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SkySong Celebrates First Year of Business

May 1, 2009 in News

Phoenix Business Journal – by Patrick O’Grady

SkySong, the mixed-use development designed by Arizona State University, is celebrating its one-year anniversary Wednesday amid more businesses that have opted into the center.

Dubbed the ASU Innovation Center, SkySong has sought to create a niche for technology businesses and startup companies that ties together its students and faculty in a partnership offering at the location at McDowell and Scottsdale roads in Scottsdale.

The center has developed a little better than expected, drawing interest from national as well as international companies and pushing through numerous students into new entrepreneurial programs, said Julia Rosen, ASU’s associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Skysong has exceeded our expectations without a doubt,” she said.

The development, which has spread to two buildings, has 44 companies from 11 countries that are its affiliates and it also has more than 30 student ventures from 90 students. SkySong is the home to Arizona Technology Enterprises, the university’s technology transfer arm, as well as ASU Technopolis, Entrepreneurship at ASU and the university’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which seeks to give students a taste of developing products and business plans.

Getting businesses in to the center is ahead of schedule, and the diversity of business looking for a home has produced some unexpected surprises, such as businesses investing in sustainable technologies.

Ultimately it has been the ties to ASU that SkySong offers that has been among its top drawing cards, Rosen said.

“We’re the only place in Arizona and I believe in the Southwest that can offer what we do,” she said.

Companies large and small are continuing to locate at the center, including the likes of Ticketmaster and Canon. Smaller companies finding a home often are drawn to the connections to ASU as well as the ability to be around other startups.

“It’s perfect for us,” said Patty Johnson, president and CEO of OneClickMed.com, an online site that aims to be an information technology hub for the health care industry. “How we’re going to support our growth is through the university partnership.”

Students also are getting experience, either through the Edson program or through the Innovation Space, which has set up a location on the first floor of SkySong’s north building.

The program allows undergraduate and graduate students at ASU a chance to form teams to develop, produce and market a product. Having a presence at SkySong means the students can learn not just from professors but each other as well as the businesses there.

“My students get internal and external input from all of the companies here,” he said.

Josh Madsen, a senior at ASU who founded skateboard company Genghis Longboards Co. and is a student in the Edson program, said being at SkySong has helped developed his business acumen.

“It’s been absolutely pivotal in bringing my company to the stage it’s at,” he said. “This whole complex is filled with professions from just about every industry. If you need someone with a certain kind of experience, you can find them here.”

Despite a challenging economy, Rosen said SkySong is flourishing, and the hope is that in the next few years it will continue to build a network of companies that are connected through their work at the center.

“There’s tremendous entrepreneurial energy here,” she said. “You read the newspaper and might get one message about the economy, but you come here and it’s a different feel.”

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