On behalf of Invest Southwest, thank you, Tom Curzon, for your leadership and service on the Board of Directors from 2007-2016. Tom’s contributions have fostered the entire Arizona startup ecosystem. Tom is a martial arts master, so he brings that discernment to the table. He has been the connective-tissue on the Board and is well known for his leadership and promoting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state of Arizona. And, during my 10+ years career of Invest Southwest, Tom has never gone without a beard!
Karen: How long have you been involved in Invest Southwest, and how many years on the BOD?
Tom: In the mid-90s, in connection with sponsorship by our firm, Osborn Maledon, I first became involved in, what was then, the Arizona Venture Capital Conference. My involvement began with the executive committee in the 1990s, and then I became Chairman for 2006. That was the year the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce exited as our administrator. We used the opportunity to conduct strategic planning that resulted in the name change to Invest Southwest. The mission was updated to connect investors and our most promising companies (mainly early stage), and we formally created the nonprofit corporation to house the conference and our activities. As part of that, we created the formal board of directors, and I was one of the initial directors appointed, serving for 10 years.
Karen: How did you/your organization become involved in Invest Southwest?
Tom: I believe our firm, Osborn Maledon, was one of the original sponsors going back to 1992.
Karen: What did you learn from your experience serving on the Invest Southwest BOD?
Tom: The experience has been super rewarding because we live the mission of building connections in our ecosystem. I enjoy that immensely, especially in meeting new, interesting entrepreneurs and their startups.
Karen: What is your fondest memory of serving on the Invest Southwest BOD?
Tom: Probably the whole process of becoming Chairman only to have the Chamber promptly quit, and then taking advantage of the situation to create our own future. That was fun.
Karen: What benefits are there to serving on the Invest Southwest BOD?
Tom: The primary benefits of serving on the Board of Directors for Invest Southwest is connecting with other great people who share the common goal of making the Arizona startup ecosystem great—and the corresponding opportunity to do just that.
Karen: What has been the most significant change for Invest Southwest since you were involved with Invest Southwest?
Tom: The most significant change has been the combination of the immense success the Arizona Commerce Authority has had through the Arizona Innovation Challenge business plan competition (now having had more than 1,000 unique companies go through the process), the resulting visibility we have had on those 1,000+ companies, and Invest Southwest’s incredibly valuable partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority in pivoting into and executing Venture Madness, plus our now year-round mission of connecting our most promising companies and investors.
Karen: How can others become engaged in serving with Invest Southwest?
Tom: Hold up their hands and ask “how can I help”.
Karen: What is your number one piece of advice to someone considering serving on the Invest Southwest BOD?
Tom: Be committed and engage. We need the help and the passion committed folks bring to the party.
Karen: Any other fun or interesting facts about you that we could share?
Tom: Many folks might be surprised to know I’m a martial arts master—just looking at me, they probably think I just kick around investment deals.
Tom Curzon is co-leader of Osborn Maledon. He serves as outside general counsel to emerging, growth-oriented companies and on entrepreneurial transactions. An integral component of Tom’s practice is his active leadership in Arizona’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Currently, Tom served on the Board of Directors of Invest Southwest from 2007-2016 and is a key leader in Venture Madness.
Since spring of 2011, Karen Katzorke has served as Executive Director of the Invest Southwest. Prior to this role, she was Program Specialist for the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, and she worked with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce with a focus on the Arizona Venture Capital Conference. She is experienced with early to mid-stage life science and technology entrepreneurs, assisting companies with access to capital and other expansion and growth needs.
Are you ready to help propagate the Arizona startup scene? Invest Southwest is currently accepting applications through June 16, 2016, for BOD nominations. For information and application click here.