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GCU incubator space helping startup companies grow

GCU students Andrew Flowers (left) and Connor Keene (right) launched a digital marketing company called Greatr Media. (KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — Grand Canyon University has a new incubator space for startup companies.

It’s called Canyon Ventures Center and is located just east of the GCU main campus in Phoenix. It opened in August and already houses more than 30 startups.

Some are run by students like Weston Smith. He’s the CEO and founder of Lux Longboards, which sells electric longboards that have some of the same battery technology found in Tesla cars.

“These boards have been designed here at GCU,” he said. “We work with manufacturers to get our parts cast, and then we bring them here to GCU and employ students to build the boards from the ground up.”

Smith said having office space at Canyon Ventures allows him to have access to industry leaders whom have helped him grow his business.

Connor Keene, a junior at GCU, co-founded a digital marketing company called Greatr Media that’s also based out of Canyon Ventures. He and co-founder Andrew Flowers launched the company last year.

“We’re college students so we were working out of our dorm rooms and in any conference room we could find,” he said. “So to have a base where we can come, we can invite clients, and we can bring in more employees and students to do contracting work for us – that’s just been incredible.”

The 30,000-square-foot facility offers rent-free spaces to startup companies as long as they hire GCU students.

Randy Gibb, dean of the Colangelo College of Business at GCU, said about 70 GCU students have been hired by companies located in Canyon Ventures. They work in a wide range of positions, including marketing, app development and customer service.

Gibb said getting GCU students to work for these startups makes it possible for them to get “invaluable real-world experience” before they graduate.

“We want to get students jobs, and we want to help entrepreneurs find success with their business,” he said.

Companies at Canyon Ventures have access to trainings that teach them how to generate revenue as well as cyberexperts. They also can connect to Canyon Angles, an investment organization out of GCU that helps companies find potential investors.

“The goal is for these companies to do so well that they launch in the West Valley,” Gibb said.

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