Getting to the Final Fifteen – The Whys Behind Non-Selection

The ARK Challenge received 83 applications from 14 different states across the nation and from 14 different countries by the June 17th, 2012, 11:59 pm PST, deadline. 18 applications came from teams outside the United States, coming from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, United Kingdom and beyond. 65 teams that applied are from the United States with 36 applications originating from here in Arkansas. Other states represented include California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. We have been very busy reviewing the applications and learning more about each of the tech startups and their founders.

The process has been a very difficult one because of the high quality of the applications, and we did not have as much time as we would like to commit to performing due diligence for each company. Therefore, we have had to make focused decisions based on the following criteria to identify our finalists:

  • A great, balanced team
  • A demonstrated ability to execute
  • An innovative idea in an area that fits within our regional strengths (key cluster/mentorship fit and/or high-potential markets)

Below are some common reasons why some applications were not selected as finalists:

There was something missing from the team.
Sure, there’s no boilerplate template for what makes an impeccable team, but often an issue regarding the team becomes obvious and results in our ranking that application lower than others with standout, well-balanced teams.

The team is awesome, but the idea simply is not a good fit for The ARK Challenge.
Since The ARK Challenge is focused on advancing regional competitiveness for Northwest Arkansas, we are compelled to look for startups that we are best positioned to help succeed. We’re especially interested in investing in the types of ideas and markets we believe make sense for our region and the available mentorship talent.

The startup was not technology-oriented.
Some of the applications were for ideas that simply did not fit The ARK Challenge program. If the idea did not revolve around mobile, software, web, or some form of information technology, this is not the right format for acceleration.

The application was incomplete or reflected only halfhearted efforts.
If the startup founders didn’t seem to put much effort into answering the application questions, then we were unable to take the company very seriously.

The founders were unresponsive, slow to respond or did not not seem coachable.
When we contacted the team regarding the application, the contact information was incorrect, we didn’t receive a response at all, response time was slow or responses were off-putting/served with a heavy helping of attitude. We’re looking for a team that is motivated to work and can work well with others.

The startup did not show promising ability to execute.
The ARK Challenge is more than open to accelerating a concept-stage company that has a good team and interesting idea, provided there are signs that the driving forces behind the startup can deliver the goods.

Other applications fit the criteria better or exhibited more wow factor.
Even if your application, team and idea were impressive, it’s possible that other applications were more attractive.

If you submitted an application to The ARK Challenge for our inaugural cohort but received a notification of non-selection, please know we are very grateful to you for your time and energy. We hope you will still consider applying to participate in future sessions. We’re happy you threw your hat into the ring, and we fully expect to see you achieve great things in the near future. It is very possible we’ll be in touch with you to get involved in The ARK Challenge in a different capacity.

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