Conway Remains a Big Piece of Arkansas Startup Puzzle

by Mark Carter  on Sunday, Mar. 16, 2014 11:54 pm  

ARK Challenge NWA director Jeannette Balleza-Collins leads a session at last year's BarCamp Conway.

While the number of tech-based startups launched in Conway is down from a peak experienced earlier this decade, Andersen told the Log-Cabin Democrat in December that the city has a progressive entrepreneurial culture that promises more growth ahead.

Todd Jones is another local entrepreneur who chose to return home. Four years ago, he moved back to Conway from Fort Worth, Texas. He thinks a foundation has been laid for future entrepreneurial growth in Conway, and his tracks events and stories within the Conway tech and startup communities.

"There is an emphasis in both technology and entrepreneurship from both UCA and Hendrix," he said. "We also have some innovative companies such as PrivacyStar and Acxiom and we have talent. Young people like Luke Irvin are coming up and becoming leaders in the community in technology. Luke is the most skilled iOS developer in the state of Arkansas, and he lives in Conway."

Irvin’s latest venture, Techne Apps, debuted its first app, talentt, last week at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

"Conway does have people resources that can help take your business off the ground and get the word out," Irvin said. "Depending on age and living status, it's affordable to live and work in Conway and be comfortable, which helps you stay focused on your business and make sure it grows. There is some energy in the universities that I see will grow over time."

Lacy believes many Arkansans attribute Conway’s rise to suburban growth, but said a big part of the city’s growth can be attributed to its college graduates wanting to stay and out down roots.

"Conway is an incubator of talent for the central Arkansas economy," he said. "Our higher education institutions should be a pipeline of smart, diverse, young people whose ideas and talent freshen the regional economy. We have a committee that meets monthly at the chamber that we have named Startup Conway. Members include higher education officials, tech industry reps and entrepreneurs. The committee is working to establish goals to nurture a startup culture in the city.  We want to be deliberate in what we do. We believe it is important for our whole state."              



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