Jeffrey Pruitt, CEO of local venture accelerator Tallwave, talks about a competition his firm is sponsoring for some of Arizona’s most promising start-up companies.
Ted Simons: In our continuing coverage of Arizona technology and innovation, we look at how Tallwave, a local venture accelerator and management Firm, is sponsoring high tide, A competition involving some Of the state's most promising start-up companies. Joining us for more is Jeffrey Pruitt, CEO of Tallwave. Good to have you hear. Thanks for joining us.
Jeffrey Pruitt: Good evening. Thank you.
Ted Simons: Give me a definition of what Tallwave is.
Jeffrey Pruitt: Tallwave, company that focuses on venture acceleration and venture management of companies, and we use lean business models and lean design thinking principles to get the companies commercialized anywhere from idea stage all of the way through the life cycle of companies to sustainability.
Ted Simons: So it sounds like more than just matching money with ideas.
Jeffrey Pruitt: Yes, definitely.
Ted Simons: Ok. Started by, and this is a while back, with connections to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, correct?
Jeffrey Pruitt: Right. When I was an Arizona native and one of the companies I was with -- I was on the advisory boards of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft technology councils and meeting some individuals, we started to contemplate good ideas around potentially creating commercialization engine to get companies to the national marketplace.
Ted Simons: Ok. And to do that, it sounds like the focus is through, what, digital media ventures? Digital mostly?
Jeffrey Pruitt: You know, mostly our concepts are around digital and software I.T. Our business accelerator, venture accelerator has practice management areas in product, strategy, marketing, accounting, finance. We can customize the models to a lot of companies to bring them through just commercialization process for companies getting to market through scale and through sustainability.
Ted Simons: It sounds like what I'm hearing there might be separate components. We have accelerator, we have venture management, and we will get to the competition High Tide. Is that accurate?
Jeffrey Pruitt: Yes, exactly. So the accelerator, we got into the business to commercialize companies. And well, a lot of companies will say - are you an incubator, are you an accelerator? And the definitions can get skewed sometimes. Incubators, typically are 501(c)(3)s or Arizona State-based Universities. And they do a lot of great education start-up, they do a lot of mentor ships and provide office space for people to think about their ideas and ideate. As you move past ideation and prototyping, you really get into validation, you get into scale and sustainability. And our accelerator focuses on all of those practice areas. On the venture management side, we will take on the governance of the companies with the founders, executive positions, CFO role and we will work with them, they become a portfolio company. One thing we are not doing is necessarily funding the companies, which is where High Tide comes in.
Ted Simons: Ok.
Jeffrey Pruitt: So if you think about having an accelerator which becomes an engine, and we have 20 people in our organization who are privately held company. And those 20 people focus on the commercialization of these companies, the hightide piece allows us to pull in capital and to move the companies through the process.
Ted Simons: So lets talk about Hightide. It sounds like a competition where all sorts of folks, start-ups are competing for what?
Jeffrey Pruitt: They are competing to get to the first top 20. Hightide started with -- launched October 31st. We are going to go out and try to validate more companies. Part of the reason we're doing that in Arizona, it has a stigma that there is not a lot of great ideas and the truth is there is a lot of great ideas. We don't validate our ideas in Arizona as well as silicon valley.
Ted Simons: Why?
Jeffrey Pruitt: Lack of capital, entrepreneur venture space, potentially lack of an ecosystem where everybody comes together and work on what validation means. Hightide is meant to open up the top of the funnel and get more good ideas in the funnel. We had over 100 applications. December 28th we will pick 20 of those applications and announce it and they get validation services, addressing the market, understanding the competition and looking at is it a feasible business plan. Six of those companies will then sometime in between January 8th and May 2nd, will get another set of dollars to go through our product market fit and go to market strategies work and we elevate the companies at an event May 2nd, which will bring other organizations to try to bring a lot of connectivity around groups like the GPEC Arizona Commerce Authority, other incubators and try to bring all of the companies together with some of the angel groups like Atiff and Desert Angels and promote the company ideas and try to bring that connectivity in the valley together for innovation.
Ted Simons: So when you get down to the final six, these are folks that are -- this is serious business here. These are folks that have a really good shot at some pretty big things.
Jeffrey Pruitt: You know they have a fantastic shot. The idea is, you are eliminating some of the due diligence risk by doing all of this work. I think we will have a great gravitational pull, hopefully get their questions answered that they want and these companies have a grate shot for follow on funding and potentially take them on as venture management too and maybe that will be our next round of venture management.
Ted Simons: It almost sounds like this is a great competition for you to see what is out there.
Jeffrey Pruitt: It gives us a great spotlight on what is out there in the valley. It's very interesting, and in Arizona, you've got a lot of gret entrepreneurs, lot of spirit around that, and so for us it is just a great place to look at.
Ted Simons: Is there any -- I ask this of all -- we do a lot of accelerator and incubator stories here on Arizona Horizon, because it is exciting. It is nice to see these kinds of things growing. But you wonder, once they get the capital and get going, are they going to stay here?
Jeffrey Pruitt: You don't want to force them to stay here. You don't want to limit the competition nationally by forcing someone to stay here by using your dollars to say you have to stay in Arizona. But if we are creating the progress, innovation, and connectivity, people will want to stay here. You need to show them that you have an ability to take a company from an idea, validate that idea, and then know how to commercialize it and get it to sustainability. Companies will want to stay here. You often here that BC's out of state will pull them into their states. That is not true. If you can get them into a B round, A round, and lead that first institutional round here, they will stay here.
Ted Simons: December 28th, narrows down then and then May 2nd, we find out who the 6 finalists are?
Jeffrey Pruitt: You get the six before then. I think it is two months after December 28th, and then by May 2nd, we will be presenting those six at a nice event.
Ted Simons: These are companies that we may hear about in the years to come.
Jeffrey Pruitt: We hope so.
Ted Simons: Hey, its good to have you here.
Jeffrey Pruitt: Thank you very much.
Jeffrey Pruitt:CEO, Tallwave;