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Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Tucson continues to receive significant national recognition for its entrepreneurial culture. With consistently high national rankings, the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program at The University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management and various public and private organizations support start-up businesses and entrepreneurs with the necessary resources for launching new ventures.

Tucson ranked One of Ten Best Cities for Startup Costs

Embroker, January 2020

Tucson ranked One of 35 Potential Innovation Centers

Brookings Institute, December 2019

Tucson One of the
Next 25 Markets

CBRE, July 2020

innovation & entrepreneurship

startup tucson

Startup Tucson is working to grow a strong, vibrant startup ecosystem of companies, entrepreneurs, and talent in Tucson. Inspired by the robust scenes in cities such as Silicon Valley, Boulder and Austin, the group is helping to spur economic growth by organizing educational events like hackathons, Startup Weekend events and Lean LaunchPad workshops, as well as networking events like Startup Drinks and Co-Founder Speed Dating.


Thryve is a multi-dimensional program providing entrepreneurs the tools to either take their ideas to market or scale their already existing business. Thryve ScaleUP is one of the top accelerator programs in the US. Students have traveled from all over the US to attend this program and 24 companies per year can receive this training absolutely free. The complete $10,000 program is 100% funded by a contract from the US Small Business Administration’s ScaleUp America program.

arizona center for innovation

The Arizona Center for Innovation (AZCI) is a unique high-tech incubator that guides its clients through the business development process. The Center’s goal is to identify and bring to market commercially viable technologies early in the innovation process in six areas: aerospace, advanced composites and materials, information technology, environmental technology, life sciences, and optics/photonics. Clients are advised by experienced venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs in a professional environment.

rail yard

RAIL YARD is a dynamic environment designed to motivate, inspire, create more beauty, and expand upon other businesses. They are a consortium of creative individuals who appreciate exceptional taste in independently owned workspaces, offer terrific service to their clients and conduct businesses with great integrity.


TENWEST Festival is a dynamic, week-long festival bringing together a wide range of people and interests to share perspectives and create innovative solutions. Culture-makers, technologists, professionals, & community builders alike assemble over ten days of exhibitions, talks, and interactive experiences to inspire the ideas and facilitate the connections that will empower Tucson. The long term goal of the TENWEST festival is to share the diverse attributes of Tucson to attract and retain talent in Southern Arizona and to be identified with Tucson and Southern Arizona internationally.


venture capital funding

The Tucson region offers capital resources like the Desert Angels. Desert Angels is a Tucson-based nonprofit organization of accredited Angel investors who seek opportunities to invest in regional start-up or early-stage no-tech, low-tech, or high-tech companies. Private local venture capitalists like UA Venture Capital and BlueStone Venture Partners provide venture capital for companies that have a product or service in testing or pilot production and also serve as the primary source of capital once the venture matures into a viable business. There are also many regional venture capital firms.


IdeaFunding is a local non-profit organization powered by StartUp Tucson whose goal is to assist entrepreneurs, researchers and scientists in identifying and accessing the alternative sources of capital available to them in the Southern Arizona marketplace. IdeaFunding works to enhance participants’ knowledge through workshops and seminars hosted by professionals in their respective industries. In addition, IdeaFunding gives useful suggestions regarding business plan content and how to turn an idea into reality.

arizona innovation challenge (AIC)

The Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC), powered by the Arizona Commerce Authority, awards the most money in the country for a technology commercialization challenge – $3 million ($1.5 million twice yearly) to the world’s most promising technology ventures. Awards range from $100,000 to $250,000 per company.

business financing

There are many programs to help businesses obtain long-term, fixed-rate financing for business purchases. The Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan Guarantee Program, Microloan Program, and the Business Development Finance Corporation are a few examples.

business plan development assistance

In addition to funding resources, many organizations provide assistance in developing business plans: Small Business Development Center, SCORE Counselors to America’s Small Business and YWCA Microbusiness Advancement Center (MAC).

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Susan Dumon | Vice President, Economic Development

Daniela Gallagher | Vice President, Economic Development

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