Grand Canyon University has opened Canyon Ventures Center, a student-centric innovation and business acceleration center that is unlike any other in Arizona. The center already has over 30 start-ups working in it, seven of which are run by GCU students.

Canyon Ventures is unique among business incubator spaces in that it:

• Offers space rent-free, including Wi-Fi, parking, conference rooms and access to employee fitness facilities;

• Provides opportunities for companies to hire talented GCU students;

• Is one of the few incubator spaces connected directly with an angel investment organization — Canyon Angels;

• Provides revenue generation training from leading experts in the industry, as well as a revenue generating department for companies that do not yet have the resources to create their own sales force;

• Is connected to GCU’s Cybersecurity Center of Excellence as well as cyber experts from Cerberus Sentinel Corporation;

• Encourages start-ups that become successful businesses to plant their headquarters in the West Valley, furthering GCU’s efforts to revitalize the community in which it resides.

“Our goal is to provide entrepreneurs a collaborative co-working space where they have access to industry leaders, networking and opportunities to obtain investor funding through pitch events,” said Dr. Randy Gibb, Dean of the Colangelo College of Business at GCU. “In exchange, we ask those companies to hire our students who gain invaluable real-world experience while providing low-cost resources as those companies grow their business.”

Approximately 70 GCU students have been hired by the companies located in Canyon Ventures. Students work in a wide range of positions including marketing, app development and customer service.

“For our students, the goal is to get them working for these start-ups early so that when they graduate, they aren’t entry level anymore,” said Robert Vera, Director of Canyon Ventures. “They can walk into a company and say they have two or three years of solid experience.”

Hiring students has become not just something the companies have to do, but something they look forward to doing. “I love the eagerness, the energy,” said Shane Ettestad, CEO and co-founder of HomeKey, one of the start-ups located in Canyon Ventures. “Many of them have already tried small ventures on their own.”

Having the students work in the space has also created opportunities for mentoring.

“When you walk in here, you’re a servant leader now,” said Vera. “You must help the person to the left and to the right of you. It’s a team effort.”

Among the 33 companies in Canyon Ventures are:

• Digitile, a platform that organizes all your files from Google, Slack, Dropbox, Outlook, and more;

• HomeKey, an app that stores all your home’s details like paint colors, appliances and warranties;

• Lux Longboards, a student-run electric longboard company;

• Journeyage, a learning management system that personalizes your team’s training experience;

• LittleBird, a smart home automation control for apartments and apartment communities;

• 40 Below Joe, a frozen coffee and creamer treat started by the founder of Dippin’ Dots;

• Santa Calls, a student-run app that would allow parents to let their child video chat with Santa;

• Cerberus Sentinel, a cybersecurity firm that protects businesses and governments against continuing and emerging cybersecurity threats.