Our Mission:

OTEF, the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, educates and invests in people and organizations that create hope.

Our Impact:

Catalyzing the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Since 2006, OTEF programs have been a catalyst for  the growth of entrepreneurial ventures and supported nonprofit enterprises. Funds generated from OTEF’s 10 conferences combined with community support have made our work possible.

  • 2006: OTEF hosts Arizona’s first major social media conference at Grand Canyon University.
  • 2006 – 2014: OTEF’s annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference educates and connects Arizona’s startup community.
  • 2007: OTEF delivers the Kauffman Entrepreneurship Program at the Arizona Small Business Association. 
  • 2011: OTEF runs “Roadmap to Launch” for startup companies that participated in Startup Weekend Chandler, a joint program of the City of Chandler Economic Development Department and Gangplank, a non-profit collaborative workspace in downtown Chandler.
  • 2018: OTEF works with the City of Mesa CDC to host the Mesa Entrepreneurs Round Table.

Supporting Disadvantaged Populations 

We believe that connecting disadvantaged populations to the same resources, connections, and training given to America’s best and brightest entrepreneurs makes an impact.

  • 2007:  OTEF helps the women of SEEDs house, a domestic violence half-way house, plan, open, and run a coffee shop in Mesa, Arizona where they could work in a safe environment. The coffee shop, Cup O’Karma, was a favorite of locals and college students from nearby Mesa Community College.
  • 2008: OTEF partners with a nonprofit that helps runaway youth, OTEF, in partnership with the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, helped a group of young adults start a t-shirt printing business to supply other nonprofits and an art gallery where runaway youth could exhibit their art and receive part of the proceeds from sales. The t-shirt business is still in existence.
  • 2009: OTEF shifts gears for the recession, partnering with the Scottsdale Jobs network to offer four “Blueprint for Survival” workshops to help laid off workers develop income streams through involuntary entrepreneurship.
  • 2010: OTEF provides services to the Southwest Autism Research and Rehabilitation Center to help it set up sustainable business models for enterprises that train and employ autistic young adults.
  • 2012: OTEF works with SEEDS for Autism, providing entrepreneurial support to autistic adults.  AZEC12 hosts its largest conference to date and featured presentations by successful Arizona entrepreneurs and national though leaders. The Student Discovery Zone  Program brings together students and industry at the AZBio Expo and the AZBio Awards.
  • 2017: Thanks to a gift from the LaNelle Robson Foundation, OTEF launches a STEM education program with SySTEM School, a charter school in central Phoenix.

A Catalyst for Health Innovation

In 2011, OTEF began working with the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) to explore how to catalyze Arizona’s health innovation community starting with students and expanding the program to entrepreneurs. Following a 3-year best practices study and a federal grant to implement the study fundings, AZAdvances was created in 2019 to support Arizona based entrepreneurs in creating health innovations and preparing our workforce for the high quality jobs this industry creates.

  •  2011: The Student Discovery Zone launches at the AZBio Awards. Students have had the opportunity to display their work, make connections with industry, find mentors and internship opportunities, and  more. The program has run continuously since 2011 and has supported over 1,400 students since its launch.
  • 2016 – OTEF begins work with the Stetson Family Office on a 3-year best practices study of life science innovation ecosystems.
  • 2019: OTEF’s collaboration  with the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) expands to include the AZAdvances initiative following the conclusion of the best practices study. AZBio begins a multi year seed-fund development program for AZAdvances supported by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).
  • 2022: The AZAdvances Capital Campaign re-launches following its pandemic hiatus.
  • 2022: The State of Arizona establishes the Arizona Health Innovation Trust Fund and contracts with OTEF to receive the fund distributions and implement the programs the fund is designed to support in its enabling statute.
  • 2023: AZAdvances Talent begins hosting student interns at local small businesses. The AZAdvances Health Innovation Showcase hosts hundreds of innovators during Arizona Bioscience Week.  AZAdvances Capital announces its first 3 portfolio investments.

    Pandemic Pivots

    In 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic required OTEF programs to shift away from in-person programs and events.  OTEF leadership worked with entrepreneurs and non profits to navigate a challenging pandemic world. Fundraising for the AZAdvances initiative is suspended so that our philanthropic partners could focus on the areas of greatest community need.

    • OTEF leadership worked with entrepreneurs and non profits to navigate a challenging pandemic world. Recognizing that isolation was creating putting entire communities at-risk, OTEF team members Francine Hardaway and Ed Nusbaum used Club House as a tool to reach a wider community of people.  Clubhouse Clubs:  Startup Club (950,000+); OG Club (450,000+); Community Club (360,000+); Talk Club (345,000+); and Karma Club (19,000+).
    • The Student Discovery Zone program enabled  students to present in a video format and  compete for scholarships based on technical merit and public online voting.
    • AZBio and OTEF teams collaborated to  launch the AZAdvances public awareness campaign focused on health innovation supported by funding from AZBio.  Based on data supplied by our media partners (ABC15, CW61, AZ Big Media, Frontdoors, and  Trends), these messages were viewed over 2 million times.

    In  the fourth quarter of 2021, the AZAdvances capital campaign re-launched.  In addition to traditional fundraising channels. OTEF was accepted by The Giving Block and gained the ability to accept donations of crypto currency.  This new fundraising channel resulted in the single largest donation in OTEF’s history.