Tech Startups, Apply Now To Tap Top Minds In Retail, Transportation / Logistics And Food

Deadline Approaches For Applicants To The ARK Challenge Accelerator For Tech Startups
New Tech Accelerator In Northwest Arkansas Offers Rare Access To Top Minds In Retail, Transportation/Logistics And Food Processing

One of only 20 national projects selected by the Department of Commerce Jobs and Innovation Acceleration Challenge to advance regional competitiveness, The ARK Challenge is a recently launched mentorship-driven business accelerator program for technology startups. A full member of The Global Accelerator Network, The ARK Challenge is open to startups worldwide. Interested startup founders can apply online anytime at http://arkchallenge.org through June 17th, 2012.

“All of a sudden there is something very sexy about being a startup. There used to be a stigma of not being with a ‘real’ company,” said ARK Challenge Mentor Phoebe Espiritu. Espiritu is Manager of the HackStars program of TechStars New York City, and she has been named one of 25 women driving New York’s Tech Scene.

“Now there is a lot more prestige in being a misfit or a renegade. Obviously there’s something nice and validating about having capital.”

Up to 15 selected companies will receive over $18K each in seed funding, promotion, invaluable networking with advisors and potential funders, as well as intensive mentoring from a group of community-based and national mentors during a 14-week entrepreneurial bootcamp starting August 2012. Each of the selected companies also will benefit from services of Innovate Arkansas, a program of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Winrock International that encourages technology-based innovations and job creation in Arkansas. Two of the selected startups will be eligible for an additional $150K in funding.

The ARK Challenge’s 60+ mentors include:

Inspired by innovation across the heartland—Detroit, Austin, Raleigh and Silicon Prairie of the Midwest, Northwest Arkansas is cultivating its own startup ecosystem, building on its core strengths. The longstanding home to the corporate headquarters of Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Northwest Arkansas is recognized worldwide for leadership and world-class expertise in the retail, food and logistics industries.

Additionally, The ARK Challenge has conducted interviews with representatives in each of these key industry clusters to identify the newest playgrounds for innovation for technology entrepreneurs. The resulting five-page technology assessment report is available for download here.

So, why Northwest Arkansas?

In the true spirit of the aphorism, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” The ARK Challenge is a coordinated initiative that brings together non-profit organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, private investors, entrepreneurs and more, including Winrock International, University of Arkansas, NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Economic Development Administration, Small Business Administration, Employment & Training Administration, Fund for Arkansas’ Future, Gravity Ventures and Arkansas Development Finance Authority. Just as the recent Big Omaha conference, which attracted over 600 attendees from 27 states and three countries, exhibited so poignantly, a deliberate focus on entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration is integral for economic development and job creation in cities within the flyover states.

Grant Tennille, Executive Director of Arkansas Economic Development Commission, summed up the importance at the The ARK Challenge accelerator program at the grand opening of The Iceberg Coworking facility in downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas. ”The best entrepreneurs that America has ever known come from here. This space and this project are going to generate the next generation.”

Visit http://arkchallenge.org for additional details and to apply, or contact The ARK Challenge Director Jeannette Balleza at jeannette@arkchallenge.org or 479.595.6063.

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