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Startup Tucson Awarded $420,000 under EDA SPRINT Challenge to Help Business Pivot After COVID.

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Startup Tucson, a local 501(c)3 working to support entrepreneurs and small businesses, was awarded $420,000 by the U.S. Economic Development Administration as part of their recent SPRINT Challenge. The challenge was launched by the EDA to support the efforts of regional support organizations to help their communities respond to the challenges created by COVID through entrepreneurship and innovation.

Startup Tucson’s project will address Tucson’s need for business stabilization and job growth by providing technical assistance for growth-ready companies that are seeking to pivot or expand their existing business models. The funding, composed of federal dollars and a local match from the University of Arizona FORGE at Roy Place, will support the development of a new Media and Design Lab in the heart of downtown Tucson within the Arizona FORGE. The Media and Design Lab will provide a wide range of equipment, software, and subject matter experts to help local companies create rich media content and prototype new products to thrive in the new digital economy, unlocking their economic potential for growth. Additionally, the project will provide businesses with technical-assistance and skills training within the areas of e-commerce and productization and connect them with a statewide digital Commercialization Mentor Network in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority.

“We were motivated to secure this funding because so many of the entrepreneurs we worked with through the pandemic were finding opportunities online, but were missing some critical infrastructure to truly accelerate their business. With this grant we are able to provide not only equipment and tools, but also expertise and education to help them level-up and thrive in the post-pandemic economy.” Dre Thompson, EVP Startup Tucson.

“Arizona FORGE at Roy Place is happy to be a key partner and supporter of this project and work alongside Startup Tucson to bring these new tools to our community. Local entrepreneurs are critical for our region and ensuring they have the type of support they need to grow their operations will set our city up for a faster recovery post-COVID.” Brian Ellerman, Founding Director, Arizona FORGE.

Ultimately, the goal of the project is for participating businesses to learn not only how to respond to the current economic crisis but also be prepared for and become more resilient should any future crises arise. As a result, it is anticipated Tucson will see increased business revenues and job replacement. The program is free for companies, but will require an application. The program targets established companies who are ready to start to hire additional employees once they have increased their cash-flow using the program tools. In total, the grant will support 60 companies to receive intensive training, tools, and mentoring. Construction of the Media & Design lab will begin in May 2021 and the project will begin accepting companies into the program in Summer 2021. To learn more about the program and sign-up to be notified of open applications, visit the Startup Tucson website at


Startup Tucson is 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to transform our region’s economy through entrepreneurship and education. Startup Tucson executes this mission by providing education and culture building programs and events to grow a high-impact entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem. You can find information about the organization and upcoming opportunities to engage at For questions or comments, please reach out to Dre Thompson directly at

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