Time: 8am–9pm | Location: TCC

IdeaFunding is your best opportunity to connect with startup leaders, learn key skills to launch your company and take the next steps to raising funds, and launching your company. For almost 20 years, IdeaFunding has brought together the best of the southwestern startup ecosystem to accelerate entrepreneurship. This TENWEST Festival event is brought to you by Startup Tucson.

Partner: Startup Tucson

Pitch Competition


This year, we are welcoming 25 startups from every sate of development — Idea Stage, Prototype Stage, Launch Stage, and Growth Stage. teams will be judged by a panel of industry experts. The 6 best pitching teams move on to the main stage in the evening.


VC Unplugged Luncheon


VC’s Unplugged is designed for entrepreneurs, service providers, angel investors and VC investors to have an opportunity to meet out-of-state venture capitalists and engage in informal conversations about funding opportunities within our region. (VC’s Unplugged is a $35 add-on experience).

Education Tracks


Through a rigorous application process, the IdeaFunding committee has selected some of the greatest thought leaders in our community.

Track A: Pre-Seed Concept

1:00pm-1:45pm – A1. What’s my idea worth?

This 45-minute course will present information and common misinformation about the business value of a new idea – and – what people with ideas need to do to create value and worth.

  • Doug Hockstad, Assistant Vice President of Technology Transfer, Tech Transfer. Doug Hockstad is a software development and management executive turned software licensing expert. He manages a portfolio of University intellectual property in the software and copyright area.
  • Randy Gustafson, Senior Vice President, Innovation at Arizona Commerce Authority. Randy Gustafson has deep experience in economic development, SEO; Account Management/Customer Service, P&L Management, Organizational & Team Leadership; Strategy & Business Development, and more.
  • Molly Iarocci, VP, Investment Analytics DCA Asset Management, Inc.
  • Eric Smith, Moderator
2:00pm-2:45pm – A2. How to get started on a shoestring

For technical and non-technical founders, Tucson-based NetCHB co-founder and co-CEO, Brian Ong presents a somewhat counterintuitive approach to developing a technology and business startup that is profitable from day one — one that does not the involve seeking outside funding and giving away valuable equity before it’s totally necessary for growth. In this fireside chat, he will present his own company NetCHB’s path and strategy as a case study.

  • Brian Ong, Cofounder/co-CEO, NetCHB. Brian Org is the cofounder and co-CEO of NetCHB, which is an imports automation industry leader.  NetCHB automates compliance filings and tax payments for shippers. NetCHB was immediately profitable from day one, leveraging its founders’ existing networks and keeping operating expenses under $200 per month
  • Rosally Sapla, Founder/President, Eloqutio / POH Consulting. Rosally Sapla is the founder, Eloqutio & POH Consulting.  She helps startups fuel their early growth by attracting users, millions of dollars in investment, and crucial strategic partners. She has developed, managed and executed strategic research, communications and PR campaigns.
3:00pm-3:45pm – A3. It takes a village to build a company

Presenting information and common misinformation about starting a business entirely by themselves. Every new business person/entrepreneur is a member of a system interdependent relationships and the community they operate within. You cannot do this on your own (at a minimum you need customers). Those who are inclusive and help others find help for themselves.

  • Emil Tremblay, Co-Founder and CEO, SGNT. Emil Tremblay co-founded and is current CEO of SGNT, a Tucson based startup to develop revolutionary technologies that ensure product authenticity and integrity– SGNT solves the problems of product counterfeiting and tampering. He currently focuses upon company vision, technology, and product development.
  • Tommy Rompel, Co-Founder and COO, SGNT. Tommy Rompel co-founded and current COO at SGNT. A Tucson native, he earned his B.S. in Business Economics at the Eller College of Business. He was a small business owner prior to SGNT, and currently focuses upon business operations, sales, and marketing.
  • Jon Bickerton, Tax Shareholder, BeachFleischman. Jon Bickerton is a Tax Shareholder at BeachFleischman PC. He has provided accounting and tax services for privately held companies and not-for-profit organizations and has over a decade of public accounting experience. Jon’s focus is on tax incentives, perks, and value-add services.
  • Tony Ford. Tony Ford has over 20 years experience in business strategy, marketing, and management; and consults for businesses and investors in those areas. He is the co-founder of ArtFire.com which has helped artists sell $80 million globally. He holds an MBA in International Business, is an award-winning radio show host, and frequent national speaker.
4:00pm-4:45pm – A4. The market knows best

Learn the importance of market validation through customer feedback – focus groups, surveys, product trials etc. Join us as we explore the significance of market feedback in determining the feasibility of an idea/product. Eliminate the pitfall of creating the world’s greatest solution to a problem that only exists in the mind of the founder/inventor.

  • Amanda Holbert, President, Elegant Iron. Amanda Holbert is an award-winning serial entrepreneur and mentor. She currently serves as the President of Elegant Iron, a prototype and design metal fabrication, manufacturing business and a certified Woman Owned Small Business. She and her team overcame adversity during the recession which led to Elegant Iron to be awarded Manufacturer of the year 2011 and for Amanda to be honored with 2012 Small Business Advocate of the Year.

