When entrepreneurs launch a startup, there’s an extensive list of tools and resources they need to successfully scale their companies.

It takes financial support, a sound business plan and exceptional leadership skills to manage both people and the company in a highly competitive marketplace.

One of the most important tools of nurturing a startup is the presence of an experienced and successful entrepreneur who can mentor young CEOs through the ups and downs of launching a new company.

Now, thanks to the Arizona Commerce Authority’s premier business-mentorship program, Venture Ready, more startups will have this valuable opportunity.

For the first time, the Venture Ready program will be offered to the Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC) awardees as part of their prize for advancing in one of the country’s most dynamic business plan competitions.

These up-and-coming Arizona entrepreneurs will have a successful CEO embedded in their companies – an “entrepreneur in residence” – who can mentor them through building a business and provide exposure to investors, business executives and other successful startup CEOs.

This network of peers and hands-on mentorship will help them better meet the challenges of leading a growing company, building a management team, making strategic decisions and taking their businesses to the next level.

“You can’t put a number on the huge value of having an experienced CEO guide entrepreneurs through the process of building a business and making important connections to potential investors and other mentors,” said Brian Sherman, Executive Vice President of Business Development for the Arizona Commerce Authority.

Judging for the Fall 2018 Arizona Innovation Challenge is underway. The 25 semi-finalists were announced on October 29. Following the finalist round, up to 10 awardees will be named in December. The AIC is one of the country’s largest and most prestigious business plan competitions for entrepreneurs who develop technology-based solutions to solve today’s most-pressing problems.

The AIC helps these early-stage companies advance from idea to commercialization, while providing technical expertise, mentorship and funding.