University of Arkansas Teams Win 8 of 10 Governor's Cup Awards

by Mark Carter  on Wednesday, Apr. 9, 2014 3:39 pm  

Lumadrop is interviewed after the 2014 Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup awards ceremony at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. (Photo by Mark Carter)

For the first time this year, the event included the C. Sam Walls Entrepreneur Educator Award from Arkansas Capital Corporation. The inaugural winners were faculty advisors Carol Reeves of the UA's Walton Business College and Allen Frazier of Harding University in Searcy. Each winner took home a cash prize of $2,500 plus another $2,500 for their respective schools.

Arkansas Capital Corporation hosts the Governor's Cup, which it founded in 2001 under the leadership of former CEO Sam Walls, who retired last year. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has been name sponsor for the event since 2004. 

Big Plans

Business plan teams from the UA have a history not only of competing well in national and international competitions, but of going on to real-world success. Reeves, whose daughter Rachel Zweig of Hendrix College in Conway is a member of the BioBotics team, believes the UA teams stand a good chance of succeeding in Las Vegas. She noted that Datavis could see revenue in the next few months.

For Neil Bora, a third-year UA law student and CEO of Lumadrop, his startup venture hits close to home. The technology behind Lumadrop comes from his parents, UA researchers Nalini and Puran Bora. Bora said his mom Nalini told him in 2011 about the prospects of replacing injections made directly into the eye with drops. 

Bora said there are many potential competitors to LumaDrop, but he believes LumaDrop will be not only a better product but first to market.

"We'll try and continue to raise funding and further develop the drug," he said. "We're finishing pre-clinicals and then hope to submit it to the FDA next year."


Following the awards luncheon, many of the Governor's Cup participants walked across the street to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce to participate in an entrepreneurial panel discussion hosted by the Arkansas Venture Center.

The founders of three Little Rock-based tech startups -- Matt Price of Bourbon & Boots, Tim Miller of Sumotext and Keith Hoelzeman of Treatsie -- offered their advice to the prospective entrepreneurs. 

Each acknowledged access to capital and the relative lack of technical talent as hardships to starting up in Arkansas, but also noted how the startup ecosystem in the state over the past decade has changed dramatically.

"In terms of the startup environment, we'd have been better off in another city," said Miller, who launched the mobile messaging service in 2007. "But now so many things have changed. There are so many examples of people and organizations fostering entrepreneurship and support for it."



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