Track B: Prototype Validating

1:00pm-1:45pm – B1. Have the Mouse pay for building your mousetrap

This 45 minute course will focus on best practices for worthing with large, sophisticated, corporate partners.

  • Shane Reiser, The Bridge Community. Shane runs “The Bridge Community” that helps large corporations work with early-stage tech startups, and was the COO of Startup Weekend when it scaled globally. Shane also co-founded Startup Genome that mapped and measured startup ecosystems.
2:00pm-2:45pm – B2: Safe Business

Learn the importance and strategic significance of utilizing business tools as a means to protect the start-up, partners, products etc. Learn how to use MOU’s, operating agreements, patents, intellectual property, etc. Startups can fail from external market forces, but often they implode from within as the “road map” was not clearly defined and the expectations were never explained. People can lie, things written on paper typically don’t lie.

  • Raj Gangadean, Perkins Coie LLP. Raj Gangadean has extensive experience in mergers, acquisitions, reorganizations, restructurings and dispositions; joint ventures and other strategic alliances; formation and structuring of corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies; corporate finance and private offerings of securities and general business transactions and counseling.
3:00pm-3:45pm – B3. Bringing Your Idea into the Sandbox

How to utilize makerspace, incubators, and other facilities’ resources and capabilities to build your prototype.

  • Ana Greif. Ana Greif has assisted governments, universities, public and private institutions across more than twenty countries, in developing programs and policy to support business creation and expansion for over 20 years. She specializes in economic development, entrepreneurship, innovation, internationalization, and technology commercialization.
4:00pm-4:45pm – B4. Oops! Woulda, coulda, shoulda…

“Move fast! Speed is one of your main advantages over large companies” – Sam Altman. In this course, you will learn all about lean experimentation and why it is important to success. We will start with basics of experimentation and how to implement it into your company and follow up with tips and tactics on how to interpret the results and what to do with that.

  • Dave Cornelius. Dr. Dave Cornelius is an author, community builder, and coach that guide individuals and teams to increase outcomes through lean thinking and agile practices in organizations. Currently, he is the Head Innovator at KnolShare, a business accelerator and innovation enablement company, and volunteers at TechLaunch Arizona

Track C: Seed Launching

1:00pm-1:45pm – C1. Are you ready for Angel/Seed money?

What you need to be able to demonstrate in order to successfully secure that first round of outside funding.

  • Stephanie Sims. Stephanie Sims is a 2nd generation entrepreneur, speaker and author. She founded Finance-Ability that helps entrepreneurs find the right funding; while also educating and mentoring entrepreneurs in Phoenix (ASU Venture Devils, Arizona Commerce Authority Venture Ready program and Seed Spot).
  • Joann MacMaster Senior Director of Venture Development, TechLaunch Arizona. Joann MacMaster is a leader in Techlaunch Arizona which focuses upon commercialization of newly create U of A intellectual property. Her career is focused on serving the entrepreneurial community through education and hands-on start-up support.
  • Mike Sember. Mike Sember has over 40 years of global experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including serving in executive, entrepreneur, leader and mentor roles. He also has extensive public and private board experience as well as broad experience in capital raises for both established and startup companies.
2:00pm-2:45pm – C2. Leaving the Launch Pad

What it really takes to be successful when you build your business.

  • Anita Bell, Director, Arizona Center for Innovation. Anita Bell is the Director of the Arizona Center for Innovation and leads the innovation center and business incubator helping entrepreneurs transform their ideas into successful companies. She manages strategic planning, managing daily operations, and client services, developing programs, mentoring companies, fundraising and client recruitment.
  • Francine Hardaway. Francine Hardaway Ph.D. is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, mentor, and partner in Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator for growth companies in Arizona and the Bay Area. Francine has committed herself to building an entrepreneurial community in Arizona for the past two decades.
  • Gina Catalano. Gina Catalano, author, consultant, and volunteer, currently helps CEOs to improve their operations and increase the value of their business. She has over 20 years of experience leading and working with businesses and excels at integrating business development and operations.
3:00pm-3:45pm – C3. There is no “I” in Team

Building your dream team. What kind and types of people, what skills and abilities, do you need to assemble to build your business at this phase.

  • Zach Yentzer, Host, Creative City Show. Zach Yentzer is a strategic visionary focused on making Tucson a place where people and their ideas can thrive. He currently is the General Manager of Savaya Coffee Market, helps local Tucson small business grow and scale, and is the host of “The Creative City Show” that serves as a platform for conversations and topics affecting Tucson.
  • Eric Smith, Commercialization Network Manager, for TechLaunch Arizona. Eric Smith helps reveal commercial relevance of new ideas and then serves as a connector for the I.P owner to experts, opportunities, and business leaders as they are prepared for the market. He is also engaged in supporting the entrepreneurial community in Tucson.
4:00pm-4:45pm – C4. Time to tell the world!

“Growth and momentum is what a startup lives on and you always have to focus on maintaining these” – Sam Altman

In this talk, we will talk about building a culture of growth in your startup. This includes the impact that your product will play, an understanding of the differences in growth strategies and tips and tactics to effectively grow your user or customer base.

