News Column

IdeaFunding Helps Entrepreneurs Find Investors

Oct. 9, 2012

David Wichner

entrepreneur

Any technology can look cool, but to be more than that, it has to meet some cold, hard cash.

And making sure that first meeting goes well is the idea behind the annual IdeaFunding, set for a half-day Oct. 25 at Marriott Tucson University Park hotel.

Launched about 15 years ago, IdeaFunding is aimed at helping budding entrepreneurs hone their skills at attracting investment by thrusting them in front of real-life investors.

Last year, the event debuted the "rocket pitch," where participants had three minutes to pitch their ideas before a panel of investors. The entrepreneur with the winning pitch will get to pitch his or her idea directly to the Desert Angels, a local group of qualified private-equity investors, at a dinner immediately following IdeaFunding.

This year, 20 companies will pitch their ideas at what could be thought of as the "American Idol" of entrepreneurship, said Larry Hecker, a local corporate attorney and a co-founder and organizer of IdeaFunding.

"It's sort of an open-mic night, and there's no prequalification required," said Hecker, also a longtime Desert Angel.

The event also traditionally features a series of panel discussions and workshops on entrepreneurial subjects.

This year, the event will go workshop-lite, as it was cut to a half-day to accommodate some scheduling issues, Hecker said.

But the group will hold another session in late winter, probably in February, that will include more workshops, he said.

First held in 1995, IdeaFunding has become a important part of the imaginary "three-legged stool" of high-tech economic development comprising ideas, expertise and money, Hecker said.

It also dovetails with findings of the Tucson region's entrepreneurial economy report, which found entrepreneurship strong here but cited access to capital as an obstacle to high-tech development, Hecker said.

It's also part of a larger "entrepreneurial ecosystem" that also includes the University of Arizona, the Desert Angels and the Arizona Center for Innovation, a business incubator at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park.

Last year's IdeaFunding pitch winner, UA grad Sean Garner Wendt, launched a user-customizable sports-news website, Sportsinception.com, with the help of a $2,000 cash prize.

Wendt said the experience was valuable not only for the pitching experience but for the interaction with others who have traveled the often bumpy road of entrepreneurship.

"I think talking to as many people there who all have experience, having that kind of support, it's just a really fun atmosphere," he said, adding that the experience made him decide to take his idea to the next level.

It's also an eye-opener.

"Everyone loves their own idea," he said. "Sometimes having that extra help from everyone else, you really see if it's going to work or not."

Wendt also won a pitch contest last year at Startup Weekend Tucson, earning him a six-months' stay at the Arizona Center for Innovation. Since graduating with a sociology degree from the UA in May, Wendt has moved back to Phoenix and is refining his website and building membership while working in advertising for a local newspaper.

This year's IdeaFunding, sponsored by CyraCom, will also feature an interview with David Allen, executive director of Tech Launch Arizona, the UA's new technology-transfer initiative.

If you go

What: IdeaFunding "Pitch Arizona" 2012.

When: Oct. 25, a Thursday, 1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Where: Marriott Tucson University Park, 880 E. Second St.

Cost: $55 for presenting entrepreneurs (team members free); $35 general registration; $15 students.

For information/registration: www.ideafunding.org; www.regonline.com/PitchArizona2012 (pitching entrepreneurs must register by Oct. 16).

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.



Source: (c)2012 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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