story by Jamie Smith
The TV shows Shark Tank met American Idol Tuesday (Aug. 12) at the annual G60 contest, which was hosted at the 2014 NWA Business Expo in Rogers. The two winners in Tuesday’s competition were Tony Corbett of Trec-Solar and Water 4 Life, a solar water filtration company, and Stacy Tan of Lynxus, a company designing a new social media app.
Conceived in August 2011, G60 promotes startups and fosters communication between potential investors and entrepreneurs. G60 Founder Jeff Amerine said the events feature entrepreneurs who have 60 seconds to convince judges and the audience that their idea is the best. The Rogers event featured a “people’s choice” and a “judges’ choice” award, with $1,000 awarded to each winner. But the money is just a first step.
“They have to convince the investors to take the next meeting,” Amerine said.
Northwest Arkansas has been called a hotbed for the startup community and that entrepreneurial spirit is just getting hotter, he said. There also is a greater interest from larger companies in mentoring and other partnerships with the newer, smaller business.
Corbett developed the idea for Trec-Solar several years ago and it creates mobile solar generators that purify water. This solar-generated water purification may be used in third-world countries to provide clean water. The Water 4 Life is a nonprofit organization that will raise funds to send the purification systems to other countries. The next step for Corbett is to get his website launched, he said.
Tan is part of a team that created Lynxus, which is a social media app that “gives power” to the user. Existing social media platforms limit users to absorb what content their contacts place in their feed. With Lynxus, users can request content from other users including information and live video. It will allow users (“Lynxers”) to witness world events and develop their own understanding instead of trying to decipher which news network is providing accurate, unbiased coverage. They are two weeks from beta launch and about two months from full product launch, she said.
Amerine, director of technology ventures at the University of Arkansas, said during the recent NWA Technology Summit, that competitions such as the G60 and other pitch contests provide energy and opportunities to keep the tech startup sector moving forward.
“A supportive ecosystem for startup ventures is key to the region’s ability to develop into a technology hub,” Amerine said.
He added that entrepreneurship alliances, accelerators and incubators, contests and competitions and more angel funding are part of the necessary support o keep the flywheel turning.
Past G60 particpants include some of the region’s fastest growing startups such as Douglas Hutchings of Silicon Solar Solution, and Ryan Frazier of DataRank.
“Condensing an entire business opportunity into an easily digestible explanation is one of the most meaningful, yet challenging things an entrepreneur can do. If you can't share your ideas, you're hosed,” Frazier said.