After ending the first post-pandemic year in which life felt a little more normal, I’m expecting 2023 to bring another period of growth and prosperity in Arizona’s technology industry and for Arizona technology leaders and organizations.
We already have seen the foundations laid for our state’s leadership in semiconductor manufacturing with construction fully underway for Intel and TSMC’s new fabs. We saw more progress in Arizona’s fast-growing electric vehicle industry, with Lucid Motors taking home MotorTrend Car of the Year for its Lucid Air. And we watched legacy industries like aerospace and defense continue to grow with Raytheon, Honeywell and others making more headline news.
The Arizona Technology Council closed last year with its 19th annual Governor’s Celebration of Innovation (GCOI) event, where we celebrated the rising stars and established leaders of our technology industry, as well as the Council’s milestone 20th anniversary. I am so proud of what this industry and its outstanding leaders have accomplished during my 16 years as the Council’s president and CEO!
But staying true to the mantra of innovation, enough dwelling on the past. Let’s press on and take a look at what we can look forward to with the technology companies and leaders that are sure to make a massive impact in the year ahead.
Focus on DEI
One major focus area for the Council and Arizona’s overall technology industry has been improving diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We must inspire underrepresented talent to pursue STEM careers by hiring, training, retaining and promoting them, particularly in leadership positions. Arizona is inherently a diverse state, and many of our most successful and cutting-edge startups are already run by women and people of color. This is a trend we must continue to cultivate.
What follows are my recommendations of leaders to watch, as well as their companies that are creating nationally recognized innovations and solutions.
Let me start with Michelle Tinsley of Yellowbird, an on-demand environmental health and safety marketplace that helps companies solve the real-world challenge of keeping employees, customers and the environment safe. Yellowbird’s solution is improving the way organizations combat sustainability challenges, as environmental, social and governance values become increasingly important to prospects, customers and investors.
Tinsley is a co-founder of Yellowbird who now serves as the company’s president and COO. She previously served as CEO of Tinsley Retail Insights, a consulting firm she launched in January 2018 to help retailers drive actionable innovation to compete with digital disruption. Tinsley also worked in finance at Intel for 18 years. She is a career innovator who has helped bring disruptive solutions to market in a number of fast-growing industries, and she has helped Yellowbird explode onto the scene. Yellowbird was a 2021 GCOI Innovator of the Year – Start Up finalist, and Tinsley was a Female Founder of the Year finalist in the 2022 AZ Inno Fire Awards.
Moov Technologies and its founders Steven Zhou and Maxam Yeung are next on my list of rising stars and organizations to watch. Moov Technologies was the winner of 2022’s AZ Inno Fire Software Award due to its software solutions helping small- to mid-size semiconductor manufacturers stay in business and navigate major international supply chain challenges by running an online marketplace for used semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Founded in 2017 and headquartered in both Tempe and San Francisco, Zhou and Yeung have created the world’s first secondary market for semiconductor equipment. Their idea was designed to help take the burden off smaller manufacturers that otherwise would not be capable of sourcing equipment, parts, components and materials when the Intels and TSMCs of the world dominate the supply chain. Moov recently raised $41 million in series A funding to build its team and expand its service offerings. Today the company claims more than $3.4 billion value in the parts, equipment and components segment of their marketplace.
One of the established leaders in our entrepreneurial community who continues to innovate and develop new solutions for a wide range of industries is Rebecca Clyde, co-founder and CEO of Botco.ai. Clyde has been a long-time advocate for women in tech and Arizona’s startup community. She is a founder, advisor, mentor and outstanding leader who represents the pinnacle of Arizona startup success. Prior to founding Botco.ai, Clyde co-founded Ideas Collide, a technology marketing agency. She also serves as co-managing director of Girls in Tech Phoenix, an advisor at Syncari, a board member of Mentors International, an executive committee member of the Council and so much more.
Botco.ai has been a shining star in our startup ecosystem for a few years now. It is a conversational marketing startup that enables businesses to engage customers with AI-enabled chatbots. It really took off during the pandemic as a solution to stay engaged with customers in a digital-only world and has continued to grow rapidly from there. Botco.ai recently took home the GCOI Innovator of the Year Award in the Start Up category for its continued success.
The final startup on my list of companies to watch is SaiOx in Tucson. Arizona has become a worldwide leader in bioscience development and SaiOx is one of the more exciting organizations coming up through the state’s startup pipeline. Founded by Manny Teran and Don Finkle, SaiOx has developed Hespiro, a respiratory-assist device that helps treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and other respiratory diseases. The device, which improves patient comfort and reduces intubation occurrences, delivers a mixture of helium and oxygen while capturing exhaled gas to scrub it free of carbon dioxide in a completely closed “rebreather” system. SaiOx’s technology is incredibly promising and has secured $30,000 in funding from the Flinn Foundation Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program. SaiOx was also named a 2022 AZ Inno Fire Awards finalist in the health care category.
These startups will take Arizona into our next era of technology leadership. However, I also must recognize some of the established leaders in our community that have helped bring Arizona’s technology economy to this point and continue to lead the way on the world stage.
Titans of tech
In highlighting some of the larger companies to watch, I thought about TSMC, Intel, Lucid and others. But these companies are already top of mind locally and internationally, and deservedly so. For this list, I looked at one of the industries that has been a powerhouse in Arizona since the very beginning of our technology ecosystem: aerospace and defense.
The first is Honeywell Aerospace. During COVID-19, we saw a major downturn in both commercial and defense aerospace sectors, with commercial being hit the hardest. But established leaders like Honeywell weathered the storm and continue to be a massive contributor to our booming aerospace economy. In fact, Honeywell recently announced a contract to supply 34 of the company’s workhorse T55 engines for the United Kingdom’s military. Honeywell estimated a potential $6.6 billion economic impact for Arizona in addition to new jobs in engineering and supply chain.
The second company to highlight is Raytheon Technologies. Raytheon is a mainstay in Arizona’s technology economy that is also Southern Arizona’s largest private sector employer. The company was awarded a number of key contracts last year and recently introduced Operational Zero Trust (OZT), an exciting new cybersecurity defense technology. OZT is a “plug-and-play” platform that can be integrated with cyber tools and was introduced at the U.S. Army Project Convergence 2022 Technology Gateway at Arizona’s Yuma Proving Ground.
These are just a handful of the incredible companies and leaders that I will be keeping my eye on in 2023. I encourage readers to check out the various finalists and winners of GCOI, AZ Inno Fire Awards, the Arizona Innovation Challenge and more to check out the other startups and established innovators sure to make waves in the year to come.
Author: Steven G. Zylstra is the president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.
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