You might want to bookmark this page!

INTERVIEW: Skate After School

Apr. 13, 2014

This week we interviewed another one of our Phoenix Startups, Skate After School.

What Do You Do?

Skate After School offers skateboard instruction through after school programs to under-served youth in Phoenix.

Video from Skate After School on Vimeo.

How Did You Get Started?

We got started about 2 years ago teaching after school programs. We love what we do, and helping provide programming for kids who may otherwise not have it, or get into trouble, is a passion for us.

What Challenges Have You Faced?

As an organization, we hit a plateau. We don’t have much overhead because all the product is donated, but it’s hard to coordinate with no revenue coming in. We have 3 individuals involved with the core of the business, and 5 volunteers and 5 floaters. We’re trying to expand, but it’s been hard.

Then my business coach Pete Walsh from Peak Performance introduced me to SEED SPOT. I wasn’t familiar with incubators, but after exploring it, I felt it was the next step for us.

How Has SEED SPOT Helped You?

SEED SPOT is like a heavy dose of inspiration every morning.

And that’s really nice when you’re worn out. When someone tells you their war story, it’s like a constant reminder of how I can do it too.

And Courtney has been the biggest help for us. She connected us to the Arizona Community Foundation, who is acting as our sponsor until we get our 501c3. She also connected us with a former director of Teach for America. And we’ve put together a 3-year plan and budget.

What’s Had the Greatest Impact on Your Business?

I never really thought people would help fund our vision. So it’s been eye opening to see there are people willing to support our program.

And for us, it’s been about speaking the language. I knew how to speak to school board members and principals. But there’s a language for donors and foundations too. Getting versed in the language of non-profits has really helped. There are so many ins and outs of the non-profit sector, so it’s good to have someone who knows about those and can help us understand how to talk to donors.

What Advice Do You Have For Other Start-ups

It’s really important to be held accountable for your dream or vision.  Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused. For example, when you’re in school, it’s really easy to do things like writing a research paper, but when you’re not in school, you’re just not going to do it. SEED SPOT is like going to school, and you’re going to get things done that maybe you wouldn’t on your own.


Ralph Miller lives in Phoenix and works full-time as a content writer. He has a passion for helping people who are making a difference in the world through the execution of their great ideas.

SEED SPOT highlighted in Mayor’s State of the City Address

Mar. 19, 2014

[Interview] Max on Snacks

Mar. 24, 2014

Max on Snax Screenshot

This week we interviewed Lori Osiecki, founder of Max on Snax.

What inspired you to start Max On Snax?

Back in 2006 I was researching snacks and preschoolers and I came across a study saying that 50% of North and South America’s population under 5 could be clincally obese by 2010.

It transformed my life.

I thought, if I could make an impact on this, if i could help to alter those numbers, that’s my quest!

When I started, I met with Clinton’s Healthier Generation . They liked Max on Snax, but they were focused on the 14-year-old segment of the population. There’s also Let’s Move, but they focus on the 7 to 12-year-old population. But I’ve always felt it was the 5 and under age where kids establish nutrition habits. We teach them letters, colors, and numbers, but not nutrition.

So we were one of the first to do an App based on MyPlate. How do you start that conversation with that child, and start that child toward healthier habits? We focus on fun, but also education. Learning about nutrition but learning about it in a fun way. I want to give parents the tools they need to best help them. Our goal is to provide those tools.

What do you offer?

Cooking programs are a big thing; people are into cook offs. Kids are into it too. So I send kids the Max aprons and hats, and they want to be in the kitchen cooking. The recipe we offer is the core of the pack. Max is a wanna-be chef; he doesn’t go near stoves. He’s more of an assembly artist. He puts together things that are cold or room temperature. The recipes are aimed toward 5 year old kids, so they can make them. And each recipe is animated so kids can go to the website and see the recipe being made. We hope it impacts their nutrition decisions.

Take a look at one of the videos:

What are you working on now?

Currently we’re working on value propositions, and figuring out our business model canvas, which is a great tool for helping you define your customer, determine what are their pain points are, and what their needs are. Then we define how our business can bridge that gap between what their problem is, who they are, and how we can reach them.

How has SEED SPOT helped you?

Before SEED SPOT, I was stuck. The business portion of what I’m trying to do is hard. SEED SPOT is helping me define my path by providing me with action items–do this, this, and this. They’re helping me overcome my weaknesses. Each company is different and at different stages within their business. But SEED SPOT has the ability to show each company the next step, no matter where they are.

Everyone makes assumptions at the start of a business. Things like who my customer is and what their problem is.  SEED SPOT has helped us  in determining that our assumptions are true.

From guest speakers to former SEED SPOT ventures, there are a lot of people here to help us grow, help us see the best way, and help us achieve our target.


Ralph Miller lives in Phoenix and works full-time as a content writer. He has a passion for helping people who are making a difference in the world through the execution of their great ideas.

SEED SPOT Alumni raise capital to help minorities access traditional financing

Mar. 12, 2014

Leveraging an age-old practice and modern technology, eMoneyPool is making it easy for people to build a positive payment history and enter the mainstream financial markets

Growing up, when Francisco or Luis Cervera needed to buy a car, pay for school, or purchase a computer – they turned to their cultural roots and a traditional practice known to them as “money pools” in order to access the funds. Ten members of their family would gather together and each put in $100 to a common fund every month for ten months. Each month, one person would receive the pooled $1,000 until everyone had their turn.

This type of peer-to-peer lending is used by 2-3 billion people globally and is recognized around the world as “chamas,” “tandas,” ROSCA’s” and roughly 200 other names. What is the problem with this age-old and time-tested model? It is inefficient, unsafe, and does not enable people to demonstrate positive payment history to break the cycle and access traditional lending institutions.

Until now.

eMoneyPool is taking this age-old practice online and making it easier, more efficient, and more transparent for minorities to participate in money pools and track their payment history. Credit unions and banks are paying attention. Those previously deemed as “un-bankable” now have a way to prove their “credit worthiness” through the eMoneyPool platform. With over $375,000 currently churning through the platform, the opportunity for impact is significant.

