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

Little Rock's Noble Impact is bringing the first-ever High School Startup Weekend to the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service this spring.

Seattle-based Startup Weekend began in 2007 as a grassroots movement to build entrepreneurial communities and launch startup ventures. It brings together local entrepreneurs, designers and more for brainstorming sessions held over 54 hours -- the course of a weekend -- to form ideas around which tech-based startups are built.

Startup Weekends are held across the globe and in 2013 made their way to Little Rock and Fayetteville. As of April 2013, roughly 1,100 events had been held worldwide involving more than 100,000 entrepreneurs. More than 400 cities in more than 100 countries have hosted Startup Weekends, spawning more than 8,100 startups.

National Startup Weekend sponsors include the Kauffman Foundation, Google and Microsoft.

Several startups launched at Startup Weekends in Little Rock and Fayetteville remain viable, including Little Rock winner Acorn Hours (which started as Simple Service), Fayetteville startup and Innovate Arkansas client Nerdies, and Passion Pull, a startup created by high school students from eStem High School in Little Rock who attended the Fayetteville event. That team of six students is part of the Noble Impact program at eStem.

Noble Impact, a nonprofit that partners with the Clinton School, works with students to engage them in public service through entrepreneurship.

The success of the Passion Pull team at Startup Weekend motivated Noble Impact to launch the first-ever High School Startup Weekend, to be held in Little Rock April 4-6 at the Clinton School. 

Arkansas Business and Innovate Arkansas recently caught up with Noble Impact CEO Eric Wilson to get the details behind this unique event.

Discuss the process of getting this idea endorsed by Startup Weekend.

Wilson: At its core, Startup Weekend is a 54-hour learn-by-doing educational experience. Team dynamics, critical thinking and problem solving all come into play during the challenge of taking an idea from concept to reality. We saw this first-hand when Noble Impact students participated in the NWA Startup Weekend, competing head-to-head with adult teams. Not only did they win a 3D printer, but students were also introduced to skills and processes that will amplify their overall education. Knowing that more students could benefit from this experience, we pitched it to Startup Weekend, and they have supported us throughout the process.

How will High School Startup Weekend differ from the traditional model?

Wilson: From the very beginning, it was important to both Startup Weekend and us that the format not be watered down in an attempt to accommodate high school students. We have seen first-hand that students are more than capable of handling the rigor of the 54-hour competition.



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