Are you an aspiring entrepreneur in, looking to turn your innovative ideas into a thriving business? If so, you’re in the right place. Since 2012, the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation (CEI) has been a driving force behind economic growth and job creation in the Phoenix area. With a track record of supporting over 80 startups to date, CEI provides the resources and community needed to foster growth from pre-revenue to success.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about applying for and succeeding in the CEI business incubation program. From eligibility criteria to the benefits of joining, we’ve got you covered.

What Are the Benefits of Joining CEI

CEI is more than just a place to house your startup team; it’s a hub of support, resources, and collaboration designed to help you succeed. When you become a part of the CEI community, you gain access to a host of proven tools and resources, including:

  • A customized business roadmap to guide your journey.
  • On-staff advisors ready to provide valuable insights.
  • Access to subject matter experts and valuable ecosystem connections.
  • Exclusive programming tailored to your startup’s needs.
  • Monthly community lunch and learns for networking and knowledge-sharing.
  • One free pitch deck design to help you make a strong impression and pitch for investment.
  • Discounts on essential resources like marketing materials and payroll systems.

But that’s not all. To delve deeper into what CEI offers, we’ve prepared an FAQ document that you can download for additional details. This document will answer any lingering questions you may have about the benefits and opportunities that CEI provides.

Eligibility and Application Process

Before you get started on your journey with CEI, it’s important to understand the eligibility criteria and application process. CEI is dedicated to supporting high-growth startups in specific industries, including bioscience, medical device, clean tech, and healthcare tech. To qualify for CEI’s incubator program, your startup should be beyond the ideation stage, usually with a prototype or MVP product, and funded through sources like Small Business Innovation (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants, university backing, angel investment, or venture capital or the F’s. those who know… know.

Applying to CEI is straightforward. Begin by filling out the application form on the CEI website. After you’ve submitted your application, a member of the CEI staff will reach out to set up an introductory meeting. This meeting is an opportunity for the staff to learn more about your business and determine if it’s a good fit for CEI’s facility and programming.

If your business aligns with CEI’s goals, you’ll move on to a follow-up meeting for a deep dive and gap analysis of your business. This process aims to identify areas where your startup may need support and assess its readiness for incubation. If your business qualifies, the next step is to present your pitch to the Selection Committee, an impartial panel of external advisors.

Within 24 hours of your pitch presentation, you’ll receive the outcome. If accepted, you’ll work closely with the CEI team to finalize a rental agreement. Keep in mind that CEI also offers an affiliate program that provides the full range of services, excluding physical office or lab space. The affiliate program operates on predefined milestones and offers flexibility.

Selection Committee

You might wonder why CEI has a Selection Committee. The answer is simple: to ensure quality support for each company in the program. The Selection Committee evaluates businesses based on criteria similar to those considered by investors, such as the business model, product-market fit, and industry size. They also assess whether your leadership team will be a good fit for the CEI community.

But what if, during the review of your business, you’re deemed not quite ready for CEI’s incubator program? Don’t worry—CEI offers alternative options. They provide great courses and weekly networking events, allowing you to continue learning and growing. Many clients have returned to CEI after addressing their gaps and becoming more mature and ready for the incubator.

Investment and Funding Support

CEI’s primary focus is not to invest or take equity in client businesses; rather, it’s to assist incubator companies in finding product-market fit and achieving commercialization. CEI guides you toward investor readiness, offering support in crafting a compelling pitch deck and understanding the fundraising journey. While CEI doesn’t directly facilitate investor connections, they collaborate on creating effective pipelines and optimal funding strategies.

Recognizing that equity investment isn’t always viable, CEI also supports bootstrapping strategies and helps companies understand and secure government research grants. Resources for these types of grants are readily available.

Duration and Costs

When you become a part of CEI’s residential incubator program, you commit to a two-year tenure. The possibility of extending into the third year depends on an evaluation of your company’s commercialization progress. Monthly meetings are required to establish goals and milestones, ensuring accountability. Ultimately, the shared objective for all clients is to grow beyond the size of CEI and move into partner office space and labs in the Valley.

Wondering about costs? CEI offers transparency. Clients pay a monthly rent fee based on the square footage of their lab, office space, or both. This fee covers everything—lab/office space, facility management, and advisory services from CEI staff. Additional services, like marketing design, come at significantly discounted rates. Subject matter experts (SMEs) also contribute pro bono time, and if ongoing collaboration is needed, you can establish a consulting agreement.

Collaboration with Other Programs

If you’ve participated in another accelerator program, don’t worry—you still qualify for CEI’s incubator program. CEI has worked with many companies that also participate in accelerator programs. These programs are typically industry-focused and can provide access to industry leaders and potential investors.

CEI’s Entrepreneurial Courses

CEI offers a range of courses designed to help early-stage entrepreneurs develop their businesses. These courses include:

-Market Validation Essentials: A course that helps you build objective evidence to prove the value of your product to the market.

-Capital Cure: This workshop helps you understand how to build and execute a strategic fundraising plan.

– Quality For Founders: Designed for startups in the bio and life science industry, this course focuses on establishing quality systems for operations and products.

Free Programming and Events

CEI hosts a weekly networking event called Venture Cafe Phoenix, a community of innovators and entrepreneurs. Each week features different themes, speakers, a mentors’ corner for expert guidance, and more. Attendees can enjoy free parking, two free drinks, and opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals.

Why Choose CEI?

With so many options available, why should you choose CEI for your startup journey? Here’s why:

  • CEI offers efficient, furnished office and lab spaces, along with essential utilities.
  • The CEI staff provides exceptional support, from financial projections to compliance.
  • CEI’s program is customized for each business, with monthly meetings to keep things on track.
  • The CEI community is supportive, with founders regularly meeting to discuss business topics over provided lunches.

Location and Convenience

CEI’s location on the Gateway Community College campus is extremely convenient. It’s just minutes away from Sky Harbor Airport and is surrounded by hotels, making it easy for your employees and partners to access. The campus itself offers green spaces and a full library that you can utilize.

Security and Utilities

At CEI, security is a top priority. Key card access ensures a secure environment, and individual offices and labs also have key card access for added privacy. The building is monitored by former police officers, providing peace of mind for startups working long hours. CEI offices are open and temperature-controlled 24/7. In case of power outages, a backup generator ensures that your experiments continue without interruption.


In conclusion, CEI is your partner in turning your entrepreneurial dreams into reality. With a community of support, access to valuable resources, and a tailored program to meet your needs, CEI is your gateway to success.

Ready to take the next step? Download our comprehensive FAQ document (below) for more in-depth information about CEI and the opportunities it offers. Join us at CEI, and let’s build a thriving entrepreneurial future together!

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