
A paper route. I was probably 13 or 14. I started delivering papers for the Arizona Republic. Soon I consolidated 3 routes into a single route. At that time, you had to have the ability to sell subscriptions and were required to pick up payment door-to-door.
What is your favorite part about running a business?
Knowing my only limitation is myself. There isn’t anyone else to blame when success isn’t happening.
How did you get started in the tech industry?
My father was in the computer industry. He bought me a PC Jr. when I was a pre-teen and taught me how to program on it. I started operating a Bulletin Board System (BBS) and connecting with people all over the world and quickly got hooked.
How long have you lived or worked in Arizona?
Arizona used to be a one-trick pony: land development. The 2008 crisis scared people into diversifying. Technology was a bright spot, so people gravitated to that. As the development machine has started to fire back up, there has been shift back towards it. The technology industry here has done much better at promoting itself and there is more talent here than ever.
If you could only describe your city with one word, which word would it be?
What’s your favorite thing about living in Arizona?
The heat. No, seriously, the heat. My body relies on the sun to thrive. [We are] also 5 hours by from about any climate. Wide open spaces—everywhere.
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
Hearing everyone else complain about the heat. The inferiority complex people have about not being able to be successful because we aren’t San Francisco, New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
In what area do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
Diversifying economic sectors it relies on. Improving education in a meaningful way.
The foodie scene is growing bigger and bigger by the day here in Arizona. What is your favorite place to get breakfast in your city?
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
What’s your favorite dinner spot?
Creekside Taco Shack
What’s your favorite place to work in your city aside from your office?
Gangplank Chandler & Gangplank Queen Creek.
Best place for a meeting over drinks?
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
Too many to list. Annual hiking trips to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Watching my wife give birth to all of our kids. Regular family RV trips exploring all parts of Arizona.
What is something about living in Arizona that only a local would know of?
How to pronounce many names: Cholla, Saguaro, Prescott, and so on.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
Get out and explore the desert. The critters and the shrubbery bite back here.