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#seedSPOTTED Alumni – AZ Central: Startups hope to address Phoenix's problems

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Startups hope to address Phoenix’s problems

Eugene Scott, The Republic |

One business wants to teach kids how to skate after school.

One plans to connect donated goods to socially conscious shoppers.

And another wants to help people find water-bottle refill stations to reduce reliance on plastic bottles.

The three will compete against several other startups Thursday, June 5, for a chance to win $5,000 to further their efforts. It’s all part of Seed Spot, a Phoenix-based non-profit incubator for social entrepreneurs, aspiring business leaders committed to solving societal problems.

“We really believe that entrepreneurs can solve major societal problems,” said Courtney Klein, co-founder and CEO of Seed Spot. “We believe if we read about it in the headlines, we can solve it through the innovation of entrepreneurs.”

The local entrepreneurs will pitch their solutions to some of Phoenix’s societal problems at Seed Spot’s Demo Day from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St.

The fledgling business owners will share their business plans with more than 700 people. The audience will vote via text for their favorite venture.

Demo Day is the culmination of Seed Spot’s four-month, full-time program, which has secured more than $1 million in capital and created more than 60 jobs in the Valley since launching. Klein said Seed Spot social entrepreneurs will be leaders in Phoenix’s future economic development.

“We have everything from entrepreneurs that developed an app to better diagnose epilepsy to a landscaping company that’s developing pretty specific garden-planning tools using their app,” she said.

Seed Spot launched in 2012 and provides startups with office space, a curriculum, mentors, financial modeling, media exposure and other capital opportunities to those wanting to launch businesses that benefit humanity. More than 100 people apply each cycle for anywhere from 10 to 15 slots.

Seed Spot was founded in part because finding success in social entrepreneurship can be difficult in Phoenix, Klein said.

“Sometimes it takes a while to sell a product or raise initial investment capital,” she said. “It can take anywhere from several months to a few years depending on the sophistication of the business, the capital that’s required or how hard it is to enter that market.”

Seed Spot businesses emphasize health, education, energy, environment, human rights, civic engagement and community impact.

“We support both for-profit and non-profit startups but we exclusively focus on social entrepreneurs. It has to be a product that’s improving peoples lives,” Klein said.

Phoenix leaders and entrepreneurs have worked hard to develop a startup culture for several years. Organizations like Seed Spot, CoHoots and JumpStart Phoenix have popped up in the last several years in central and downtown Phoenix to encourage entrepreneurship.

While not the Bay Area, the mecca of startups, Klein said Phoenix’s startup culture is not going unnoticed.

“We’ve actually won some prestigious awards and honors and rank quite high for entrepreneurial capacity, so people are paying attention,” she said.

Demo Day details

Reserve your free ticket for the June 5 Demo Day at

Lauren McDanell

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