ARK Challenge gears up, deadline approaches

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 146 views 

There has been quite a bit of buzz in Northwest Arkansas’ tech sector regarding a nickname for the region. Everyone has heard of Silicon Valley, and with new areas such as Omaha and the Midwest region being called the Silicon Prairie, some say Northwest Arkansas is deserving of a name that highlights the innovation the area is bringing to the industry.

When Northwest Arkansas became one of just 20 applicants chosen out of 100 by the Department of Commerce Acceleration & Innovation challenge to stimulate further business to the region, it proved to many that this area has the potential to be a place for world-wide entrepreneurs to land their companies.

The ARK Challenge is a Global Accelerator Network that will provide mentorship, training, seed capital and customer access to a small group of startup companies. The ARK plans to select up to 15 tech startups from around the world that solve problems in three key clusters, including: retail, transportation and logistics and food processing.

“We picked these specific sectors because the base for them here is very strong”, said Jeannette Bazella, Director of the Ark Challenge.

Each of the companies selected will receive $18,333 to be used during the 14 week boot camp that will run from Aug. 6 until Nov. 9. The boot camp will be held at the Iceberg co-working space in Fayetteville, as well as the Arkansas Research Park. The two companies that execute their product best, and are ready to have a build-out to show prospective investors after the 14 weeks, will be given $150,000 each.

With agreement to being selected for the challenge, the companies will give up a 6% stake in their business that will go to the initial funders of the challenge: Winrock International, Gravity Ventures, Arkansas’ Development Finance Authority and Fund for Arkansas’ future.

The companies will have access to more than 60 mentors from throughout the Northwest Arkansas region, some of which include:

• Collins Hemingway, best known for partnering with Microsoft founder Bill Gates on the #1 best-seller Business @ the Speed of Thought

• Jinhee Kim, founder of Snapette, a mobile app for snap-happy fashionistas and a 500 startups co
• Dan Sanker, CEO of CaseStack, recognized as “One of the Best Places to Work” in the County, #1 in the Deloitte Technology Fast50, #1 as the fastest-growing private company by the Los Angeles Business Journal

• Rick Webb, senior vice president, global business processes, at Walmart

• Greg Lee, former chief administrative officer and president of Tyson Foods International

“We have already received applications from seven countries and 11 states," Balleza said.

She said the final day for submissions is Sunday, June 17.