The Quick Jab
by Bill Jabjiniak
An interview with one of Mesa’s newest tech companies: Socious
The City of Mesa has a longstanding history of encouraging the growth of technology-focused companies across numerous industry sectors. Many high-technology companies such as Iveda Solutions, Auer Precision, Ulthera, Edupoint, and Esurance have major operations in Mesa.
Recently, yet another technology company has established its headquarters in Mesa. Socious, a customer community software company, has located in the Fiesta District's Mesa Financial Plaza at 1201 S. Alma School Rd. The company continues to grow and expects to have as many as 50 employees by year-end 2016. Socious was named by the Phoenix Business Journal as one the Top Software Firms and one of the Best Places to Work in the Greater Phoenix metro area in 2015.
We had a chance to catch up with Socious CEO and co-founder, Paul Schneider, to learn more about Socious and why they chose Mesa’s Fiesta District as their new home.
Bill Jabjiniak (BJ): Tell us about your company.
Paul Schneider (PS): Socious provides professional association and corporate user groups with a specially designed software platform and services to manage membership, handle member communications, and keep members engaged. The idea for the company was created at a kitchen table when my business partner and I sought to create a new way to share information. When we founded Socious back in 2002, social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, were not a “thing” so the concept of customers or members of an organization sharing and collaborating online was new. We were able to deliver an easy way for organizations with members located around the world to get personalized information from the organization, as well as give members a centralized portal to share ideas with each other. Since that time, we have evolved and extended the system along with adding services to become an industry-leading solution for our customers.
BJ: Tell us about your strategy for growing the company.
PS: You could jokingly describe our growth as a “14-year-old overnight success.” We’ve intentionally grown in a very smart way. Today, Socious’s business is very healthy. Along with adding 13 employees last year, Socious averaged 24 percent revenue growth per year over the past six years. We work with some of the largest professional associations and companies in the world, such as IBM, Citrix, VMware, Oracle, and Roche.
Even though a majority of the companies and professional associations that we serve are located in the Bay Area, Chicago, and Washington DC, we have three advantages – our strong product, the fact that we can market and sell worldwide using the latest digital tools, and our ability to recruit top talent from the Phoenix area without incurring the high cost of living of those areas.
We plan to focus our value proposition even more over the next year and launch new products and services into our markets. This deliberate plan to grow the company will require many additional hires. We are glad that our new 10,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Mesa’s Fiesta District will accommodate our growth over the next several years.
BJ: Why did you choose to headquarter in Mesa? Why the Fiesta District?
PS: Before we relocated to the Mesa Financial Plaza, the feedback from some employment candidates was that the people loved the company and the job opportunity, but did not want the commute. We needed to move if we wanted to keep growing and attracting top talent. The Mesa Fiesta District gives us a much closer proximity to Scottsdale, Tempe, and Phoenix which is where the bulk of Socious’s employees and employee candidates live. We toured the Mesa Financial Plaza and fell in love with the views, location, and accessibility.
BJ: What does the Phoenix-Mesa metro area offer in terms of a positive business climate or talented workforce?
PS: The fact that there are so many universities and colleges in close proximity is great. It gives us an opportunity to attract top-tier employees and interns. Recent college graduates bring energy and innovative ideas that fuel a significant part of Socious’s growth. At Socious, we promote a healthy work-life balance, and our close proximity to the major population centers of the metro area facilitates that by helping us offer a short commute for many on our team.
BJ: Has it been easy to recruit talent?
PS: We work exceptionally hard at Socious to be there for our customers, from the moment they reach out to us in the sales process to long after they launch the Socious platform. To that end, we are very particular as to who we hire. So, it is never “easy” to find the right candidates that match our work ethic and culture. However, being in a closer proximity to a larger part of the employee pool makes the opportunity to find the right candidates much easier.
BJ: I can see you truly value your employees. Tell me more about your company culture.
PS: The culture of Socious, in a short statement, is “no mean people.” From day one, this was an employee-first company. We knew if we focused on making Socious a great place to work, our employees would be happy and take care of our customers. To make that happen, we have implemented many “perks” you would also see at large technology companies. Of all the employee benefits we offer though, the most appreciated one is that we listen to our employees. We try to include them in as many decisions as possible and implement their suggestions. We are proud that our focus has helped us win distinctions as a top software company in Phoenix and one of the best places to work in Arizona.
