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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Eller alum discusses how students can build a “startup ecosystem”

Griffin Riley

Andrew Braccia talks with Paulo Goes, the Dean of the Eller College, during his presentation on building startup ecosystems held on Jan. 29. 

Successful investors in Tucson shared their experiences and opinions with business students and community members at the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center North Ballroom on Tuesday, Jan. 29. 

The Eller College of Management held the Dean’s Speaker Series “Building a Startup Ecosystem” with three guest speakers: Mara Aspinall from BlueStone Venture Partners, Fletcher McCusker from UAVenture Capital and keynote Andrew Braccia from Accel Partners. Braccia and McCusker are UA alumni.

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Eller encouraged its students to come as well as the public.

“Our major invited everybody to attend this event,” said Michelle Mendoza, a senior double majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship. “I also have been to a previous [Dean’s] Speaker Series, and I thought it was really fascinating. So I was really excited to come to this event as well.”

According to Eller’s assistant director of special events, Jamie Odom, about 550 people registered to the event: 250 students and 200 members from the Tucson community. She said the guest speakers had experience in multiple industries, including healthcare and social media fields, which attracted such a large number of people to the event.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for [students] to hear from the alumnus who started from the bottom and built his way up in venture capitalism,” Odom said. “I hope the students are inspired and kind of are able to apply his tips that he shares throughout the night to their own moves, whatever they want to do next.”

The event consisted of three parts: The participants first gathered and enjoyed conversations and food. Then Dean of Eller Paulo Goes conducted a question and answer session with Braccia. Finally, all the guests took part in a round table discussion.

Braccia worked at Yahoo in several executive roles for approximately 10 years after graduating with a bachelor’s of science in business administration in marketing in 1998. Then he changed his career to venture capital and became the general partner at Accel, formerly Accel Partners, in Silicon Valley. 

Accel has invested in many big technology companies such as Dropbox and Slack during their early stage for 35 years. It was also the earliest investor in Facebook, according to

Braccia said that the nature of technology and its open-source ethos have been changing the business situation in the technological industry. The center of technology used to be Silicon Valley, but now individuals can access and connect from everywhere. It means people can start technology companies anywhere in the U.S.

Building an ecosystem is helpful when starting a company, Braccia said.

In this context, ecosystem refers to the connection among people, including mentorship. They may find new opportunities, ideas or customers via ecosystem.

“Starting a company is a really lonely thing to do. It’s a really hard thing to do,” Braccia said. “So, the more that you have the network and community of people that embolden you and help you along the way, the more likely it is that you’re gonna be successful.” 

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When people get help from mentors and become successful, they tend to have the desire to mentor others to give back to the community. This generation-to-generation network is the ecosystem, and the community around universities is a great environment, according to Braccia.

The ECM will publish the video of this event on YouTube within the next few weeks.

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