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Business Incubator Series: Interview With Julia Rosen, Associate Vice-President For Innovation And Entrepreneurship, Arizona State University, Venture Catalyst At ASU — Scottsdale, Arizona (Part 1)

Posted on Friday, Mar 25th 2011

By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold

I am talking to Julia Rosen, associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship at Arizona State University about the Venture Catalyst program at ASU.

Irina: Hi, Julia. Let’s start with a brief overview.

Julia: The Venture Catalyst is the new entrepreneurial platform at Arizona State University that combines several previously separate programs. Our first program was launched in 2004. The Venture Catalyst is a broader platform than that first program, which focused on training entrepreneurs in the greater Phoenix area. It was not necessarily a physical place where people could come and learn and advance their ideas.

Our innovation center, called SkySong, is a physical place. Its formal opening was in March 2008, so it’s been open for three years. It is the epicenter of ASU’s innovation and entrepreneurship activities. Here we have a combination of U.S. entrepreneurs, global entrepreneurs, even larger companies, as well as ASU programs that focus on helping entrepreneurs advance their ideas.

These programs include our technology transfer unit, which is called Arizona Technology Enterprises. Before we formed the Venture Catalyst, we thought about four separate buckets of entrepreneurs: one, student entrepreneurs, two, faculty entrepreneurs, three, U.S. entrepreneurs, and four, global entrepreneurs.

With the launch of the Venture Catalyst, we brought all of these previously separate programs together into one place, so that we could better use the individual platforms, the individual Rolodexes, the individual mentor networks, the individual training modules that had been built up by each of these programs and bring them to bear on behalf of all of the entrepreneurs with whom we work.

Irina: What is the physical address of the innovation center?

Julia: The physical address is 1475 North Scottsdale Road. That is the address of SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Irina: What is the structure of the Venture Catalyst?

Julia: We work for Arizona State University, so this is an accelerator run by the university. Unlike many universities, we go beyond helping our students and faculty start new ventures. We obviously also work with folks in the greater Phoenix area.

Also, we serve an enhanced economic development function. We recruit companies from around the country and around the world to relocate to SkySong. A major reason why they want to be here at SkySong is because of all the services that the Venture Catalyst offers that can help them make their companies more successful.

Irina: Do you have any industry preference?

Julia: Our preferences are information and communication technologies; sustainability technologies; and education technology. I guess, a running theme is that many of the companies we see have some sort of social flavor to them.

Irina: At what stage of their companies’ development do you recommend entrepreneurs apply to Venture Catalyst?

Julia: Companies at any stage can apply. The services we provide them with will depend on their stage. We work with everybody, from a student who simply has an idea to a very sophisticated entrepreneur who’s already done his proof of concept, already has some seed funding and is really in need of venture capital investment, a national quality CEO, additional new strategic partnerships, or all three.

Irina: What’s the ideal company that would benefit from your acceleration program?

Julia: An ideal company would be one in one of those three sectors – information and communication technologies, sustainability technologies, education technologies – one that has already accomplished at least the technical proof of concept.

We know that their software works or their product works. We’ve got some sense that there’s initial market traction. Maybe they’re not profitable, but maybe they at least have customers who are on the verge of buying their product, if the value proposition is a bit better articulated. We’re willing to work with companies in all stages.

I think we can add the most value to a company that’s past the technical proof of concept but has not really developed a full-fledged business plan and marketing and sales strategy.

Irina: How many companies have come through your accelerator to date?

Julia: I think in the past year, we’ve touched what has been over 100 companies. That’s not even in a full year. That would be since July.

Irina: Are the entrepreneurs required to be on site?

Julia: No, they’re not. Some of them can be incubated virtually.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Business Incubator Series: Interview With Julia Rosen, Associate Vice-President For Innovation And Entrepreneurship, Arizona State University, Venture Catalyst At ASU — Scottsdale, Arizona
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