BJ: What does the future hold for Socious?
PS: The future is bright for Socious. Companies and member-based organizations are making digital engagement and customer communication a central part of their growth plans. We’re launching new technology platforms and expanding our professional services to help organizations capitalize on this trend. Socious plans to hire in several areas, including engineering, customer support, and community management in 2016. As we grow, we’re looking forward to partnering with the City of Mesa to strengthen its position as a technology center in the Phoenix area.
Visit www.mesaaz.gov/economic for the latest news about business in Mesa.
HIGHER EDUCATION ROUNDUP
Contestants shine during SparkTank at A.T. Still University
A.T. Still University’s (ATSU) Teaching & Learning Center recently held SparkTank event, a live show-style competition encouraging teaching and learning on the Mesa, Arizona campus. A play off of the reality show "Shark Tank," SparkTank featured individual contestants and teams who pitched their ideas to a panel of judges for the opportunity to win $5,000 in project funding.
Of the 19 proposals submitted, eight were selected to present in front of six judges and an audience comprised of more than 50 faculty, staff, and students.
Following each presentation, judges and audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions of contestants. The competition concluded with judges announcing four winning proposals, representing innovation in teaching practice and engaged learning activities.
Second-year osteopathic medical students Marvin Dang and Uday Gulati made the journey from Brooklyn, New York to present their project titled “ATSU’s Virtual Osteopathic Clinic.” They were awarded top honors and received $5,000 to fund their project.
ATSU will continue SparkTank annually to encourage collaborative efforts from the entire University community for the benefit of teaching and learning. www.atsu.edu
Benedictine University at Mesa announces new academic programs and scholarships for city employees, area students
New full-time traditional undergraduate students enrolled at the Benedictine University at Mesa campus may be eligible for the new Mesa Partnership Scholarship to help with tuition costs.
The $3,000 annual scholarship is available to employees or dependents of City of Mesa employees; employees or dependents of Mesa Public Schools employees; Mesa Public High School graduates and Mesa Community College students who have earned 60 credit hours or more or an associate’s degree.
The scholarship is renewable for students who maintain good academic standing.
The University has also announced the addition of three new minors – Catholic Studies, Medical Spanish and Medical Spanish Interpretation:
• The Catholic Studies minor will provide students expertise in the Catholic and Benedictine traditions; the ability to thoughtfully engage in ethical problems, applying solutions to real-world issues; and knowledge of how different religions view humanity, spirituality and the divine.
• The Medical Spanish minor is for any student interested in health care issues who desires a high level of linguistic proficiency in the Spanish language as well as a deep understanding and appreciation of the various Latino and Hispanic cultures. The minor is applicable to other fields as well, including first responders, law and social work.
• The Medical Spanish Interpretation minor is open to any student interested in Medical Spanish, but it is chiefly suited for those students who would like to learn more about the fast-growing profession of medical interpretation and demonstrate an exceedingly high level of linguistic proficiency in Spanish for future employers or admittance to graduate school.
For more information about the Mesa Partnership Scholarship and Benedictine University at Mesa, contact Admissions at (602) 888-5500 or email email@example.com. The University is accepting applications for fall 2016 enrollment. www.ben.edu/mesa
In addition, Benedictine has partnered with Kaplan Schweser to offer a nine-month Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certificate program, which is not available any place else in the Southwest. Kaplan Schweser is the leading provider of financial planning and education materials, and has helped more than 13,000 financial professionals pass the CFP Certification Examination.
The CFP program is designed for both the experienced and the newcomer to financial management. The program features superior faculty who are hired and trained by Kaplan Schweser. All faculty have either received their CFP certification, a professional designation or license, or have advanced degrees.
Classes meet every other week on Friday evening and all day Saturday for nine consecutive months. Students who successfully complete the certificate program will be eligible to sit for the CFP® Certification Examination. Classes start April 8. For more information, go to ben.edu/cfp or contact Ronald Finnigan at (630) 829-1383 or Rfinnigan@ben.edu.
