Some like them hot. Just ask investor and advisor Rick Gibson

Rick Gibson ( photo by Mark Goldstein/IRG copyright 2010 all rights reserved)All the HOT companies are in the Silicon Valley – Right?  Of course not.  Great ideas and great entrepreneurs come from everywhere.  Luckily so do strong investor partners and advisors and a great example is Rick Gibson, Managing Director of HOTventures, a “mentor capital fund” for the Southwest U.S., which invests in and advises fast-growth companies, specializing in Information Technology, BioSciences, GreenTech and Media. As an investor and entrepreneurial activist, he’s totally immersed in early-stage growth companies…finding them, making them great, and helping them reach that magical moment, a liquidity events.  Rick has been an investor, advisor or board member in:  Avisere, The Book Patch, Bourque Industries, CopperKey, Flypaper, Funding Universe, GridCoNet, High Throughput Genomics, IVIS, Medipacs, MedSphere, MDS VetInfo, MojoVideo, MSDx, Octopi, Real Time Companies, Regenesis, StrongWatch, USU2India, Virtual Learning Technologies, World Wide Wheat and Zero Waste Wine. He was a limited partner in Solstice Capital II (one of the largest venture capital funds in Arizona) and is a shareholder in Bill Gross’ Idealab.

Rick is also part of the panel of investors who will joining us at AZEC10, the fifth annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference on November 17, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The annual investor’s panel is a perennial conference favorite along with keynotes from national thought leaders and local CEOs who will share their lessons from along the growth path.  (To see more about all the AZEC10 speakers click here.)  

As part of our continuing series on who you will meet at AZEC10, I asked Rick a few questions and this is what he had to share…

JKW:  How do you see your role in AZ’s entrepreneurial eco-system?

RG:  My firm HOTventures builds fast-growth companies.   Throughout AZ, I serve as investor, fundraiser, board member, mentor, coach, speaker and deal guy.  I am constantly am looking for awesome companies, and then acting as a catalyst to help them succeed.

JKW:  How long has  your business been in AZ and how has it  grown?

RG:  HOTventures is now 10 years old.  It began as an opportunity which looked easy then.  We began with zero assets and created potentially millions of dollars of value.  Time will tell.   Call me back in about two years.

JKW:  That’s pretty impressive growth. Who helped you along the growth path?

RG:  Several people.  Often it was about finding the right deals at the right time.  I have been lucky to work with some really amazing people.  As you know, I have a long history with Bill Gross, founder of Idealab, then Harry George, managing director of Solstice Capital.  I was able to be part of the Desert Angels from the very first meeting, and served on its board and screening committee.  I was lucky to get involved with Invest Southwest and meet lots of AZ’s best entrepreneur’s over the years.

JKW:  You lead your own team and support the leaders of your portfolio companies.  Have you ever gotten stuck?  What was your “reset” ?

RG:  I am forever finding major revelations.  Since my role is to make difficult things happen, getting stuck happens regularly.  Often we find a way, sometimes we don’t.  Once in a while, I get deep into something and it fails.  I had one a couple of years ago, and I am still fixing it.

JKW:   What do you plan to achieve between AZEC10 and AZEC11?

RG:  Meet ten awesome entrepreneurs and try to help some of them.

JKW: WHY did you choose to support OTEF and AZEC10?  Why will you be there?

RG:  There are rare occasions like this to meet entrepreneurs, at this stage in the game, who are looking to build themselves.  I can’t wait.

JKW: And I can’t wait either.  Every time  I am around Rick and the other great leaders who join us at AZEC I learn something new.   They share lots on event day and all through the year.  For example, here is a quote from the HOTventures website – some  great rules to live by for companies of every size…

Rules To Live By

It is good to trust, but much better to know (not just to trust)

Focus on what should be done, not just what you can do. Then put all effort into how you can do it. While this is much harder, it not only provides the best solution for your customers, but the biggest deterrence to your competition

It is not as simple as knowing what to do. For example, most people know what foods are necessary for an ideal diet and how much they should exercise. However, most lack the discipline to actually perform to this knowledge. Knowledge is good, but the ability to execute is much better.

(Rick Gibson – HOT Ventures)

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear more from Rick and our other great panelists, CEOs and thought leaders at AZEC10 on November 17th. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned.  There will be more AZEC10 behind the scenes glimpses between now and the conference.


