Arkansas Venture Center Launches Pre-Flight Accelerator Course

by Mark Carter  on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 10:39 am  

The Arkansas Venture Center announced Tuesday the launch of a "pre-accelerator" course for entrepreneurs designed to "fast track their ideas to market."

Backed by the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Pre-Flight will be held on Monday nights over a 14-week period beginning Sept. 8 from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the program.

AVC president Lee Watson said Pre-Flight will provide program participants access to proven startup methodologies and an established national mentor network.

The course was developed by Nashville Entrepreneur Center CEO Michael Burcham and Director of Education John Murdock. The AVC represents the first licensee of the course.

The Pre-Flight curriculum includes a "roadmap development tool for startup planning, eight hours of live lectures, break-out sessions and course materials covering a textbook of content," according to an AVC news release. The program allows for two members per team.

Watson said students will engage in intense business planning exercises and have access to a "sophisticated interactive learning platform." Participants also can submit business plans for analysis and even "dock" their businesses at the AVC's collaborative work space in downtown Little Rock during the 14-week term, he said.

The AVC is housed within the chamber but is scheduled to take over about 8,000-SF of space on East Markham in November once the fourth installment of the ARK Challenge startup accelerator runs its course.

Murdock said thousands of entrepreneurs who have completed the program in Nashville have made Pre-Flight "one of the most effective experiential programs of its kind." He believes Pre-Flight can provide momentum for the startup scene in Little Rock and noted recently emerging startup hotspots like St. Louis, Chattanooga and Des Moines.

"With strong regional support from the EC and others, organizations like the AVC can be a catalyst in their area," Murdock said. "When it's healthy, entrepreneurship inside a community creates new jobs and can significantly change the local economy." 

Burcham sees potential in Little Rock.

"We have chosen to extend the inaugural partner license for Pre-Flight to the Arkansas Venture Center because we want to do our part to foster growth in the mid-South within the entrepreneurial sector," he said. "Towards this goal, the Pre-Flight licensing agreement is the first initiative in a long-term partnership with the Arkansas Venture Center."

Watson said he wants to fill a gap in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem with Pre-Flight, which has launched roughly 150 new companies "by giving them the resources to help them mature enough so that they are 'investable' companies."

"Better said, entrepreneurs are well-taken care of in places like Austin, Denver and Dallas, but for Little Rock to follow suit and grow its ecosystem, entrepreneurs need better support," he said.

To learn more about the program and register, visit



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