Bentonville-based Cartwheel Studio and the University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (OEI) will host a 16-week accelerator for retail value chain startups leveraging technology, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and blockchain, according to a Monday (Oct. 16) news release. The program is supported by $297,000 in grants.
The Bounds Accelerator will include 10 seed-to-series A-stage startups, at least three of whom are based in Arkansas. It’s expected to bring together entrepreneurs, industry and technology leaders, college students and startup founders working to develop technology to solve challenges in the retail, transportation, logistics, manufacturing and supply chain sectors.
“Arkansas has global reach within the retail value chain, thanks to local industry leaders like Walmart, Tyson Foods, ArcBest, J.B. Hunt and others,” Cartwheel Studio CEO Josh Stanley said. “There’s no better place on earth to run an emerging tech accelerator targeting supply chain or retail-related concepts than right here.”
The accelerator will start Jan. 8 and largely take place virtually. However, it will include an in-person kick-off event on Jan. 11 and conclude with a demo day event on April 29. Both events will be in Bentonville. The demo day event will include the startups competing for a non-dilutive cash award.
According to the release, OEI will pair the startups with a paid UA intern and help with mentorship and advisory support, including growth-to-scale optimization audits. Mentors will include startup founders, technologists working in AI and Web3, product leaders, retail value chain leaders, notable academics, and experienced professionals and executives from Arkansas-based companies.
The Bounds Accelerator includes partnerships with Coinbase Ventures, Haun Ventures and the AI Foundation. These and other companies are expected to provide the startups with access to a network of business and investment connections.
OEI Executive Director Sarah Goforth said startups are often the first sector to “see and take advantage” of emerging technologies, and this partnership provides UA’s industry partners with access to “innovative people and products that could quickly advance existing business goals.
“For their part, the startups will gain access and exposure to some of the biggest and most influential customers and investors in the world. And our students will have a front-row seat to this exchange of value.”
The Bounds Accelerator is funded by a one-year grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission Business and Technology Accelerator Grant and a $50,000 sponsorship from Coinbase, Goforth said. According to the release, Haun Ventures and The AI Foundation are also supporters.
“It is a pilot that we will all learn from,” Goforth said. “If we successfully demonstrate educational impact for students, business value for our industry partners and economic development impact for the state, I am hopeful that we will receive renewed funding and hold it annually.”
Goforth said the UA is seeking sponsorships for the demo day, and this will determine the amount of the cash prize. However, it’s expected to be at least $10,000.
The program is free for startup applicants and student intern applicants, she said.
The startups will be selected through interviews, and finalist interviews are set to begin Nov. 18. The accelerator cohort is expected to be announced Dec. 6. Link here to apply.