Joan Koerber-Walker

Note:  Joan Koerber Walker serves as Chairman of the Board of The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship foundation,which is the host organization and sole beneficiary of AZEC10.  To learn more about OTEF, visit

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An Entrepreneurial Journey from Film to Fields to Fine Wine

Entrepreneurs come from many fields and many places.  This year at AZEC10 we have a special treat in store for you, the chance to hear from an entrepreneur who came from half-way around the world to create a home and a business in Arizona.  Entrepreneurs are story tellers, risk takers, and creators who take a vision and work together with others to create something magical. The same can be said of film makers and wine makers.  You might enjoy this video as  international film maker and winemaker Sam Pillsbury shares a bit about how he feels about Phoenix and his journey from film to fields to fine wine.

As part of the ongoing series about the people you will meet at AZEC10, I got a chance to ask Sam a few questions about his journey and his experience.  He will be sharing more from the main stage at the conference – but as they say in the world of wine,  sometimes all it takes is a taste to get you coming back for more.

As part of the ongoing series about the people you will meet at AZEC10, I got a chance to ask Sam a few questions about his journey and his experience.  He will be sharing more from the main stage at the conference – but as they say in the world of wine,  sometimes all it takes is a taste to get you coming back for more.

JKW:  How do you see your role in AZ’s entrepreneurial eco-system?

Source: http://www.PillsburyWine.comSP: I grew up in a country, New Zealand, which evolved from seeing itself as a colony of Great Britain to being a country proud to produce great things itself, which included eventually, among other things, wine and movies.   When I first moved to Phoenix, I found a state which still thought that if it was made here, it was not good.  Everyone wanted to live in a Tuscan mansion, which has nothing to do with the Arizona desert and climate.  ABSURD!  I wanted to go against that trend and make a premium world class wine that was 100% original and unique, completely grown and made here.  Ten years ago it was an incredible struggle to be taken seriously, but that has changed remarkably in the last three or four years. I planted my first vineyard in 2000 in Cochise Country and started my own wine label in 2006.

JKW:  Neither the art of film making or the art of wine making are quick or simple processes. As the leader you need both patience and resolve.  Did you ever get stuck?  What was your “reset” ?

SP: I have gotten stuck in the movie making process.  It’s partly due to not being in control, like with the movies I made in the USA.  With the wine venture, I started it because I love wine, but I also set it up so that I could always be in control.  This way my work can not be compromised and I am 100% responsible for what I have produced. That does not mean that I don’t need a great team.  A number of people have helped me and the company along the growth path including Rob Dunaway, Bob Vera, Al Buhl (a former wine partner in Dos Cabezas) and now my executive director Lindsey Higginson.

JKW:  The Pillsbury Wine Company is gaining recognition and high marks as a rising star.  What is your goal for 2011?

SP: I want to make the best wine in America and increase production by 50% in the coming year.


Sam will be sharing more of his story at AZEC10 on November 17th.  Now that the stage is set, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to meet him and hear what comes next in the Pillsbury Wine Company story

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned.  There will be more AZEC10 behind the scenes glimpses between now an November 17th,

Joan Koerber-Walker

Note:  Joan Koerber Walker serves as Chairman of the Board of The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship foundation,which is the host organization and sole beneficiary of AZEC10.  To learn more about OTEF, visit

Success is about who you know and how you work together

Who you might meet at AZEC10


One day, during my tenure as CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association, my friend Ben Smith at Lavidge and I were chatting about how to better connect with business owners across Arizona.  One of Ben’s suggestions was to meet “Gelie”. [ghel-ee] According to Ben she was a networking powerhouse.  So meet her I did. 

Fast forward a few years, and today Gelie runs Arizona’s largest business networking organization.  And they have grown to that position in only TWO YEARS.  As a matter of fact, celebrated its second birthday on October 1st and is now the state’s largest networking organization with over 12,000 members. 

This year OTEF, the host organization for AZEC10 has teamed up with Gelie and the team at to spread the word across the community about all the great speakers and business owners that will be coming to the Logoconference on November 17, 2010. (If you have not registered yet you can do so here.)

AZEC is about sharing ideas, connecting great people, and growing our businesses.  Since this also is exactly how Gelie built her business, I decided to ask her a few questions.