Mesa Community College’s new website makes on-campus arts more accessible to the community
Mesa Community College (MCC) launched a new website, The Arts at MCC (www.mesacc.edu/arts), to make it easy for members of the community learn about and attend events ranging from live music, dance, instrumental and theatrical performances to fine art shows featuring student, faculty and visiting artists, sculpture, digital, and painting works.
MCC’s state-of-the art venues collectively represent more than a $20 million investment by the community. Support for arts education was overwhelmingly approved by East Valley voters as part of the Maricopa Community Colleges 2004 Bond Referendum. The new and remodeled venues at MCC also provide important learning laboratories for students to complete their course requirements while providing the community opportunities to see award-winning performances and exhibits.
“The community has consistently supported and attended the award-winning arts events on our campuses. We want to provide them with a way to easily learn about our students’ talents in all art forms,” Rodney Holmes, Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Science at MCC, said. “Fine arts provide students a way to express themselves, and the community can benefit from their efforts.” www.mesacc.edu/arts
NAU providing nursing programs at half the cost in Mesa
Northern Arizona University (NAU) has served Mesa residents for over 30 years with innovative and high quality degree programs that are convenient and affordable for today’s working adult. Today, NAU educates approximately 1,300 students, online and locally, through two locations – one in Downtown Mesa and the other on the campus of Mesa Community College at Southern Ave. and Dobson Rd.
One growing program is NAU’s nursing partnership with Mesa Community College. The Concurrent Enrollment Program streamlines the process for students to earn an Associate of Applied Sciences (AAS) in nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in the most efficient and cost effective manner. Once admitted into the nursing program, students enroll in courses from both schools over a period of two years and graduate with the AAS and BSN during the same semester. Through the Concurrent Enrollment program, students save approximately half the cost of going through a traditional BSN program. For more information about this program or others NAU offers in Mesa, contact NAU at (800) 628-0040. ec.nau.edu
Maricopa Community Colleges and Upper Iowa University partner in concurrent enrollment nursing program
Maricopa Community Colleges have partnered with Upper Iowa University to provide nursing students with a concurrent enrollment nursing program that allows students to obtain an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) and work toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) simultaneously.
For example, in July 2017, East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) alumna Danielle Panessa, 23, will complete nursing classes through Maricopa Community Colleges and graduate from Upper Iowa University-Mesa with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.
Danielle’s journey to become a registered nurse began in her junior year of high school while she was enrolled in the Human Anatomy & Physiology for Medical Careers program at EVIT’s School of Health Sciences. Danielle completed the Nursing Program Assistant program at EVIT, graduated from high school, and passed the Arizona State Board of Nursing’s Certified Nursing Assistant Exam.
In the fall of 2014, Danielle was accepted into the Maricopa Nursing/Upper Iowa University Concurrent Enrollment Program (CEP). The CEP program is extremely rigorous, but the coursework is strategically aligned between Maricopa and UIU. Once Danielle has completed her associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) and acquires her RN license, she will complete 16 additional weeks of coursework at UIU-Mesa, and is slated to graduate from UIU’s BSN program in July, 2017. www.uiu.edu/mesa
Wilkes University announces new scholarships
Wilkes is pleased to announce new scholarship opportunities for students entering its undergraduate business programs.
Members of Phi Theta Kappa are eligible for scholarships ranging from 60 to 100 percent of tuition costs. Phi Theta Kappa is an international honors society for students at two-year colleges who have earned a 3.5 GPA or higher. To qualify, students must be members of Phi Theta Kappa and have an associate’s degree or equivalent credits.
Wilkes also announced $1,000 scholarships for members of the Achieving a College Education Program (ACE), which supports students with their transition from high school to community college. The Wilkes scholarship is open to students who are members of ACE with an associate’s degree earned from one of the Maricopa Community Colleges.
In addition, Wilkes recently announced the extension of its $5,000 Founders Scholarship.