With a sustainable revenue model of nominal transaction fees and lead generation for lending institutions, Luis and Franciso Cervera, the two brothers who developed eMoneyPool, recently raised an undisclosed amount from angel investors and Accion’s Venture Lab, a $10 million initiative dedicated to providing seed capital and management to disruptive and established early-stage startups with demonstrated revenue traction.

eMoneyPool received support from SEED SPOT, a nonprofit incubator that supports passionate social entrepreneurs who have developed solutions to important social and economic problems. “At SEED SPOT we look for entrepreneurs that have balanced financial returns with social impact – improving lives while creating a viable business venture. We know this technology is game changing,” said Courtney Klein, Co-Founder of SEED SPOT.

Starting in April, credit unions in Arizona and four other states will start accepting the eMoneyPool certificate of completion to help individuals prequalify for loans at 6% interest for these previously unbanked individuals.

That means that the 40-60 million people in the United States who are currently using traditional money pools have the opportunity to access traditional lending institutions by participating at

SEED SPOT Venture, Skate After School, helps elementary school kids grow, stay active

Mar. 11, 2014

SEED SPOT Alum, eMoneyPool, Raises Capital from Accion

Mar. 5, 2014

SEED SPOT picks 11 Phoenix-area startups for latest program

Mar. 3, 2014

Seed Spot welcomes 11 new business ventures into signature incubation program

Feb. 21, 2014

Social Entrepreneurship: New Solutions for Age Old Problems

Feb. 7, 2014

By: Sang Lee, CEO and founder, Return on Change – Huffington Post

“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” — Bill Drayton

The modern era has brought such advancements in medicine, technology and energy that have continued to bring higher quality of life and sustainability for the whole world. However, concurrently we continue to face significant challenges around poverty, disease and accessibility to education just to name a few. We are collectively searching for the ideal solutions, and platforms such as the Youth Assembly at the United Nations are working towards creating fundamental and sustainable solutions that will not only provide immediate alleviations for current issues, but also serve as a spring board for further innovation to create systematic change.

There has been much misunderstanding that social entrepreneurship is nothing but a rebranding of charity and philanthropy. This is a fundamental flaw in the understanding of what social entrepreneurship seeks to accomplish, which is to create sustainable ground level and systematic change for all stakeholders in the world, which includes investors, consumers, community and environment. The public image that social entrepreneurship equates to charity has created difficulty in spreading the concept to the broader industry, but we are definitely moving in the right direction. Social entrepreneurship has the true potential of changing the world on a fundamental scale.

While today’s companies engage in corporate social responsibility, they have limited flexibility and are often unable to deliver high impact results. Large corporations also primarily contribute by means of philanthropy as opposed to sustainable business. Social entrepreneurs think outside of the box and think about disrupting the way issues are dealt with. We’ve seen entrepreneurs developing methodologies to make people ‘invisible’ to mosquitoes to fight the proliferation of disease or creating portable medical devices which allows doctors to provide their expertise to regions of the world that lack access to healthcare. As with other startups industries, social entrepreneurs have the ability to walk away from the established path to create new solutions for what is more often than not an old problem.

Additionally, the current model of philanthropy, while having certain uses has limited impact as compared to social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are motivated by maximizing the impact they are able to deliver, while concurrently creating a self-sustaining business model that is able to truly benefit everyone. This has the potential to have longer lasting impact as social entrepreneurs do not rely on a donation model, but actually create their own revenue to sustain the business. Financial systems are also evolving in order to promote financial inclusion and the democratization of the capital markets. Crowdfunding all over the globe has breathed new life into entrepreneurship and has facilitated the creation of new impact delivering businesses and the creation of jobs. There have been new regulatory changes such as the JOBS Act which will give everyone the opportunity to invest in community and businesses that they truly care about. Crowdfunding to date has shown that the number one type of campaigns to get funded are for social causes.

I have the honor and privilege of participating in the Youth Assembly at the United Nations this February with various panelists that bring unique and inspiring perspectives on how we could continue to collaborate and brainstorm on leveraging social entrepreneurship to deal with our most pressing issues. It’s also going to be so important that all entrepreneurs bring long term value creation into their business model and thesis. If all of our early stage businesses were simultaneously focused on creating multiple forms of value, we may not even need to have this discussion in the near future.

SEED SPOT Ventures Xplore BoX and BrettApproved selected for Venture Madness Competition

Feb. 3, 2014

Great write-up in AZ Tech Beat on Venture Madness and the 64 start-ups duking it out for a $50k prize and national publicity.  Please visit for the article and vote for Xplore Box and Brett Approved.

Link to vote for Brett Approved:

Kirk Johnson of SOUNDS Reflects on His Time with SEED SPOT

Jan. 23, 2014


Kirk Johnson answered some questions we hope will shed light on what entrepreneurs can expect from their time in our incubator.

About me: My name is Kirk Johnson and I am the founder and director of SOUNDS Academy.

Why I applied:  In March after being prompted by my colleagues with Teach For America, I went to DEMO DAY at Symphony Hall. I watched and listened to people such as Brett, Hart, and Francisco to name a few. I was immediately inspired to make my ideas more of a priority, and scale SOUNDS Academy to reach and accommodate more students. I applied for SEED SPOT because I wanted to make a positive change on a larger level and impact more children. I felt that SEED SPOT was the next step in helping me to attain this dream.

On being an entrepreneur:  Being an entrepreneur is the equivalent to being a dream chaser. You start with a vision (a dream), which starts merely as a thought. Then it is nurtured, achieved, and sustained.

Initial expectations: Most of the expectations that I had were directed toward myself. I expected SEED SPOT to teach me how to fish and introduce me to community of fisher. I expected myself to listen, practice the techniques and practices that were taught, take chances, and have fun.

Obstacles overcomeI have more so realized the type of person that I am and have met others that are like me. I have more confidence in speaking to others about SOUNDS Academy because SEED SPOT did a great job of challenging me. Gut checks were a weekly occurrence. I also do a better job of accessing situations and thinking on a larger scale.

There were many obstacles since I challenged myself and had so much to learn. One of my biggest obstacles was public speaking. I have been fine with performing with instruments in front of others, but speaking is a whole other beast. However, because of Venture Fridays, I was able to practice that which I feared the most. I was able to see others speak and learn about presentation practices because of these special Fridays. Most importantly, I learned how to control my own nerves and not to show how nervous I actually am while speaking.

