The Phoenix Tech Community

Much of the technology industry’s history lies in Silicon Valley. Some other areas recognized for their technology communities include the Greater New York area, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, Pittsburgh, etc.

[Wired Magazine: 10 Top Tech Towns]

Phoenix rarely receives a second of thought when people list technology cities. Many people think or say “Nothing is going on in Phoenix.” The frightening part is hearing people in Phoenix say that.

Reasons why Phoenix has a weak tech community

The Phoenix metropolitan area is very spread out. It is difficult for people to get by without a car. It is difficult for those who have cars to go out and meet people. How many people do you meet in your car on your one hour commute each way to and from work? None.

It is difficult to meet and stay in touch (in person) with many people in Phoenix, so most people in Phoenix seem to have fewer close friends (compared to cities like San Francisco or New York City). You have to go out of your way to attend group meet-ups. Usually way out of your way. How many people are willing to drive an extra hour after a long work day to stay out late with other geeks, then drive another hour to get home? Not many.

The internet makes it easy for people to communicate, but it is difficult to communicate with people you don’t know exist.

Why it is getting better

I have only lived in Phoenix for a few years, so it is difficult to compare current trends with those in the past. However, in the last 1-2 years, I have noticed much change for the better in the tech community.

For those who don’t know, Phoenix is the 5th most-populated city in the United States[1] with 1,512,986 residents. The Phoenix metropolitan area is the 13th most-populated MSA in the United States[2] with 4,179,427 residents. The Phoenix metropolitan area contains a number of other highly-populated cities, such as Mesa (#38 most-populated city, with 447,541 residents), Glendale (#72, 246,531), Chandler (#76, 240,595), Scottsdale (#79, 231,127), Gilbert (#115, 191,517), Tempe (#134, 169,712), and Peoria (#168, 142,024).

My favorite statistic is regarding the Phoenix metropolitan area’s growth rate during the last 7 years: 28.52%. That is a much higher growth rates than most of the other large metropolitan areas in the country.

[1 – Wikipedia: List of United States cities by population]
[2 – Wikipedia: List of United States metropolitan areas]

How many Phoenix-based bloggers do you know? Most people would answer that with a very low number. As I mentioned above, many Phoenicians are unaware of all the things going on in Phoenix., a site maintained by Erica Lucci, currently contains links to 136 Phoenix-based blogs. The number is growing and efforts like ReadPhoenix should help connect people within the Phoenix community.

Meeting attendance seems to be gradually growing at groups like Refresh/Refactor/Refocus Phoenix, Social Media Club, etc. The number of meet-ups taking place around the valley seems to be increasing as well. It is still difficult for people active in the community and willing to attend events to find out where and when they are. In an effort to connect with more people in the Phoenix area and share with them the events I find out about, I have been searching for and connecting with Twitter users who have Phoenix-area cities listed in their Twitter profiles.

There are also quite a few conferences being organized in the area. If you haven’t heard of these, check them out: PodCampAZ, BarCamp Phoenix, Desert Code Camp, AZ Entrepreneurship Conference, etc.

Right now, Phoenix has a large, but spread-out and loose, technology community. The goal needs to be connecting all the separate threads. It’s essentially a marketing problem. We need to reach and mobilize people who are probably willing to meet up, but have no good ways of hearing about local events.

11 Replies to “The Phoenix Tech Community”

  1. Thanks for an interesting post.

    Some comments: ReadPhoenix may have 100+ listings, but not all are tech. Many are graphics design or marketing focused. The site does not make it easy to know what the various blogs are about. You pretty much have to look at each one to see for yourself. I’d guess there are about a dozen that are about tech (i.e., software/hardware development).

    Thanks for the mention of Refactor Phoenix. Attendance at each meeting varies, but it seems to be tied to expectations of a formal presentation. Personal experience tells me that very few Valley geeks want to hang out in the evening for the sake of geek socializing. They will come if they think they will get a free lecture that might help them in their job, but otherwise it’s a tough draw. And even fewer geeks are willing to step up and offer to give a presentation.

    I’m believing that a big difference between here and places such as Seattle or S.F. is that Phoenicians are far more passive, far more interested in being spectators than doers.

    I’d love to be proven wrong. There’s some level of frequent socializing in the Web design/Web marketing crowd, but for pure tech geekery (that is, people who write actual software or build actual hardware) things are pretty glum.

    Unless your event has a sales/marketing/entrepreneur spin (Refresh, Social Media Club), or an ass-load of free, job-related talks (CodeCamp), the geeks stay home.

  2. Brian,

    I think you’re spot on. As a young guy with a web based business out of Tempe, it’s hard to connect with others around the valley in the same industry. Even at ASU, where I spend my days, there is not an organized bunch of internet media/technology junkies. This post is great, and I thank you for posting links to these other great sites for meetups in Phoenix.

  3. It is also due to the fact that Arizona has a pretty weak education system. If you look at the Top10 places list in the Wired article, you will see fairly affluent and well educated populations.

  4. Reading this I cannot help but feel a little bit guilty. While I’ve tried before to be at least somewhat involved in the local tech community, my personal reality means it’s hard to do it when it competes with family (kids and equally busy spouse) and work. I definitely appreciate very much the effort that several people put in making the community work (JamesB) though. In the meantime my involvement must remain “virtual”.

  5. An excellent post.

    As you mentioned Phoenix geographic limitations have always been a problem socially, but these days I can form communities with people around the globe. Around phoenix should be easy. It just takes somebody doing the outreach work to get the ball rolling.

    “We need to reach and mobilize people who are probably willing to meet up, but have no good ways of hearing about local events.”

    One thing that I’ve noticed recently is that people seem to be reaching out via twitter, a couple people have started following me recently ( and jumped out and me, and I just realized you’re following me…).

    Tie that twitter account to a blog and I click through read the blog and subscribe and now a weak connection is formed. Read the blog long enough and maybe I’ll comment (like now!) and the connections get stronger.

    Blog posts like this are a great start: I’m going to refactor phoenix this month because I just realized it exists.

    Keep it up, and I’m sorry I missed donuts with you all today.

    (For the Record: I like video on flickr)


  6. Great post man. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. There are a number of tech companies here and a lot of people that are interested in this stuff.

    Distance is definitely an issue with this one. Another issue is timely notice of events. I dont need to know 6 months out when something is happening, but at least 2 weeks is helpful.

  7. Good post! I didn’t start coming to the Phx Refresh meetings until January 08 (thanks to @chuckreynolds) – glad I got involved, as it’s brought me a few paying/non-paying projects that have been really fun to work on…and I’ve met a ton of new people I can n3rd out with! LOL

  8. Great post… on a topic that we were lamenting about at work recently. I’ve only just begun to learn about the various web/design/tech groups that meet up here in the valley (thanks to Twitter)–and now I’m looking forward to getting involved with at least 1 or 2 of them. Inza is just down the road from me, so Refresh will be an easy one to make.

  9. I’m pretty new in Phx (1 year and a half) and I want to know people from my industry (web developers and entrepreneurs).
    I just found out about this website and the rest of them…maybe I’ll attend some meetings too.

    Thanks for the info.

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