Attracting Venture Capital to Arizona: A Member Spotlight on the Arizona Commerce Authority

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) is a hybrid public/private venture that serves as the state of Arizona’s economic development agency. The ACA has three primary objectives: attracting businesses to Arizona, expanding existing businesses into Arizona, and creating new companies in Arizona. With these pillars in mind, the ACA does these three things to meet the goal of bringing high-quality jobs and economic growth to the state. Currently, the state of Arizona is at an all-time high of attracting new companies to the state, due in large part to the efforts of the ACA. In their 10 years as an organization, the ACA has already completed a total of 950 projects resulting in $33 Billion in capital expenditures which lead to 191,000 jobs.

ACA has been an official member of the Desert Angels since 2012, but the relationship goes back even further. “The Desert Angels are a great partner, and an unbelievable organization”,  said the ACA’s Executive Vice President, Andy Lombard. “We had been working with the Desert Angels for the prior decade as well on the screening and diligence processes for the Arizona Innovation Challenge. It’s a very important relationship for us, as we also participate in Desert Angels meetings to support their companies that usually get placed on our radar.”

When asked about the ACA’s primary motivator for joining the Desert Angels, Andy referred to the ACA’s pillar of creation. “We want to create more tech-focused jobs in Arizona and because of this, we need more tech-oriented investors.” Lombard cited the importance of early-stage companies having access to funding at every step of the way in their lifecycle. Forging a relationship with the Desert Angels was a natural means to accomplish that goal. “Desert Angels is one of the leading angel groups in the country, so we naturally wanted to support them. But we also want to continue attracting venture capital to the state and ensure that companies get funded all the way through.”

The ACA is a unique organization in that it is not solely a government organization. Lombard emphasized the importance behind the public and private model that gives the ACA the benefit of having government support while also working with private companies and experienced executives across the state. “Our unique model allows us to accomplish things that a typical state agency can’t do, and that’s something that a lot of people don’t know about us.”

For the ACA, one of the most valuable aspects of membership has been working with the Desert Angels during the Arizona Innovation Challenge. One of the largest business plan competitions in the nation, the Arizona Innovation Challenge helps promising early-stage companies to scale. “The Desert Angels have such an important role in the AIC, and we have loved the wonderful camaraderie and fun along the way.”

Through their partnership with the Desert Angels, the ACA aims to continue growing early-stage Arizona companies and increase capital attraction to ensure readiness to scale and follow-on financing. One thing that Lombard believes is of great importance, for both potential and current investors, is the need for support and education. “To be an investor without expertise and without support is tough. You are adding risk to an already risky endeavor, and that’s where a group like Desert Angels that provides educational resources really shines.”