Lasting memories: I will remember the smiles, the stories, the “aha!” moments, the “oh no” moments, the jokes, the music. From the Kick-Off to the DEMO DAY, we made each other stronger. Iron sharpened iron. I look forward to them answering my calls when I call them years from now (hint, hint).
I will remember my mentors, the speakers, and the special guests along with their words of wisdom, warning, and encouragement. Last but not least, I will remember Mike, Courtney, Alex Spayberry, and Oscar. There are many things to remember the Fantastic Four by (yeah… I just made that up), but the thing that they all had in common were their wonderful smiles. It made it easy to start, continue, and end the day.

Who would you suggest apply for SEED SPOT programs, and why?

I suggest that those who are serious about chasing their dreams apply to be in SEED SPOT programs. That which you put into SEED SPOT, you will get out of SEED SPOT. I suggest visiting the facility and seeing if this feels like the right place for you.

Lastly, I would say that the stage that your venture is in is not as important as your attitude. If you’re willing to work smart, listen more than you talk (80/20 rule), and remain positive during challenging situations; then you will love SEED SPOT as much as I did.


Company Overview

SOUNDS Academy’s  mission is to teach, mentor, and provide musical experiences and opportunities to underserved children. Their vision is to provide music education opportunities to a wide variety of children and to remove any barriers that children may have in receiving quality music education

The Secret Power of the Value Proposition

Jan. 20, 2014

by Courtney Klein




Imagine receiving a notice in the mail that you’ve inherited your distant uncle’s semi-secret magic potion business, Elephant Water, LLC.

The company set the goal of going public with the formula, but couldn’t figure out how to bring the product to the market. The problem with the potion had nothing to do with its effectiveness; the juice is very powerful.

The potions were so powerful, in fact, that he had to keep the inventory in an abandoned Cold War-era bunker in rural Poland lest it fall into the wrong hands!

So, you travel overseas to claim your inheritance. As you exit the plane in Krakow, an older, provincial-looking gentleman, greets you at the airport with a name card in his hands and a warm glimmer of hope in his eyes. He says his name is Paul–he’s your uncle’s old business partner.

You shake hands. He gives you a brief once-over and escorts you into a black sedan with a licence plate that reads:


You and Paul make small talk as you travel the Polish countryside toward the potion storage facility.

From your window, you can see farmers of different stripes moving heavy-looking bales of what appear to be wheat onto truck, into barns, and into silos. Some use large machines. Some team up to move bails with their bare hands. You are impressed by their resolve.

Paul breaks your focus to explain how “innovative”–nay, “revolutionary”–this secret potion is. He says it has the power to solve all whole host of problems people face across the world. He revels in the formula’s profit-potential.

You finally ask him, “but what does it do?”

His eyes light up as a wide smile breaks across his face.

“It turns you into an elephant,” he says.

You ask if he means to say it improves your memory; elephants remember everything, etc..

He says it “literally turns you into an elephant.”

As the two of you descend into darkness of the bunker, you can almost feel the daunting vastness of the warehouse. When the incandescent lights flicker on, you are presented with a seemingly endless library of tiny, neatly arranged glass beakers on clean steel racks that appear to extend into infinity.

Paul removes one cylindrical beaker from the nearest rack.


He drinks down the red fluid and, as promised, he turns into an elephant, holding the now empty beaker in his trunk. Thirty minutes, and change of clothes later, you interrogate Paul.

You ask him why the whole world isn’t raving about Elephant Water, LLC.

“Well,” Paul says, “our surveys and market research revealed very little consumer demand in the way of our product.” He sighs, “consumers overwhelmingly responded saying they had ‘little-to-no desire’ to be an elephant. So, as it stands, we’re stranded as a business.”


Back to reality.

Now, what’s wrong with Paul’s reasoning? What hasn’t he figured out?

It’s easy to forget to draw a line between what your product is and the value your product offers.

What do we mean by this?

Consider Elephant Water’s product. It’s a red liquid turns you into a pachyderm for a half-hour.

Exchange value of Elephant Water (even if it tastes good) = approx. the value of 30 mins. entertainment = nearly the value of 30 mins. on YouTube or Netflix= between free and $7.99/month.

But, that’s only if the explicit benefit consumers gain from your product, (your value proposition) is the fun of being an elephant for 30 minutes.

Paul’s problem is that he’s focusing on the features of the product instead of the problems his potential customers want to solve in their lives.

If you could convince Paul to target one or another customer segment, or category of potential buyers in a given population of consumers, you may be able to get Elephant Water on to the shelves of every Whole Foods in the country.

Back to the Soviet-era Polish bunker, we go…


Impressed by what you’ve seen so far, you ask Paul who exactly was contacted in the survey.

He responds saying they reached out to wheat farmers in the area.

You propose another survey to be presented to the farmers:

“How much would you pay to move bales of hay 3-times faster?”

Your survey assumes the ability to move hay faster is a valuable to farmers. The big question is exactly how valuable.  

The results of your survey return to indicate a strong demand among farmers to increase the speed at which bales of wheat could be moved without having to buy complex, difficult to maintain, and expensive equipment.

Can you guess who will become Elephant Water’s initial target market, come harvest season?

What will their value proposition be?

Check out this article by Mike Rudinsky, for more information on tuning into your target market.

We highly encourage social entrepreneurs with early-stage businesses and concepts to apply for SEED SPOT’s Spring venture incubation programs this year before January 24th, 2014.

SEED SPOT Alumni To Pitch At SXSW

Jan. 17, 2014, a 2013 SEED SPOT Venture, was selected as one of 10 companies to pitch this year at LAUNCHedu, an initiative of SXSWedu in Austin, Texas. Entries from across the United States and around the world were received for this year’s LAUNCHedu event. After weeks of extensive evaluations, SXSWedu announced that 2013 SEED SPOT Alumni, will take the main stage in March  to highlight their innovations in an elevator-style pitch competition before the live SXSWedu audience and an esteemed judging panel of venture capitalists, successful entrepreneurs and education practitioners. Winners of the LAUNCHedu competition will be celebrated in true SXSWedu fashion at the conference-wide LAUNCHedu Party on Wednesday, March 5. is automated remote proctoring software that provides a scalable, cost-effective solution to validating student identities and activity during online exams. is dedicated to eliminating academic policy violations that occur during online exams.