For information on all scholarship opportunities, visit www.wilkes.edu/Arizona or contact Ryan Hess at (480) 878-4407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEWS FROM OUR PARTNERS
GPEC to host Health and Biomedical Reverse Pitch Event
June 2, 2016, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) will host an event where the region’s leading healthcare providers will “reverse pitch” their healthcare delivery needs to an audience of innovative companies. Audience members will then be invited to present ways to solve these needs. The event provides a unique opportunity for business to business connections, as well as showcasing the innovation in the Greater Phoenix healthcare and biomedical sectors. This event will be held at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix Downtown campus and includes Reverse Pitches from Adelante Healthcare, Banner Health, Dignity Health and VisionGate, among others.
Learn more about being a Reverse Pitch Presenter by contacting Maureen Howell, Director of Research and Strategy, at email@example.com. If you are interested in being a “Solution Provider” in the audience of this unique business opportunity, please fill out the RSVP form at www.greaterphoenixhealth.com/rsvp/.
NEDCO’s Business Growth Series a success
At the end of 2015, Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) graduated the first class of the Business Growth Series. Led by Stoney-Wilson Business Consulting, this six-week long development series targeted a handful of up-and-coming businesses in Downtown Mesa.
Experts helped create the curriculum, which focused on developing business plans, projecting and maintaining healthy financials, and preparing businesses to access capital. As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), NEDCO has provided small business loans to some of the participating businesses.
The first graduating class was honored to have as graduation speakers Arizona Senator and founder of SkyMall, Bob Worsley and his wife, Christi Worsley.
The series was a part of NEDCO’s Light Rail Business Assistance Program funded by the City of Mesa. www.nedco-mesa.org
Graduation day of NEDCO’s first Business Growth Series with Stoney-Wilson Business Consulting
Visit Mesa launches Fresh Foodie Trail, culinary tourism gaining in popularity
Visit Mesa has launched the Fresh Foodie Trail, a self-guided route that connects many of the culinary-themed attractions in the city with those in our neighboring towns of Gilbert and Queen Creek. Visit Mesa has packaged this burgeoning tourism product in a new Agritourism Guide to not only promote Mesa’s treasured heritage of family farming, but also educate visitors on the in-demand experiences that can only be found in the East Valley.
Visit Mesa’s new guide is available for download at VisitMesa.com and printed copies can be picked up at the Mesa Visitors Center (120 N. Center St.). The guide maps out each of the attractions and highlights the region’s farmers' markets, food truck events, and includes a dining section with restaurants that feature locally-grown items on their menus. The guide also includes information on food-inspired events, craft breweries, and a seasonal guide to produce. Mesa attractions include The Orange Patch, the new True Garden Urban Farm, Vertuccio Farms and Superstition Dairy.
Food tourism is on the rise and becoming a popularly requested activity by visitors. The American Culinary Traveler report, distributed by Mandala Research, finds that more than 39 million leisure travelers are “deliberate” culinary travelers with an additional 35 million who are “opportunistic.” The study also noted that U.S. leisure travelers who travel to learn about unique dining experiences grew from 40 to 51 percent between 2006 and 2013. Because the area’s attractions are open year-round, Mesa visitors can time their stays to experience multiple harvests, a variety of culinary events and happenings, and enjoy various products at different times of the year from citrus in January, peaches in May, to olives in October, and more. To learn more about Mesa’s Fresh Foodie offerings for visitors, go online to www.visitmesa.com/lifestyles/fresh-foodie/.
Mayor John Giles introduces One Mesa community pledge
Mesa is a city with a rich and diverse population that is vibrant, interesting and economically robust. Mayor John Giles and the City Council believe that recognizing and respecting our differences creates a strong and successful community.
With that in mind, and with recommendations from the Human Relations Advisory Board, Mayor John Giles introduced the One Mesa community pledge.
“Respecting diversity is a community effort and that is why I have asked leaders from the education, business, tourism, faith-based and non-profit communities to consider signing the pledge and help the City of Mesa spread the word,” Mayor Giles said.
The pledge aims to recognize the diversity of Mesa and acknowledge its role in making our city great. It states that everyone has the right to feel valued, understood and respected.
Groups, businesses and individuals are invited to sign the pledge at www.onemesapledge.org.