JKW:  Why did you create

Gelie:  When I first started networking, about 3 years ago, I quickly realized that there was a big gap in the market. There is a big networking community in Phoenix, but it was extremely segregated and there wasn’t a central place where networkers could come together to get information on events. I would try to plan out my networking strategy for the month and it was nearly impossible because I would find out about events the day before or after they had already happened.  As a hobby, I created a calendar to share with all my ‘networking friends’ and the rest is history.

JKW:  The theme of AZEC10 is The Great Reset.   Did you ever get stuck?  What was your “reset” ?

I feel like I get ‘stuck’ all the time because there is so much going on at once, it gets difficult to prioritize and figure out which projects to focus on at the moment. And even when I do prioritize, I get pulled off the projects that need my time for various uncontrollable reasons. My ‘reset’ is to take a step back, ‘clear off my desk’ so to speak and start over. I will literally take 3 giant post-it posters and markers and will color code my projects, action items, etc. I try to do this at least every 30 days so I can keep myself on track with the bigger projects that we’re working on.  Each post-it has different information on it to keep me organized.

JKW:  How has grown since birth?

Gelie: has evolved in a number of ways. For one…we are already on our third version of the site. I’m sure as the years go by, the look and feel will keep getting updated. We also offer many more tools to our members, such as the Networking Passport membership. Once our members sign up for this program, they can attend many of the other group’s events for free. This program is very popular and we are constantly evolving it to keep adding value for our members. For me this is a total labor of love and 100% feels like I’m raising a child.  I always tell people that I feel like I have a 2 year old at home. I can definitely leave it for a while with a babysitter…but it still needs its mommy.

JKW:  Your company has has some amazing growth in 2 years.  Who helped you along the growth path?

Gelie:  I was extremely lucky to have worked with the Lucky Napkin team when I first quit my day job. By working with successful entrepreneurs, I got to learn invaluable lessons about taking an idea and turning it into reality and then a successful business. I learned more during that time than I knew what to do with and many of the lessons are still surfacing daily. I’ve also been very fortunate to have the support of the entire Phoenix business community. There would be way too many groups and individuals to list here, but the support has been overwhelming and I’m thankful for it because my core purpose has always been to unite people.

JKW:  What do you plan to achieve by’s NEXT birthday?

Gelie:  Oh-oh…I’m afraid to answer this one!  I think next year is going to be about growth, but also about putting padding on the ‘skeleton’ that we have already built out. I’d really like to add more value to our quarterly Signature Events as well as fully build out the Networking Passport program. Both of these tasks will require a tremendous amount of time and energy, so if I can accomplish those two goals, I will be very pleased!

JKW:  WHY did you choose to support OTEF and AZEC10?  Why will you be there?

AZEC10_LogoGelie:  We are really excited about participating with AZEC10 because it’s a great event that supports a great foundation. From an educational stand point, the speakers that come out to this conference are fantastic and from a promotional stand point, we are always trying to get in front of different circles in the business community. This will give us a great opportunity to support OTEF, get some more tips on how to ‘reset’ and get in front of people.

JKW:  And knowing Gelie, that’s exactly what she will be doing. Sharing ideas, making new contacts, and finding new ways to build her business to even greater heights before its third birthday.

I hope you enjoyed “meeting” Gelie.  She is a great example of the people YOU can meet at AZEC10. Between now and November 17th will be sharing more looks behind the scenes at the conference – and don’t forget to register before October 16th to get the $25 early bird discount.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Chairman of the Board of OTEF, the host organization for

So I asked him – why did YOU get involved?

Part 2 in the Count Down to AZEC10 blog series.

Dave CookeI have a passion for people and organizations that make a difference.  So when Francine Hardaway recruited me over 5 years ago to serve as Chairman of the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation and work with the team to help at-risk individuals find a path to economic self sufficiency through entrepreneurship, I had a hard time saying no.  Recently, I had the chance to chat with another executive and entrepreneur who also has stepped forward and contributed his time and talents to the OTEF cause.  He is known around the valley as “The Sales Cooke.”  I know how Francine convinced me to get involved but I was curious about what motivated  Dave Cooke to donate his time and talents to  OTEF and the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences.  So I asked him, “Why did YOU get involved?”  Here is what he said…

I enjoy and appreciate OTEF’s commitment to our community.  Everyone needs help.  But not  everyone can simply purchase support resources.  I enjoy being part of organizations and businesses that recognize this and provide a solution by serving as a committed resource without always being “paid” to do so.  Education and experience are gifts that can and must be shared.