Watch Kirk Johnson of SOUNDS Pitch @ SEED SPOT Demo Day [Fall '13]

Jan. 13, 2014

Kirk Johnson, founder of SOUNDS (Students Opening Up New Doors with Strings) Academy, pitches at the Fall 2013 Demo Day at the Orpheum to an audience of over 1500 entrepreneurs, business leaders, journalists, and members of the Phoenix startup community.

At the end of every program, SEED SPOT entrepreneurs are selected to pitch their venture at Demo Day.

Are you to take the next step toward growing your social venture?

Apply to join our full or part-time venture programs,
or learn more about how SEED SPOT works!

The Truth About Founding Startups, Revealed in 4 Metaphors

Jan. 10, 2014

by Mike Rudinsky

keep surfing.png

It’s not easy to describe what it’s like to found a startup, though many admirable folks have tried.

Well-circulated and generally delightful comparisons include Y-Combinator co-founder Paul Graham’s statement that running a start up is like being “punched in the face, repeatedly,” and the colorful picture Tunezy CEO, Derrick Fung, drew for readers when he wrote that starting a company was like jumping out of an airplane while building another airplane on the way down.

In 2012, Sean Parker of Napster and Airtime fame  likened managing a startup in its early growth phases to eating glass. On the other side of the fun-imagery spectrum, tech entrepreneur Steve Jang compares starting a business to surfing in his interview with Fast Company that same year.

Now imagine you’re a tech-savvy ten-year-old in Silicon Valley, and you want to found a startup when you grow up, so you decide to ask some successful people what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.

If you were told that’s what startups were like, do you imagine your ten-year-old self still wanting to start up that business?

More importantly: do you imagine your ten-year-old self coming away with a clear idea of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

If you were a super intuitive youngster, maybe you would have naturally seen where the comparisons converge on some common truths. As for the hypothetically-ten-year-old rest of us, we might need some clarification lest we ride our bikes home more confused than we were before talked to the grown ups.

What’s interesting about all four of these apparently divergent metaphors,

1. repeated punches to the face  
2. airborne airplane assembly
3. glass eating, and
4. wave riding

is that they are used to describe an experience all four people who said them have in common.

And while each metaphor, taken at face value, would seem to describe wildly different personal experiences, anyone who has attempted to make a startup work knows that ALL FOUR of the above comparisons are pretty much completely accurate, while describing very different aspects of the same truth, at the same time.

Graham, Fung, Parker, and Jang are all coming at the same truth from different angles, and it’s worthwhile to examine exactly what they’re trying to say with each metaphor.

1. For Graham, the struggle of building a business comes from having to face regular, violent, but generally survivable instances of pain, all of which end eventually, presumably leaving you a stronger person in the end, even if a bit bruised here and there. Graham’s metaphor should be taken as both a warning and invitation to determined entrepreneurs:

Its a tough sport, but if you’re pugnacious–if you’ve got moxy–you can win. 

2. Now, it’s a fact that if you box long enough, you will eventually get punched in the face, but that doesn’t mean you should  stand still and eat jabs. Quite the opposite; you have to keep moving, dodging, and parrying. You have to stay on your toes. You have to innovate on the fly, and Derrick Fung’s airplane metaphor is about just that. If you’re falling from the troposphere with a bucket full of 747 parts and no instructions, you have to learn fast. Fung’s metaphor is advice to entrepreneurs:

Don’t stop innovating ever, ever, ever, unless…ever.

3. Sean Parker’s comparison of startups and glass eating might seem difficult to swallow as he goes on to say that eventually the entrepreneur comes to “like the taste of [their] own blood.” For context, it’s important to note that Mr. Parker’s second major startup launched with lackluster results, costing the company tens of millions of dollars. A bloated staff, a stilted launch, and a number other factors, threw the company into a tailspin from which it is still recovering, to this day. Parker’s lesson to entrepreneurs:

Stay as lean as possible or risk burning through heaps of money unnecessarily.

4. When Steve Jang says founding a startup is like surfing, he doesn’t just mean they both involve “riding the wave,”
so to speak. He’s referring to the delicate balance of timing, attention, knowledge, and intuition needed to navigate the markets often tumultuous seas. Jang’s advice to entrepreneurs:

Staying afloat means paying attention keeping your balance amid change.

Taking the underlying lessons in each metaphor together creates a rather substantial set of guidelines for the startup rookie:

Its a tough sport, but if you’re pugnacious–if you’ve got moxy–you can win. Don’t stop innovating ever, ever, ever, unless…ever. Stay as lean as possible or risk burning through heaps of money unnecessarily. Staying afloat means paying attention keeping your balance amid change.

We highly encourage social entrepreneurs with early-stage businesses and concepts to apply for SEED SPOT’s Spring venture incubation programs this year before January 24th, 2014.

p.s. keep surfing

Deeper Than Capital: Why Value Prop and Revenue Model Come First

Jan. 7, 2014

by Mike Rudinsky


Finance Bill


I see this all the time–an entrepreneur reaches a certain point in the early stages of business planning, where they believe they’ve done the hard work of figuring out exactly what their product or service is supposed to do.

“Clear value proposition, market segmentation, and revenue models to the wind,” says the entrepreneur, at this point, “I know this will work! I know this idea will be the thing to change the world forever.”

Of course, the entrepreneur isn’t crazy. She understands her limits and so is aware of her limitations–an idea this big can’t be done alone. If she plans to found a tech startup, even if she is a rock star developer, she might not also have an MBA, or a Law degree. Maybe she has a friend in marketing who can help get the product out to the market she supposes is waiting, with baited breath, to receive (and ultimately purchase) her product.

To bridge the gap between her personal skill set, and the expertise needed to get the idea off the ground, our visionary brings on partners and advisors to help get the idea off the ground. Once she stacks her roster with the  A-Team she moves into action with her vision, and vague sense of the idea’s profitability and impact, the entrepreneur puts her brain through the ringer and crafts a meticulously detailed business plan.

