Noble Impact Bringing First High School Startup Weekend to Little Rock in April

by Mark Carter  on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 9:54 am  

Noble Impact CEO Eric Wilson

Unlike the traditional version of Startup Weekend, we will be introducing new concepts, like Lean Startup Methodology and G60 pitching to high school students for the first time. That's why we've recruited some of Arkansas' top talent in entrepreneurship and education to support them throughout the weekend. These mentors and facilitators are key to the process and add tremendous value to the entire weekend.

How will HSSW benefit its participants, even if they never go on to become entrepreneurs?

Wilson: Entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing studies on college campuses. Unfortunately, success in these programs is oftentimes measured exclusively with the number of startups launched and the amount of venture capital raised. Don't get me wrong. Those things are important, but entrepreneurial education is about life enhancement, which includes being college- and career-ready. 

The godfather of entrepreneurship studies, Professor Howard Stevenson, defines entrepreneurship as the "pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled." That skill set is applicable to everyone and every industry. For parents reading this, high school students that experience programs like the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship show significant increased interest in attending college and higher occupational aspirations.

In what ways do Noble Impact's students continue to surprise you?

Wilson: This young generation innately wants to make a positive impact. When asked to start a company, they naturally lean toward ideas with a strong social component. We see it time and time again. They don't just say they want to make a difference in the world; they actually believe it. Our job is to engage that "change the world" mentality while providing as much opportunity as possible.

Any plans to partner with other schools?

Wilson: Yes. We have big plans for Noble Impact. However, we can't overemphasize the importance of the first school to open its doors. John Bacon and his team at eStem have been incredible partners and deserve a tremendous amount of credit for seeing the importance of educating at the intersection of public service and entrepreneurship. 

Describe the environment for youth entrepreneurship in Arkansas right now.

Wilson: In 1985, only 250 college courses taught entrepreneurship, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Today, around 400,000 students take entrepreneurship classes every year. This growth hasn't fully extended to the K-12 sector.

Arkansas has an opportunity to be the national leader in youth entrepreneurship. At this point, I think it's critical to inform students, educators and administrators about the startup ecosystem. There is no doubt that entrepreneurship education in K-12 is rare, but we're ready to change that and believe Arkansas is a perfect place to start.

Is this generation of kids coming up more equipped to engage entrepreneurship at an earlier age? Or rather, is it simply equipped in a different way than past generations?

Wilson: Technology has removed all barriers for starting a business. Do you need to raise capital?  Entrepreneurs have raised $850 million on Kickstarter. How do you sell your product? Within 10 minutes, you can design and publish an ecommerce site through Shopify and begin processing orders. Now that you're generating revenue, do you need to get your finances in order? Take Wharton’s online accounting course on Coursera.

The game has changed, but it's important to remember that tools are only as good as the user. That’s why educational opportunities like Startup Weekend are so valuable. 

For more information about High School Startup Weekend, visit the website or contact Katie Milligan at 



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