  • Rosally Sapla. Rosally Sapla is the founder, Eloqutio & POH Consulting. She helps startups fuel their early growth by attracting users, millions of dollars in investment, and crucial strategic partners. She has developed, managed and executed strategic research, communications and PR campaigns.

Track D: Cash Flow Growing

1:00pm-1:45pm – D1. What I wish I had known when I raised money
  • Shiva Planjery, Co-founder and CEO, Codelucida, Inc. Shiva Planbjery, PhD has over a decade of experience in the field of error-correction with associated publications and a patent. He has raised money to grow his company; including, grants from SBIR and NSF, angel investors, and venture capitalists.
  • Richard Austin, CEO, Reglagene. Richard Austin PhD creates new medicines that attack cancer’s weaknesses in ways that were once out of reach. Richard is a member of Tucson’s Desert Angels. He has served on the boards of several Tucson-area non-profits in the areas of healthcare, education, and the promotion of the life sciences ecosystem.
  • Tony Ford – moderator. Tony Ford has over 20 years experience in business strategy, marketing, and management; and consults for businesses and investors in those areas. He is the co-founder of ArtFire.com which has helped artists sell $80 million globally. He holds an MBA in International Business, is an award-winning radio show host, and frequent national speaker.
2:00pm-2:45pm – D2. It’s all about the Cash
  • Corey Smith – moderator. Corey Smith helps established companies to the next level or to grow an emerging company by building out executive staff and defining and executing on a strategic and tactical basis. He has run several software companies with an average annual growth rate in excess of 50%.
  • Steve Bernat, Founder and CEO, RallyUp.com. Steve Bernat is a technology entrepreneur who is motivated to create innovative products that solve real customer needs by analyzing the viability of business ideas, developing creative strategies to achieve goals, and implementing processes that exceed expectations.
  • Mary Darling – Mary Darling is the CEO and CFO of Darling Geomatics, a high tech 3D land surveying company headquartered at the U of A Tech Park here in Tucson. Mary is accountable for the financing, marketing, strategy, human resources, public relations and creation of a cutting-edge company culture. Mary started Darling Geomatics in 1994 as a sole proprietor. Her husband, Richard Darling, joined her in 1996 and they incorporated. She and her team have grown the company into a multimillion dollar technology company with projects in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Emirate, Mexico, Canada and Honduras as well as virtually all fifty states here in the USA.
3:00pm-3:45pm – D3. Why share the Pie?
  • Jim Cantrell, CEO and Co-Founder, Vector. Jim Cantrell is an entrepreneur and expert in space systems and has 30 years of experience in the aerospace and high technology industries. Jim was part of the SpaceX founding team and served as the company’s first Vice President of Business Development. He also founded two other successful aerospace and automotive engineering companies and has held CEO positions.
  • Curtis Gunn, Chairman, Desert Angels. Curtis Gunn is Chairman of the Desert Angels, an angel investment group of accredited investors in Tucson. As an angel investor, he has invested in over 40 different companies. He currently serves on the board of Startup Tucson and was formerly on the board of the Angel Capital Association.
4:00pm-4:45pm – D4. Cash Flow Growing – Innovation, Growth, Customer: Elvis has left the building!
  • Hugh Garvey, Founder, EOITech. Hugh Garvey’s company EOITech (which was recently acquired), offers a range of services to enhance the performance of image sensors. His experience covers a wide range of roles including, manufacturing, sales, engineering, quality assurance and general manager.


Showcase | 5–9pm

  • Networking and Mixer 5:00pm-6:00pm
  • Keynote Speaker: Cristie Street: Co-founder of Nextrio fifteen years ago and serves as the managing partner of this Tucson-based IT consulting firm of more than 40 IT professionals. With Street at the helm, Nextrio has been recognized by Inc.
  • 5000 as one of the fastest growing businesses in the US and recently was one of two Arizona-based companies to rank in the top 500 of IT service providers worldwide.
  • Mainstage Pitch Competition: The Mainstage Pitch Competition is part of IdeaFunding’s Showcase: a celebratory event with networking, a Keynote Speaker, and awards. Six startups selected from the Morning Competition will compete for the Mainstage Competition prizes, including a grand prize of $25,000.
  • Community Awards and Recognitions:
    • The Thomas R. Brown Award was created in honor of Tom Brown, the founder of Burr-Brown Corporation. One of Tucson’s first major high-tech companies, Burr-Brown was acquired by Texas Instruments in 2000 for $7 Billion. The Entrepreneurship Award is given in recognition of the recipient’s commitment and contribution to entrepreneurial growth and excellence.
    • Larry Hecker and Sherry Hoskinson Community Builder Award: To be awarded each year to an individual or organization that is committed to building bright futures in the Tucson community.
    • Tom Brown Jr. Award / Rising Entrepreneur Award: In special recognition of a individual exemplifying innovation in our region.
  • Grand Prize Award Announcement: The grand prize of $25,000 will be announced and awarded to the entrepreneurs(s) with the winning pitch