It has everything a business plan is supposed to have:

1. Executive Summary
2. Overview
3. Market Analysis
4. Sales Structure
5. Revenue

Once it’s all on paper (and, often, condensed on a slide deck in some way), our would-be Zuckerberg, or Muhammad Yunus, or Blake Mycoskie, runs into a wall…

She has doesn’t know what to do with all this information, her idea, her vision.

She has run it by some colleagues and a couple of people who may have some understanding of how venture capital works; however, for all the nods, inquisitive looks she gets, none of it quite seems to get them any closer to the receiving kind of investment she thinks she needs to move her business to the next level.

In a best case scenario, our entrepreneur-in-progress becomes convinced growing their business is really all about getting external funding, which, itself, is really all about getting the idea in front of “the right people,” which is pretty much the last thing holding the idea back from gaining traction–from getting somewhere–anywhere, at this point.

In the worst case scenario, someone suggests she crowdfund the idea. “Just Kickstart it,” say her well-intentioned friends.

SPOILER ALERT: Neither connections, nor crowfunding are, on their own, enough to solve a larger, more fundamental and/or conceptual business model problem.

The biggest mistake you can make as an entrepreneur isn’t just putting the cart before the horse–it’s thinking you’re working with carts and horses, when you’re really dealing with wheelbarrows and your bare hands.

I’ve had the joy of founding and growing successful ventures. I’ve also seen my fair share of big ideas fizzle out at launch, never really getting off the ground, let alone soaring the profitable heights my team and I envisioned.

In retrospect, I can say one big factor leading to the success (or unexpected failure) of those ventures had little, if any, direct relationship to fundraising capabilities.

Rather, the success or failure of these visions when tested by the real conditions of the market was determined by how diligently our team tested and validated our assumptions, changing and refining our business model and value propositions as we encountered new information.

Businesses today aren’t just built on good ideas conceived in isolation from the outside world.

Today, success requires experimentation and the articulation of a clear, concise, and validated value proposition.

This isn’t to say you, as an entrepreneur shouldn’t dedicate time and diligence to identifying a clear revenue stream.

Consider the time between the “idea stage” and the early stages of your business development process time in which you should be figuring out precisely who will buy what you’re selling, and at what price.

Without a clear vision for venture with profit potential, your venture may find itself rich in potential service offerings, but altogether lacking a clear and sustainable path to profitability, which, for an investor is a major red flag.

The big take-away from this article should be that the real work of building a viable social venture begin in the early stages of conception, incorporating the almost scientific work of molding a precise value proposition along with the identifying, exploring and validating a constant source of revenue.

These are the guiding principles we use to develop social ventures into full-fledged businesses.

We highly encourage social entrepreneurs with early-stage businesses and concepts to apply for SEED SPOT’s Spring venture incubation programs this year before January 24th, 2014.

AguaSac founder Reflects on Her Time with SEED SPOT

Dec. 27, 2013


Liesl Kelp is the Founder & COO of AguaSac


Liesl answered some questions we hope will shed light on what entrepreneurs can expect from their time in our incubator.


About  me: My name is Liesl Harder Kielp. I am the Founder and COO of AguaSac, LLC.

Why I applied: I wanted to create a sustainable and scalable business and was having trouble getting their on my own.

On being an entrepreneur: Being an initiator of something greater than oneself… to have visions of products and/or services that can benefit society and/or the environment.

Initial expectations: I really wasn’t sure what to expect… just that the time would be intense.

Changed expectations: Not having expectations, there was nothing to change. However, what I learned and gained was more than I could have even imagined.

SEED SPOT influence: Focus… focus… focus! At SEED SPOT we learned how to focus on the least and make it the most.

Obstacles overcome:  My personal challenge was identifying the Value Proposition of AguaSAC. From there, everything else follows… hence, I believe the value proposition is the most important aspect of any new and expanding business. To have a concise value prop that resonated with those who would purchase the AguaSAC for their promotional initiatives made it much easier to find the lowest hanging fruit with which to build sales revenues and enable growth into other areas.

Company Overview

AguaSac helps employ adults with developmental and physical disabilities at special work centers who thankfully and happily apply your custom printed label perfectly to their unique, eco-friendly water packages. AguaSac is expanding their roster of conscious clientele, as well as exploring additional funding opportunities.

Social Entrepreneurship Takes A Lot and Gives Even More

Dec. 19, 2013

by Courtney Klein


Give the gift of social entrepreneurship.


Social entrepreneurship is demanding.

It pushes its friends, partners, and employees to stay up late, working through the star-lit night in the pursuit of better, brighter, more sustainable days.

Social entrepreneurship tests the resolve and steadfastness of its leaders, as they chip away at obstacles impeding the full expression of their vision.

It seems never to settle, nor find final satisfaction. The underdog seems never to emit its final call, and even if the marginalized and underrepresented of the world fell silent, it would remain the duty of the social entrepreneurs to hear the rallying cries, the calls to action hidden in that silence.

As leaders of social enterprises, it is important to remember that even the most noble and humane pursuits can require an almost superhuman resolve to successfully achieve. Social entrepreneurship, by definition, challenges the deeply entrenched norms and expectations that form the foundations of the sub-optimal status quo.

It’s hard to break a solid, time-tested foundation.
It’s requires the forces of time and pressure.
It takes sweat equity.

It takes a tolerance for risk and uncertainty.

Sometimes, it takes some venture capital…

On the other side of demands posed by the social enterprise is the gift of positive social and economic impact. In short, keep fighting the good fight. The world needs you.

Guardian NPX Co-Founder Jason Bentz Talks About His Time at SEED SPOT

Dec. 18, 2013

Jason Bentz is a co-founder of Guardian NPX.

Jason answered some questions we hope will shed light on what entrepreneurs can expect from their time in our incubator.

About me: I am Jason Bentz, Co-founder of Guardian NPX. b

Why I applied: Responsibility is what drove us to start Guardian NPX–the desire to help as many disadvantaged kids as we could. Although we had created other (more…)

TourKidd Co-Founder Reflects on His Time with SEED SPOT

Dec. 14, 2013

Nicholas Aufiero is  creative director and co-founder of TourKidd.


Two days after what one could call “his debut performance” at DEMO DAY in Phoenix’s Orpheum Theatre, Aufiero answered questions we hope will shed some light on what entrepreneurs can expect from their time in our incubator.