And, the great thing is, sharing is exactly what he has been doing.  Last year, Dave spoke at AZEC09, sharing his decades of experience with hundreds of entrepreneurs who were looking for ways to grow their businesses more effectively in a challenging economy.  This year, for AZEC10, Dave went one step further and volunteered to serve as sponsorship chair for the conference, donating not just words but also putting the actions behind them.

As a consultant and business owner, Dave works with other business owners and business leaders to help them with their revenue related challenges.  Together they re-define selling strategies and then helps educate the sales team and other parts of the organization so that the strategies are successful and effective.  Since he answered my first question, I decided to ask a few more.

The AZEC10 theme this year is The Great Reset.  As a leader – did you ever get stuck?  What was your “reset” ?

Dave:  Who doesn’t get stuck?  I rely on the power of my best connections and resources.  Over the years, I have built a very strong based of trusted and experienced advisors who, as business leaders and successful entrepreneurs, have traveled the road I am on.  When I get stuck, they get me unstuck.

How long has you been working with entrepreneurs in the valley?

Dave:  I have been in the Valley nearly four years.  As a person passionate about helping others realize their objectives, I am confident I have made a difference.  I am active in several associations, make myself available as an advisory resource, and have enjoyed a business relationship with many companies in the in the greater Phoenix area.   Having only known two people when I got here and now sporting a contact base of over 1200, I think I have made an impact.

One of OTEF’s key areas of focus is mentoring.  Who helped you along the growth path?

Dave:  In every position, at every company, I had one mentor who taught me something.  I continue to find great mentors and advisors.  Of course, I have always looked up for those resources and have been willing to be vulnerable to ask for their help.  Too many people are afraid to ask, show fear, or expose failure.  Why not?  There are plenty of people in this world who have experienced those same things and are willing, eager to share their knowledge.  Simply asking for help and be willing to listen, learn, and take action will encourage those people to help you. 

Will you be at AZEC10?  Why? AZEC10_Logo

Dave:  There is a great energy and information there.  The speakers always provide new insights and information.  And, these are nationally known, prominent, and powerful speakers who offer tremendous credibility their stories.  I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

What do you plan to achieve between AZEC10 and AZEC11?

Dave:  My mission is the same mission I encourage local business owners everywhere – diversify your business portfolio across multiple market segments and multiple geographies.  There are many business segments and geographies that are experiencing growth.  Many of those are not in Phoenix.  My mission is to go back to diversifying my customer base in SE Michigan, Bay Area CA and Phoenix so I am not caught up in the economic churns that sometimes limits opportunity in a particular area.

I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the people behind OTEF and AZEC10.  We’re just getting started as we count down to the Fifth Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference, AZEC10 this November 17th. And don’t forget – early registration discounts end after October 15th.  Register today to save $25 off the general registration fee.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker    

Entrepreneurs, It Is Time to Hit the “Reset”

We all know how it feels, that endless feeling of frustration as the processing icon spins on our computer screen or smart phone.  To get things going again,  you have to hit the reset button or spend your life in limbo.  Perhaps that feeling of endless limbo has been happening at the office too?  You feel like you are spinning and spinning, but your business is not moving forward .  Looking around, you see others waiting for change in their businesses too.  Unfortunately, businesses and economies do not come with an easy  to find reset button.  But, that does not mean there is no hope.

This November, The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, is again hosting Arizona’s Annual Entrepreneurship Conference to support the organization’s mission of  providing training and support to help at-risk youth and adults improve their lives by creating and growing entrepreneurial ventures.

AZEC10_LogoThis year’s conference, AZEC10 – The Fifth Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference, will focus on what new entrepreneurs and established business owners alike can do to hit the ‘reset’ button in their businesses and get things growing again.   The full day conference will be held on Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at the Desert Willow Conference Center in Phoenix from 8 AM to 7 PM. 

