Q&A with PressBaby: From Startup Weekend to the ARK, and the Differences Between LR and NWA

by Mark Carter  on Monday, Sep. 16, 2013 9:45 am  

Little Rock startup PressBaby was hatched this past spring by Emily Reeves of Little Rock and Jody Shackelford of Hardy at Startup Weekend Little Rock. It was incubated over the summer at the ARK Challenge in Fayetteville.

Through its products Newspaper Next, ZineDay and VidLibs, this Innovate Arkansas client firm aims to produce, deliver and monetize multimedia content.

Innovate Arkansas caught up with Reeves, director of digital innovation and insight planning at Stone Ward and PressBaby's COO, who explains just how PressBaby came to be. She also provides an insider's look into the ARK Challenge and discusses the differences between central and northwest Arkansas from an entrepreneur's perspective.

IA: Tell us about Startup Weekend and how the idea for PressBaby was born. You’d never met Jody before, right?

Emily: Little Rock Startup Weekend was held in April 2013. I attended on a whim, more out of curiosity than interest in starting a business. And I thought I would meet some interesting people. I had not met Jody before Startup Weekend. He had driven in from Hardy that afternoon and was one of 30 or so people that gave a 60-second pitch for one of his many business ideas. He pitched the idea for an app called VidLibs, video MadLibs for you and your friends.

After all the participants voted, VidLibs was narrowed down to one of the top 12 ideas for teams to form around. I loved the idea and joined his team. That first night, it was just the two of us and we were not even sure we would pursue it over the weekend since our team was so small. But as the weekend went on and other teams disbanded, our team grew and we ended up winning second place in the competition.

We learned about the ARK Challenge over the weekend and Jody applied for VidLibs with me as his partner. The same week that we learned we had been accepted into the program, Jody received news from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that they were interested in working with him on another business idea he had been pitching: Newspaper Next.

We talked to the ARK Challenge and decided to form a company called PressBaby that would have both the VidLibs product and the Newspaper Next product in its portfolio. We used our time at the ARK Challenge to focus on Newspaper Next since we had an immediate customer request and need for the product.

IA: Were you surprised by your selection to the ARK?

Emily: We learned that weekend that the ARK Challenge was extending its application deadline specifically for projects that came out of Little Rock Startup Weekend. Jody applied on our behalf that next week, but I honestly didn't think that we would be accepted. Though I didn't know much about the ARK Challenge at the time, it seemed like it was for more established concepts. 

We were surprised, for several reasons. (1) We applied late in the game and didn't have the product fully thought out quite yet. (2) Neither Jody nor I are developers and we didn't have a technology partner. (3) We were notified of our acceptance the week before the program started. Surprise! We talked about it and knew that it was too great an opportunity to pass up, even given the obstacles we were facing going in.

IA: What was it like relocating for three months from 501 to 479?



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