About me: My name is Nicholas Aufiero,  and I’m a Co-founder of TourKidd.

Why I applied: TourKidd applied to be a part of Seed Spot for numerous reasons, but the main reason was to get out from around our kitchen table. To run our idea their curriculum and learn what


SEED SPOT Alumni, SITGREEN, Raises $15,640 on Kickstarter

Dec. 13, 2013

SITGREEN is not your ordinary furniture company. Founder, Jon Irons,
has been challenging the very definition of what furniture is since
2010. With 9 million tons of furniture waste being added to our
landfills every year, we created a company that subtracted from that
number rather than of adding to it.

SITGREEN takes waste materials that would otherwise be thrown away and
turn them into pieces of functional, beautiful furniture. You won’t
find any floral patterned overstuffed armchairs here, but what you
will find is unique furniture made from the most unlikely material
imaginable — cardboard.

Jon Irons started designing cardboard furniture as a student at
Arizona State University. Irons was part of a team given the task of
designing a chair for the interior design studio made only from
cardboard and adhesives .

The focus of the project was sustainability but the material becomes
unrecyclable once it’s saturated with glue. To overcome this problem,
steel rods and nuts were added to compress the materials together.

This simple, sturdy, and fully recyclable design led to a series of
similar pieces that followed the same system of compression and the
creation of SITGREEN. Learn more and order today at:

AZ Tech Beat

Dec. 13, 2013

Xplore, crash, snaps, apps, and celebrate – 17 SEED SPOT cohorts present at Demo Day

Phoenix Business Journal

Dec. 13, 2013

Local education start-ups win cash, office space at incubator event

Downtown Devil

Dec. 13, 2013

Fall 2013 Seed Spot ventures pitch business models to public at Demo Day

SEED SPOT Featured on NBC 12

Dec. 12, 2013

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 3.55.29 PM

ASU + Changemaker Central: Youth in Entrepreneurship

Dec. 8, 2013


Preface: SEED SPOT is no stranger to the innovative power of young people. Last year the incubator reviewed hundreds of impressive applications, many of which come from ASU students. 

Every day, ASU students and faculty converge on Changemaker Central to discuss, plan, and execute projects intended to make the world a better place.

Collegiate micro-revolutionaries, from diverse academic backgrounds, meet at Changemaker to draft their visions for change.

What makes Changemaker bigger than a brainstorming studio for quixotic youth is the institution’s dedication to pushing students toward implementing their philanthropic and/or entrepreneurial concepts.

ASU, since establishing itself as the New American University, has embraced a new educational paradigm that, in the eyes of this community member, puts the institution at the forefront of 21st century education and business thinking.

ASU realizes that students are coming of age in an era of where many job titles are fading into obsolescence as quickly as the market is demanding new skill sets in the post-recession service economy.

For today’s young people, a knack for following orders and coloring within the lines is hardly enough achieve success in the new economy.

In many cases, a penchant for rigidity, or a need for a hefty management structure will weigh negatively on a candidate looking for a position in, say, a startup–a business like many of those ventures Changemaker Central seeks to nurture into full-fledge companies.

 Boogüd represents one such successful experiment in youth social entrepreneurship. Founded by ASU students-turned-entrepreneurs,  Boogüd, adroitly synthesizes engineering, sustainability, and social impact by crafting light, durable bicycle frames from bamboo. For every bike sold, the company donates one hand-crank wheelchair attachment to a disabled child in Kenya every time a customer purchases a bicycle.

Young people coming of age in these times are no strangers to the painful, often existentially dire, symptoms 21st century business-without-ethics. As a generation, they’ve seen corporations display both sides of the business-ethics coin.

From Goldman-Sachs, to TOMS shoes–millennials have seen both the bad and awesome things businesses can accomoplish.

Luckily, young people today have been primed to view the proper role of business as providing for the general social good in addition to their formal profit motives.

Seeing big banks indulging in unscrupulous lending practices while manufacturers ravage the environment, all in the name of keeping up with the first-world’s insatiable desire for consumer goods has led this new generation of business innovators to ask the serious question which stand to shape the way we do business from here on in.

If we are to live together, on this earth, how can we build businesses that fuse disciplines to make the world work better?

There is certainly suffering in the world, how can businesses go about alleviating pain and suffering in the world, instead of exploiting it?

How can individuals come together to make positive difference in their communities in ways that are both sustainable and scalable?

Answers to these some of these questions can be found in the multitude of mission statements and business plans ASU students are putting together at Changemaker Central–a launch pad for many youth in entrepreneurship.

Click here for more information on the rules for admission to SEED SPOT’s venture incubation programs.


Join SEED SPOT and the Fall ’13 venture cohort for Demo Day!

Clear your calendar – It’s going down!

SEED SPOT DEMO DAY 2013 kicks off on December 11th, and you’re invited to take part in the festivities! First 500 to register get in free using discount code SS500! When you click “Get Tickets”, look for “Enter Discount Code”. Come one, come all, and join us for an inspirational night

Paper Clouds Apparel, SEED SPOT Alumni, wins national KIND Prize

Dec. 1, 2013

KIND Health Snacks is all about supporting entrepreneurs doing kind things in the world. Each month, people can vote on the ideas that inspire them the most, and at the end of the month, the project with the most votes receives $10,000 from KIND. What’s really so awesome about this initiative is that in order to vote for the projects you love, you must commit to doing a KIND act – which could range from things as simple as giving a flower to a neighbor to holding the door open for a stranger! Essentially, the more votes your projects receives, the more KIND acts will be spread out into the world.

SEED SPOT Alumni venture, Paper Clouds Apparel, beat out 79 other businesses to win the $10,000 KIND Snacks grant. Paper Clouds Apparel raises funding for special needs schools and organizations while showcasing the artistic talents of those with special needs. Paper Clouds Apparel also creates jobs for adults with special needs by hiring them to package ALL their shirts.

Robert Thornton is the founder and CEO of Paper Clouds Apparel. Robert’s project, in particular, inspired more than 5,000 KIND acts out of a total of 18,000 for the month of November and we were glad to present him with the grant, which will be dispersed over the next couple months and people can follow the progress and help this grant will bring all those that Paper Clouds Apparel is helping.

