Since 2012, Seed Spot has been a place where entrepreneurs could go to not only learn how to build a successful startup, but to be a member of a collaborative community of other like-minded people who share the same passion of starting their own business. Chris Petroff and Courtney Klein developed Seed Spot to build a community of support, a community where entrepreneurs could go to get away from the “noise” of naysayers. With a team of mentors consisting of some of the top executives around the valley along with a high-class curriculum, the ventures at Seed Spot are given a world of resources to work with.
We were able to talk with Chris about Seed Spot, the importance of collaboration when growing a business, and how being an entrepreneur Phoenix is easier than it’s ever been.
Words By Nerds: What is Seed Spot?
Chris Petroff: We are an incubator that works with early stage entrepreneurs by helping them launch their ideas. Each year we bring in two classes that stay with us for four months and during that period they go through our program derived of the Lean LaunchPad. We give them mentors, office space and access to capital to help them launch and scale their business in the market.
WBN: How does the application process work?
CP: The application is a series of questions that essentially challenges the entrepreneurs to think about their business and think about what they’ve currently done to validate their idea or their business model.
The application is open for 45 days. After the 45 days, our selection committee and our review committee look at the application and then interview the top 25 to 40, depending on how many applications we get in. At that point after we’ve interviewed our finalists, we make our selection for the ventures. That’s what we call our companies, our ventures.
WBN: Who is on the review committee and how do they decide who gets through?
CP: We have a team of 25-30 on the selection committee; they’re all folks here in the valley that work with or are engaged in the startup community in some capacity. They range from prominent entrepreneurs that have
grown and scaled companies, to other entrepreneurs that are currently in the startup process. [There are] attorneys to venture capitalists to other leaders of other companies that are here in Phoenix. They all have some vested interested in not just Seed Spot but really making Phoenix a better place for startups and entrepreneurship.
WBN: Why would someone want to go to the Seed Spot to get help starting their own business?
CP: A lot of entrepreneurs face hurdles along their journey, and some of those hurdles they don’t know how to overcome. Maybe they’re nervous about what happens if [they] overcome it.
Seed Spot is a place where you’re not only getting a world class program–Lean LaunchPad is taught at Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley–but one of the biggest factors, and what a lot of our ventures through this last class saw value in, is the comradery with the other startups here.
Instant friends and instant support network: an instant group of like-minded individuals that don’t think that they’re crazy because they quit a job or they’re starting their own business, they don’t have to listen to all of that noise of people saying, “You’re going to fail.”
The fact is, some may fail but some may also succeed but it’s going through that expiration process of how do I get past failure to success, and having individuals surrounding you that understand what you’re going through gets you to those points much quicker.
WBN: Why do you think that collaboration is such an important part of growing a business?
CP: There are different perspectives. People may have a different look on your business, a different lens when they look into their business. Once you’re in an environment like this you’re real, you’re raw, people know what your business model is. They know what your revenues are; they know if you’re struggling or if you’re having a good day.
We have people that are able to offer and shed their advice or insight into how you may come across this hurdle or get through this tough time or celebrate this success. It really helps entrepreneurs get through these trying times.
There’s also a lot of entrepreneurs that may be on the right path but may just need to be put back on the right course going through our program where they understand customer validation or product development, so getting that environment coupled with a structured program and then lastly getting this whole mentor network that’s blanketed on top is icing on the cake. Each one of our ventures that comes in we came up with 2-4 mentors that then help them throughout their journey here at seed spot.
WBN: As an Arizona native, do you think it’s easier to start a business now than it was 20 years ago?
CP: Ten times easier. The fact of the matter is, as this community, this community is continuously getting younger, more people are realizing that the startup community is a part of Phoenix.
Over the past several decades, being an entrepreneur was going to get a real estate license or becoming a mortgage broker and that’s it. Well, that era is still here and that’s always going to be a prominent market here in Phoenix, but there are opportunities that actually grow scale, and start a viable business here in Phoenix, and there’s groups like Seed Spot that will help entrepreneurs do so.
WBN: What do you like to nerd out about?
CP: That’s so funny. I always tell people, “Ah, I’m totally geeking out right now!”
So, there’s three things that I always nerd out about. And it’s definitely three things.
One is, I really nerd out about entrepreneurship and startups. Reading about it, learning about different methodologies, learning about different processes or different theories.
I nerd out about anything that’s bicycle related. I have a road bike, it’s actually a bamboo frame. [Derrik Loud] built me a frame–and I have a touring bike that’s a Novara Randonee.
And lastly, and this is the nerdiest of them all: Legos. It’s mostly because I have a five-year-old son who loves them, so there’s this whole inner kid that’s coming back to me. In fact, I have a Lego on my desk that I built with him that’s a Volkswagen bus. It’s bad ass.
WBN: What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the growing Phoenix business landscape?
CP: The coolest thing has been seeing the community fully embrace it. We work with a lot of large companies as well as larger locally owned companies, and [they] fully support not only everything that we’re doing, but furthermore supporting our ventures.
I mean personally, with employees of these companies coming in not only to mentor but to open doors, that has been the most rewarding thing. Because it’s at that point that these companies truly understand that we’re helping build and define the next generation of Phoenix that they’re now getting engaged in and helping make that dream a reality. Without them we couldn’t do this.