Canyon Ventures: Innovative Accelerator

by RaeAnne Marsh

GCU’s focus on benefitting its students and its community is evident in its recently launched business accelerator, Canyon Ventures. Member businesses must hire GCU students, a valuable pool of talent for the businesses that also benefits the students by giving them marketable experience as a foot in the door for future employment. Not only is space rent-free, but Canyon Ventures is one of few incubator spaces connected directly with an angel investment organization (Canyon Angels).

Commitment to hiring GCU students, both initially and continuing as the venture grows, is one of the criteria needed to be accepted for a spot in Canyon Ventures. Canyon Ventures looks for businesses that have a clearly defined growth and/or exit plan, and there is an application process all ventures must go through that includes a complete business plan with financials as well as background checks for employees. Another key criterion for ventures, they must share, embrace and promote Christian values — a requirement in keeping with GCU’s charter as a Christian institution — along with a culture of servant leadership and the ideals of Conscious Capitalism.

Incorporated into Canyon Ventures is the New Business Development Center, which GCU opened in 2016 but which differs from the accelerator in that it is geared more for early-stage startups, particularly within the large Latino community in Phoenix, that are still developing business plans. The NBDC programs serve as a prerequisite for the Phoenix entrepreneurship ecosystem of incubators and accelerators.

“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,” says Randy Gibb, Ph.D., dean of the Colangelo College of Business at GCU. This encourages these future successful businesses to plant their headquarters in the West Valley, furthering GCU’s efforts to revitalize the community in which it resides.

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