Read more at:

How to Think Like a Social Entrepreneur Think: Wrong, Backwards, and Fast

Nov. 25, 2013

by Courtney Klein

My time with SEED SPOT has given me a unique window into the mental mechanics of social entrepreneurs. As a result, I’ve learned that the mind of the entrepreneur can be a bizarre–yet highly efficient machine–indeed.

It’s early to rise, quick to act, and slow to rest. It understands high risk almost exclusively in terms of rewards. It perceives in the status quo an indication that someone, somewhere, gave up on the hard work of innovation.

Similarly, the  behaviors of the social activist and pioneer of social justice reflect a kind of cavalier disregard for, and profound dissatisfaction with, the norms and expectations born of what those less disruptive folks around them would call “conventional wisdom.”

The mind of the social entrepreneur represents a special hybrid tendency to calculate business risk and financial reward while simultaneously assessing the value of their work in terms of the less-tangible positive social impact made in the world as a result of their work.

More often than not, building a business where social responsibility intersects with profit potential requires the single-minded dedication to the art and science of creative, ethical, and sustainable problem-solving.

I have identified 3 modes of thinking and acting that are common to most–if not all–successful social entrepreneurs.

If you want to begin thinking like a social entrepreneur, heed the following advice:

1. Think Wrong

This doesn’t mean “throw out your old logic textbook.” Quite the contrary. It means that for every instance of suboptimal equilibrium in any system, the social entrepreneur will focus less on what is good about that system, and more on what is preventing that system from being better. In other words, they look for what’s wrong, and then work tirelessly to make it right.

2. Think Backwards

To generate new, innovative, and often counter-intuitive solutions, social entrepreneurs will approach problems by working in the opposite direction (toward the source) of what would appear to be the obvious solution, or the most simple way to fix a problem.

If this sounds a little complex and a lot abstract, that’s because it is. Let’s bring this back to earth with an example of a local Phoenix entrepreneur who developed a solution from thinking:

Jon Irons, of SitGreen fame identified a problem:

Furniture waste is off the charts, and damaging the environment.
He hypothesized that if furniture was recycled, we could live in a better, less wasteful, world.
The most direct solution to this problem would be to make a system by which people could recycle the furniture they already had.
While that may in fact solve some symptoms of the furniture waste epidemic, it fails to address the real problem, which is that most furniture, as it’s generally constructed is difficult to recycle. Furthermore, furniture is almost one of the last things consumers think of when it comes to recyclable household materials.
To bridge the cognitive gap between sustainability and furniture, Irons began making chairs, benches, bike hangers, etc., from recycled materials and marketing his products as sustainable alternatives to conventional furniture designs.

3. Think Fast

Starting a new business means being a dynamic administrator over a complex business organism as you navigate its early-growth phases and scaling. You’ll pivot. Your value proposition will change. Your target market may drift out of your scope, requiring you to reassess the nature of your business. All of the above requires an almost endless supply of flexibility.

The role of the social entrepreneur is a relatively new and ever-changing one. 

As such, exciting developments in technology, society, and startup incubators regularly make waves that reshape the landscape in which we operate as agents of change within a larger community that prizes innovation and progress.

THE BIG IDEA: If you want to succeed in the world of social entrepreneurship, think wrong, backwards, and stay on your toes!

SEED SPOT seeks to grow and nurture social ventures by encouraging those habits and thinking skills that contribute to excellence in social entrepreneurship.

If you recognize the above entrepreneurial traits in yourself or business partners, we encourage you to apply to our social venture incubator.

SEED SPOT: New Rules for Assessing Social Impact

Nov. 20, 2013

Social Entrepreneurship, social venture


TO: Venture Program Applicants

The Big Question

How does SEED SPOT define and assess a venture’s social impact?

The Big Answer*

We measure social impact according to a 32-point scale of 8 equally weighted components of social impact.

  • Need: a real problem in the world that can be backed by research and data. Can you clearly define the nature, scope, and consequences of the problem your venture sets out to solve?Example: Every year, less than $1 dollar is allocated, per-student, on music education in Arizona. Consequently, 50,000 children in Phoenix are denied access to quality music education.
  • Impact: the problem is large and affects a significant number of individuals or communities. How many people does your solution affect? If you are solving a problem for a niche customer segment, does the solution have implications for the world at a large?

    Example: Guardian NPX intends to address the 6-12 million yearly cases of head lice in the US. One diagnosis of head lice can remove a child from classes for days, adversely affecting their education, and increasing their chances of experience lifelong poverty and delinquency.
  • Innovation: the solution demonstrates creativity. Has anyone done exactly what you’re doing? Are you addressing a problem no one had identified up to this point? Does your solution approach a problem from an unique angle? What’s the secret sauce? Does your business have a creative revenue model? This is where we look for your “zag” in a world where most people “zig.”

    Example: Instead of constructing furniture from conventional materials, SITGREEN uses recycled cardboard and wood to produce chairs and other custom-designed pieces with limited material costs and waste.
  • System-changing: not a band-aid solution but one that attempts to tackle the root cause of the problem. SEED SPOT’s mission is to affect lasting systemic change. It’s good to alleviate symptoms, but if your venture can address a problem at its source, thereby changing the system that once housed the problem, that’s even better.

    Example: Currently, musicians and promoters book shows through opaque informal social networks. TourKidd seeks to revolutionize the way independent music communities organize shows by introducing accountability and transparency in the booking process.
  • Scale: the solution can scale to reach a high percentage of those that need the solution. Do you know how you’ll scale your business? A startup without a plan for scaleable growth is like a tree without leaves to turn sunlight into energy and roots to absorb nutrients from the earth. The social entrepreneurship business relies on growth to maximize positive social impact.

    Example: Osaka Sun Blendery plans on opening opening upwards of three locations in Arizona following one year of successful operations out of its first brick-and-mortar storefront.
  • Replicable: the solution can be replicated across different populations, industries, or geographic locations. In science, the ability to replicate an experiment and resulting observations is a hallmark of intellectual rigor and sound process. While business is hardly a science, the ability to systematize your solution such that it can be applied under variable conditions is critical to business growth and social impact.

