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Here's the Pitch

TENWEST Fest puts local entrepreneurs into the shark tank with Get Started Arizona

Tirion Morris Oct 12, 2017 1:00 AM

Tucson now has its very own iteration of the Emmy Award-winning Shark Tank as part of TENWEST week, a festival that mixes entrepreneurship, business, tech arts and music.

With Get Started Arizona on Oct. 17, six new business and entrepreneurial finalists will compete for the grand prize of $25,000.

Battling it out at this year's competition are Oat Mama, PlasmaGlide, Saccadous, Hivemetric, Emagine Solutions Technology and Lum.AI. These local companies encompass a wide range of industries and concepts, ranging from lactation granola bars to financial modeling and metal-cutting equipment.

The six contestants will pitch their businesses before a panel of five judges who will collaborate to select the winner of the grand prize. There will also be an audience choice prize, where members of the audience can get involved and vote for a favorite to win a smaller prize of $1,000.

"We really wanted to be more than tech products," said Ellen Joyce, senior marketing manager for Cox Business, a sponsor of the event. "It really runs the gamut, and we love that."

Get Started Arizona is one of the main events of TENWEST, an entrepreneurial conference and celebration of art and technology in downtown Tucson. The events are run by Startup Tucson, which this year partnered with Get Started Arizona.

"It is a great partnership, because they support our mission to foster and strengthen entrepreneurs," said Startup Tucson CEO Justin Williams.

Get Started Arizona is in its fourth year, and has continually expanded since its founding, Joyce said. In its first year, the event's grand prize was $5,000, but it's now grown to $25,000, thanks to the generosity of Cox.

"We are a part of the community, and it is a tenet of our belief system to give back, and this prize gives new businesses a little boost, so hopefully they stay in Tucson and grow and become employers," Joyce said.

The event is also an opportunity for local businesses to network and meet a variety of entrepreneurs. Local business owners, as well as larger venture capitalists, have attended the event in previous years. This year, the event is expected to have 400 attendees, according to Joyce, and it will take place at a larger location: the Tucson Convention Center.

A cocktail hour provides the perfect space for attendees to mingle and network with the best of Tucson. The event is a great learning and networking opportunity for everyone who attends, both in the audience and contestants, explained Williams.

"There is an enormous amount that can be learned from the success and failures of your peers," he said. "Just applying forces you to do homework on your business plan, and then you get feedback on your pitch that strengthens your company."

Get Started Arizona is just one part of the TENWEST program, which aims to foster entrepreneurial spirit for companies large and small.

"Product development inside a larger company is essentially the same as in a small company," Williams continued. "Many larger companies need to be brought up to speed on the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship."

The Get Started Arizona competition will be Tuesday, Oct. 17, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the TCC's Leo Rich Theater. The event is open to anyone who wishes to attend, although organizers ask that attendees register online (tenwest.com) ahead of time. There will be free food and drinks available during the networking portion of the event.

Get Started Arizona is one of many programs during TENWEST week. Organized events include a film festival, a TEDx Talk, a musician showcase, entrepreneurship advice and business talks among other opportunities for networking and education to help local businesses thrive.

TenWest Passports are $35 and grant entry to all of the events over the eight-day festival.

Tirion Morris is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.