Cronkite Header

Cronkite News has moved to a new home at Use this site to search archives from 2011 to May 2015. You can search the new site for current stories.

Startup connects businesses with colleges, research centers

Email this story
Print this story

PHOENIX – Matt Gottesman, who co-founded, a company offering a due-diligence analytics platform, is looking for two things to put his business in a better position: seed funding and additional technologies.

That’s why he is submitting an application for AZ Furnace, a startup incubator initiated by Arizona State University’s SkySong business innovation center in Scottsdale. Its goal: turning innovations generated by public universities and research institutions into businesses.

“Individual technologies are spread out in the Valley; we need to have more cohesiveness,” said Gottesman, who is interested in the mobile cloud technology offered on the incubator’s website. “It seems like AZ Furnace is trying to make that happen.”

The business accelerator, launched in late August, is offering a list of patents online for entrepreneurs to base businesses on and is providing at least $25,000 seed funding for up to 15 applicants.

By unlocking the potential of the more than 150 idle patents from ASU, Northern Arizona University and Dignity Health, AZ Furnace aims to create more jobs and wealth.

“The statewide collaborative approach will ensure larger success than any one entity attempting to do this by themselves,” said Russ Yelton, CEO of Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, NAU’s partner incubator. “We are very excited.”

Of the $550,000 in funding, $400,000 comes from the Arizona Commerce Authority and $150,000 from BioAccel, a nonprofit dedicated to developing Arizona’s bioscience industry.

During an intensive six-month program, teams will take part in networking sessions with industry people, get free training in entrepreneurship and developing business models. They will have access to free office space and utilities at either SkySong or NAU’s incubator.

“The acceleration starts when you get into it,” said Gordon McConnell, creator of AZ Furnace and assistant vice president of innovation, entrepreneurship and venture acceleration at ASU’s Venture Catalyst.

Candidates for AZ Furnace will pitch their business ideas for a panel of senior executives from the Commerce Authority and BioAccel in October.

“First and foremost, AZ Furnace is about attracting management teams or experienced entrepreneurs who know how to bring technology to the market,” said Brian Sherman, the Commerce Authority’s senior vice president.

MaryAnn Guerra, CEO of BioAccel, said having AZ Furnace as a team’s central contact with intellectual property holders at the universities and research centers makes the process more efficient. She compared the process to a relay race bringing all the players together.

“We have to have validated technology before we’ll fund it,” she said. “The Furnace program is really helping us find that great asset, validate it, put the funds in it and help it along the way.”

While business incubator programs such as AZ Furnace provide seed funding, startups may not viable long term without sufficient venture capital, said Robert Hisrich, Garvin Professor of Entrepreneurship and director of the Walker Center for Global Entrepreneurship at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale.

Arizona is one of the few states that don’t have a state-run venture capital fund, Hisrich said, and the fact that the state doesn’t have one sends a bad signal.

“That fund to me would be the first priority in terms of addressing the needs out here,” he said.