Combining national thought leaders and local CEOs in a forum for best practices, networking, and collaboration has been a hallmark of the conference since its inception in 2006 and this year’s conference is no exception with an all star line up including Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Dave McClure, Technology Analyst Jeremiah Owyang, marketing and online media expert Brain Solis, Flowtown founder Ethan Bloch combined with local leaders from Callaman Ventures, Arizona Angels, Beanstalk CFO, Infusionsoft, Kolbe Corp, EcoEdge,, Pay Your Family First, Brain Savers, Gangplank, and Pillsbury Winery.

There are even early registration discounts (though October 15th).  Tickets are available on the conference website at  Members of the community can also get involved by choosing to sponsor a student or support  OTEF and AZEC10 through donations and sponsorships. 

How it Started

Five years ago, this all started when a small group of entrepreneurs came together to help others who were less fortunate.  Since that day, hundreds of entrepreneurs have come together to connect, share ideas, launch new ventures, and apply innovative ideas to existing ones.  It’s our way of hitting the reset button TOGETHER.

As Chairman of the Board of OTEF, I have had a front row seat each year as well as access behind the scenes at the conference.  I’ve met so many great people, picked up some great ideas, and also seen the difference that the money raised at the conference makes throughout the year. So, from now to November 17th, here at the CorePurpose blog, I will share some stories with you about this year’s speakers and  some of the people you might meet at the conference.  I also have a story to tell about some of the organizations and community leaders who, through their support, have made this all possible.  They each have a story to tell and a tip to share and you will find them right here AND of course at AZEC10.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…


P.S. You might want to subscribe to the email or RSS feed so you don’t miss the great ideas they have to share.


Get ready for lift off – its time to Defy Gravity

When I was a young girl I loved the book Peter Pan by James Barrie.  It was not because Peter would never grow up – I could not wait to grow up.  No the cool thing was that because Peter believed that he could, he could fly!  And, with the help of a bit of pixie dust, he could help others fly too.

Well now, at long last, I am grown up.  Actually I have been grown up for a while and my days are spent in the business world, not an imaginary Neverland.

This September, I have been keeping my promise to share an inside look at some great new business books. We stared things off with The Recipe: A fable for leaders and teams by Amilya Antonetti – a fictional lesson in leadership, followed up by a great book full of real life leadership examples, Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton, PhD out of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.   Then we shifted gears and explored the question Are You Ready To Be An Entrepreneur with Marty Zwilling.  All of these books have great tips for leaders, entrepreneurs and organizations, but the stories take place at right here on the ground.

Now for a peek a a new book that is specifically designed to help you and your business rise to new heights, Rebel Brown’s new book – Defy Gravity.

For a bit of fun, my friends at Metro Studios helped me put together a short video review of the book for Rebel – take a look…


(Can’t see the video?  Click here to watch on YouTube.)

I’m not the only one who did a little bit of video for our favorite rebel, lots of her friends got into the act.  To see the video montage, click here.

So what’s Rebel’s secret for defying gravity and helping your business take off?  First she starts with a great analogy between aero dynamics and business flight.  According to Rebel, “We either climb higher or we crash and burn.  The status quo does not cut it any more.”  The next section in the book dives deep into the sources of gravity – the things that hold us down followed up with the things we must think about and do to achieve high velocity growth and more importantly, to sustain it.

So if you are like me and have always wanted to fly – you might want to give your business a lift, and check out Defy Gravity.  In a world where good enough isn’t good enough anymore, Rebel Brown has pulled together the right strategies, tips and thought provoking advice to help your company soar. If you and your team are ready to defy gravity – this book will get you started.  Don;t just take my word for it – here are a few gravity defying tips from Rebel Brown…


(Can’t see the player?  Click here to watch Rebel’s message on YouTube.)

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

PS.  Rebel has a special offer of a free 80 page workbook she is sharing with friends that buy the book on launch day, September 14, 2010.  This is the same workbook she uses with clients, realigned with a more general business perspective in mind.  This Workbook will help you apply the lessons of Defy Gravity in your own businesses – so you can breakout and soar to profitable and sustainable growth.   To learn more, click here .  (NOTE:  this link is live ONLY on September 14, 2010)

Bridging the gap between academics and reality

This September at the CorePurpose Business Blog, I am highlighting some great business books we grown ups can take advantage of as the kids head back to school.  At the beginning of the month I shared a peek into Amilya Antonetti’s The Recipe: A fable for leaders and teams and Professor Robert Sutton’s Good Boss, Bad Boss two books that share great stories about leadership in their own unique way. Continue reading