Inaugural Class of Arkansas Fellows Revealed This Week

by Mark Carter  on Monday, Jun. 2, 2014 12:00 am  

Warwick Sabin will lead the Arkansas Fellowship program, which kicks off this summer by placing recent college grads into two-year internships with leading Arkansas companies.  (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

“We believe that the Arkansas Fellowship will profoundly impact economic development in the state by keeping our most talented young people here and giving them the opportunities, connections and resources they need to be successful,” he said. “By contributing in innovative ways to our existing companies and then possibly starting their own companies, the Fellows will ultimately create a cohort that supports each other and those who come after them. That has been the experience of the Orr Fellowship in Indiana, and there is no reason to expect any less from the program that we have established in Arkansas.”

Arkansas entrepreneur Kristian Andersen hatched the idea for an Orr-like fellowship in Arkansas. A serial entrepreneur and angel investor, Andersen has launched several tech startups and owns KA+A, an Indianapolis-based creative agency. He helped launch Gravity Ventures, the member-based, seed capital fund that now has multiple funds in Arkansas and Indiana.

Andersen believes in the potential of Arkansas to become a tech startup hub. Pathagility, the Conway software startup and Innovate Arkansas client firm he co-founded, is poised to become a big player in the pharmacogenetics industry. Through the Fellowship, startups like Pathagility stand to benefit from the potential influx of technical talent.

“I had witnessed the impact of the Orr Fellowship program in Indiana and thought a similar concept would be a great fit for Arkansas,” he said.

Each fellowship lasts for two years with a new class selected each year, so classes will always overlap. The first class will commence later this month. The fellowship board of directors interviewed each applicant and narrowed the field to 25 finalists who were then interviewed by representatives of the Arkansas companies that expressed interest in hiring an Arkansas Fellow.

On this “Finalist Day,” companies and finalists ranked each other in order of preference, and matches were made based on those mutual attractions, Sabin said.

Seven state business leaders make up the program’s board membership: Andersen, Little Rock startup lawyer Jamie Fugitt of PPGMR Law; Jeff Amerine, Technology Ventures director at the University of Arkansas and Innovate Arkansas adviser; Heather Nelson of SEAL Corp. of North Little Rock; Mike Steely of the Arkansas Venture Center in Little Rock; Burt Hicks of Simmons First National Corp.; and Little Rock CPA Ryan Holder.

Fellowship selection criteria includes a minimum GPA of 3.0, graduation from an Arkansas college or university (native Arkansans graduating from out-of-state schools will be considered), and demonstration of leadership potential with a focus on entrepreneurship.

More information on the program is available at ArkansasFellowship.org

 

 

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