Wasabi Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm, announced today the formal launch of its operations in Arizona. After a nine-month due diligence process, Arizona was selected as the most promising location for a new office by the bi-coastal firm that has existing offices in Silicon Valley, Greater Boston, and Baltimore.
“We see great potential in the Arizona ecosystem,” said Wasabi Ventures General Partner Tom “TK” Kuegler. “The combination of strong universities, visionary government leadership, plus an active and increasingly cohesive ecosystem full of strong talent gives us great confidence that the Silicon Desert is a great place to be. We are committed to be an active contributor to building that ecosystem, and will do that in partnership with some of the leading actors in the space across the state. We plan to start 20 companies in Arizona in the next 24 months, and will run cohorts in Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson.” Kuegler participated in Startup Week Phoenix and sponsored Invest Southwest’s Venture Madness, while General Partner Chris Yeh covered Startup Weekend Tucson, as demonstration of the firm’s commitment to the ecosystem.
Wasabi’s principal office will be based in Scottsdale, at Deskhub, an innovative co-working space located at 4900 North Scottsdale Road, suite 400, and run by CEO Jay Chernikoff and Community Manager Gabe Gasca. Chernikoff said, “Wasabi Ventures’ decision to open up shop in Phoenix is a reflection of the strong and growing tech scene in Phoenix and across Arizona. We are pleased to host them and look forward to collaborating in offering regular programming to the community. We are delighted to begin this partnership and expand it to San Diego in coming months.” Wasabi will host a launch party in the valley at Deskhub on Thursday, June 4th, from 5:30-8:30pm, where the firm will be announcing its plans to form a cohort in Phoenix, commencing in July. Interested applicants are invited to apply now at www.academy.wasabiventures.com
Wasabi Ventures is providing venture acceleration support services to startups selected as part of the Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator program.
Wasabi’s operations in Tucson commenced in early May in partnership with Startup Tucson and Innovate UA. Justin Williams, CEO of Startup Tucson and Executive Director of Innovate UA, said, “ Wasabi Ventures’ focus on the individual entrepreneur, combined with the extensive free educational offering made available through the Wasabi Ventures Academy, nicely complements our existing offerings and fits the Tucson ecosystem very well. The fact that they like to play as a co-founder at the very early stage fills an important gap, and makes them an ideal partner to Tucson entrepreneurs.” One team from this introductory cohort is guaranteed to receive the backing of Wasabi Ventures as a cofounder of its new startup. Wasabi Ventures will also offer regular programming in Tucson, open to the public, from a base at Startup Tucson’s Co-lab incubator facility. A launch party in Tucson will take place on Wednesday, June 3rd, at 6:00 pm, at Ermano’s Craft Beer & Wine Bar, in conjunction with Startup Tucson’s June Startup Drinks.
In Northern Arizona, the firm has partnered with the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, which runs programs in Flagstaff, Prescott and Maricopa. CEO Annette Zinky said, “NACET is thrilled to partner with Wasabi Ventures to form a Northern Arizona cohort to participate in their Startup Foundations program, starting in July. This will allow us to focus the direction and increase the momentum of the strong mix of ideas, passion and talent already present in the region. Wasabi Ventures’ decision to offer services here validates what we already knew: that Northern Arizona is a great place for startups.” Wasabi Ventures will celebrate its launch in Northern Arizona concurrent with the launch of NACET’s new accelerator facility, where from which it will also offer regular programming, on or around July 21st, and the first cohort will run through Startup Weekend Flagstaff, concluding on October 9-11th, 2015.
Startup Foundations is a 13-week education program for entrepreneurs, and is the base course offering of the Wasabi Ventures Academy. Participants learn about the startup world directly from the firm’s general partners and along the way vie for the opportunity to form or join startups in the Wasabi Ventures portfolio.
“Our move into Arizona is just the first step in our strategy to bring Silicon Valley-style VC services to strong secondary markets, beginning in the Southwest,” said Chris Yeh, General Partner of Wasabi Ventures. “Phoenix is just a two-hour flight from Silicon Valley, so if we can bring the right combination of timely, strategic advice and investment to Arizona entrepreneurs, they shouldn’t have to move to Silicon Valley to build their companies. Entrepreneurs are just as smart and hardworking in Arizona as anywhere else, and this strong talent, combined with the lower cost of operations and reduced competition, presents an incredible opportunity for investors. Our strong focus on entrepreneur education and team building, and commitment to being a reliable cofounder, fills a gap in the ecosystem and will provide an important bridge for promising Arizona companies seeking to reach new heights. We are excited to being operations and demonstrate the value of our model here.”