On Wednesday, Jeff Stinson with the Fund for Arkansas’ Future (FAF) will be the guest speaker at Little Rock’s 1 Million Cups.
The programming starts at 9 a.m. at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. It’s easy to participate: just show up, drink coffee, ask questions and network for an hour.
Stinson has been active in Arkansas’ startup scene for nearly a decade. He’s the director of UALR’s TechLaunch and executive director of the Fund for Arkansas’ Future, a member-managed, angel investor fund formed for the purpose of capitalizing early-stage, Arkansas-based companies.
Talk Business & Politics executive editor Roby Brock caught up with Stinson ahead of his Wednesday talk to provide a preview of the conversation.
TB&P: What got you started in technology entrepreneurship and venture funding?
Jeff Stinson: I started my own consulting practice in October, 2001, the month after 9/11. One of my first clients was an investing “club” or syndicate led by Dr. Mary Good and a few others. Dr. Good was going to UALR to become the founding dean of what is now the College of Engineering & Information Technology, and she hired me to backfill her position managing that investing syndicate.
We operated in that form through 2004, where we changed the format to a fund, and recruited 57 investors around the state to join us in the Fund for Arkansas’ Future. We’re now in our second fund, and across those two funds, we have almost 100 investors, and we’ve invested in 27 Arkansas tech companies.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Good hired me again in 2012 to lead the technology transfer office at UALR. I consider being hired by her twice an honor and certainly one of the highlights of my career.
TB&P: What’s been the biggest change you’ve seen in your more than a decade experience here in Arkansas?
Stinson: I’ve seen lots of changes over the past decade, and all for the good! Like many industries, when you put a base of investment capital into play, it encourages additional activity. And that’s what we’ve seen with FAF. Ten years ago, we became the first and only source of organized capital for tech startups in Arkansas. That not only encouraged entrepreneurs to jump out there and start companies, but it also helped to spur a number of other organizations, events and activities that are all focused on tech entrepreneurship in our state. There has never been a better time to be a tech entrepreneur or angel investor in Arkansas.
TB&P: Why should someone come see you at 1MCupsLR on Wednesday – what might they take away from the experience?
Stinson: On Wednesday, I hope to convey some of the challenges we’ve experienced as investors, our lessons learned, how entrepreneurs should prepare themselves to raise angel capital, and what we all need to do to continue the important progress we’ve made in our state. That’ll be a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.