After being active for 20 years, the University of Arizona’s Center for Innovation has become the home for four Ukrainian technology startups. The center has been instrumental in fueling Southern Arizona’s innovation environment through its business incubator.
In 2003, Tech Parks Arizona built an incubator to support startups using its network and facilities to "provide an effective support mechanism for new entrepreneurial activities that advance technological innovation locally and globally," according to UACI's website. They provide the resources, environment and connections needed for entrepreneurs to make way in the market.
Executive director of UACI Eric Smith described the incubator network as “economic development through startup growth.”
“Our job is to provide them with programming, with places and with the people to execute on that programming,” Smith said.
In November 2022, four Ukrainian technology startups were selected by the U.S Department of State’s Global Innovation Through Science and Technology initiative to come to the University of Arizona Tech Park. The four companies are EQ Production, Noty.ai, SorbiForce and Zeely.
EQ Production is a developer of an emotional intelligence app made to aid users to maximize sustainable emotional skills. Noty.ai is an artificial intelligence-powered assistant for transcribing Zoom and Google Meet calls. SorbiForce is the creator of a sustainable and cost-effective carbon battery. Zeely is a web store and ad builder aimed at helping small businesses sell online.
Through a 27-point roadmap program, these companies advance their development in key areas such as entity formation, customer discovery and competitive analysis, to name a few.
These initiatives “ensure that when those innovations are placed back in Ukraine, they can help to stimulate the economy there,” Smith said.
Specifically for international companies, “we run them through a process that helps them converse with potential customers, not in a fashion that sells the products but rather in a fashion that helps them to ask the right questions to ensure that when they launch the product here it is fit for the market,” Smith said.
Although these companies are adjusting to the U.S. market, UACI works with them to adapt to this new environment.
“They have access to our community, our community leaders, housing, transportation and social lives. Part of the reason we do this work is not only to ensure the startups are successful but that the people have a soft landing into our region,” Smith said. “Our job is to show them that Southern Arizona is a place they can make U.S market entry.”
The strategic location of Tucson provides these companies access to West Coast markets with a cheaper standard of living.
“When these types of companies come to our community, they have access to our municipal leaders, our corporation leaders, our university leaders and all those individuals help our companies to succeed,” Smith said.
UACI believes it takes a village to raise a startup. Those interested in the work UACI is doing or in connecting with startups can reach out to UACI through their website to connect with these companies.