    Example: S.O.U.N.D.S.‘s youth educational curriculum began by working within school districts in Ohio. It model is now being replicated in Arizona with impressive results.
  • Measurable: the desired impact can be measured and tracked over time. How will you know you’re making the change you set out to create? Establish compelling metrics for success that allow you to track, record, and communicate your social impact.

    Example: Xplore Box can use the amount of sales the company generates in a year, along with customer feedback and demographic data to track through whom, where, and how the company is bringing the exciting world of STEM to curious kids.
  • Sustainable: a clear revenue model is in place to ensure long-term viability. Is your business built to last? Our social impact assessment takes into consideration the reality of how long it can take for any one person, business, government, NGO, etc. to creating lasting social change. The status quo only yields to forces designed to survive long haul.

    Example: Box Play for Kids encourages sustainability in a multidimensional way. Not only does the company have a product that costs very little to develop and manufacture, but also encourages families to make use of waste materials.

When you apply for admission into a SEED SPOT venture program, assess your social impact score. Ask yourself if your venture has the potential to make a positive change in a complex world.

*Because SEED SPOT is in a perpetual state of experimentation, development, and validation, any answers we provide to questions like, “what is social impact,” should be understood as representing one iteration, one presently effective way of answering the question.

Michael Porter: Why business can be good at solving social problems

Oct. 29, 2013

I think we’re all aware that the world today is full of problems. We’ve been hearing them today and yesterday and every day for decades. Serious problems, big problems, pressing problems. Poor nutrition, access to water, climate change, deforestation, lack of skills, insecurity, not enough food, not enough healthcare, pollution. There’s problem after problem, and I think what really separates this time from any time I can remember in my brief time on Earth is the awareness of these problems. We’re all very aware.

Why are we having so much trouble dealing with these problems? That’s the question I’ve been struggling with, coming from my very different perspective. I’m not a social problem guy. I’m a guy that works with business, helps business make money. God forbid. So why are we having so many problems with these social problems, and really is there any role for business, and if so, what is that role? I think that in order to address that question, we have to step back and think about how we’ve understood and pondered both the problems and the solutions to these great social challenges that we face. [Listen Here...]

Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition

Oct. 7, 2013

Social entrepreneurship is attracting growing amounts of talent, money, and attention. But along with its increasing popularity has come less certainty about what exactly a social entrepreneur is and does. As a result, all sorts of activities are now being called social entrepreneurship. Some say that a more inclusive term is all for the good, but the authors argue that it’s time for a more rigorous definition. [Read on...]

SEED SPOT Featured on KAET

Sep. 24, 2013

Lessons from a Failed Social Entrepreneur

Sep. 18, 2013

Article from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network: Original article here

During my first year at Harvard Business School, I decided to start a new business. I set up a team, choose a name, secured a URL, and Zoosa was born. My theory was that by leveraging the collective expertise of skilled professionals, we could have a significant impact on the social sector. Zoosa was intended to be a platform where volunteers shared their activities and connected with others, creating a positive feedback loop. The idea was that this would encourage some people to deepen their efforts and others to become new volunteers. Unfortunately, I had never worked for an early-stage business or in the social enterprise space. The result? My business failed.



Phoenix Business Journal

Sep. 13, 2013

Seed Spot announces new venture companies

Starting a Company? Skip B-School

Sep. 9, 2013

Business schools have new competition for students with startups on the brain. A number of programs, from General Assembly in New York to Starter School in Chicago, have cropped up recently to cater to people seeking to launch their own companies or join fledgling ones.Offerings are à la carte and the mission is stripped down. The idea, founders say, is to give students just enough instruction in everything from coding to marketing and operations to get an idea off the ground. [Read on...]


Phoenix Business Journal

Aug. 22, 2013

How purpose-driven businesses are taking root in Phoenix

Welcome to the Family!

Aug. 5, 2013

We had a great time welcoming some of the new interns to the SEED SPOT team today!

AZ Central

Jul. 31, 2013

Incubator helps grow startups with conscience

We just took the UNITY Pledge!

Jul. 29, 2013

UNITY Pledge is a concerted effort by Arizona businesses and individuals to advance workplace equality and equal treatment in housing and hospitality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals and their allies.  The business community and like-minded individuals understand that if we want to compete for top talent, we must have diverse and inclusive workplaces.  UNITY Pledge was created by ONE Community, a member-based coalition of Arizona businesses and individuals dedicated to growing Arizona’s economy and otherwise improving our community.

The goal of UNITY Pledge is simple: encourage at least 10,000 Arizona businesses and organizations to stand up for diversity.  Businesses and organizations of all sizes who sign the UNITY Pledge publicly join thousands of other businesses and organizations that support workplace equality and equal treatment in housing and hospitality.

Are you interested in taking the pledge? Learn more and pledge now!

Words by Nerds

Jul. 26, 2013

Chris Petroff of Seed Spot

U.S. Venture Capital Investment Amounts Doubled In Q2, As Bay Area Companies Raised More Than NYC, LA, Boston Combined

Jul. 24, 2013

Total new capital invested in the United States tech industry rose from $1.9 billion in April to $3.8 billion in June, a 100 percent increase in two months, according to quarterly data from CrunchBase. The data, which is specific to the United States, breaks down new venture capital raised by round type, investor, company, geography and more. [Read on...]

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 1.08.14 PM

AZ Central

Jul. 23, 2013

Open House at SEED SPOT


Jul. 19, 2013

Seed Spot Incubator Expands to 14,000 Square Feet

Open House!

Jul. 18, 2013

 The Open House was a FULL HOUSE on Wednesday night at our new office! We had a blast with our awesome community that came to check out the new space and learn about our exciting upcoming year!


We did promise pony rides…


Phoenix New Times

Jul. 18, 2013

SEED SPOT Accepting Applications for Second Class of Arizona Start-up Ventures

Stuttering King Bakery in AZTechBeat

Jul. 14, 2013

Great write-up from AZTechBeat on ‪#‎ssAlumni‬, Matthew Cottle, founder of Stuttering King Bakery. He is on a mission to help the Autistic community and share his sweet treats with the world. Read on:


Taking Time to Live!

Jul. 12, 2013

We believe that taking time to live will only inspire your work! Today we took a moment to enjoy the day with an impromptu photo shoot.