Launch Retreat Hopes to Fill Niche in Startup Ecosystem

by Mark Carter  on Thursday, Jul. 3, 2014 11:30 am  

Michael Paladino of RevUnit, shown at the 2013 ARK Challenge demonstrating the Overwatch combat gaming app, will be one of the mentors at the inaugural Launch Retreat. (Photo by Beth Hall)

Part startup accelerator, part Startup Weekend, a new event in northwest Arkansas is designed to nudge early-stage startup ventures on their way to healthy growth. 

Launch Retreat from David Baker and James Eldridge will run Oct. 9-12 at a secluded, 5,000-SF lodge in northwest Arkansas. The application period begins June 24 and runs through Aug. 15. 

Baker said Launch Retreat takes the best parts of the accelerator and Startup Weekend models and combines them into a "completely new, flexible format geared towards working professionals with amazing ideas." The program will be tailored to the specific needs of the participants and will stress validation and education.

Baker said participants will leave the event with a timeline for growth and benchmarks to keep them on target. Plus, mentors will hold Launch Retreat alumni accountable to pursue and achieve goals, he said.

Entry into the program is $250, and applicants have two options: early-stage ventures that haven't received investment or cash flow can have the event fee waived and provide 5 percent equity, or more established startups can pay a $1,500 event fee and give up no equity.

Less than a dozen participants will be accepted into the program, Baker said. The program will accept early-stage startups as well as aspiring entrepreneurs with a promising idea.

Experienced entrepreneurs, Baker and Eldridge know the startup drill. They know early-stage ventures staring the valley of death square in the eye need a boost, and they're ready to help provide that boost through Launch Retreat.

Baker is co-founder of creative brand agency Moxy Ox of Tontitown, co-founder of NWA online community Creatives United, and currently serves as senior product owner at Bentonville digital development agency RevUnit, an Innovate Arkansas client firm.

Eldridge, a former Air Force medic, is a freelance business consultant, co-founder of Springdale handmade furniture company James & James, and CEO of WearLit, a classic literature-based, e-commerce apparel company.

"We owe so much of what we've achieved to our support network," Baker said. "Over the past four years, we've spent a lot of time and money meeting as many smart people as we could. We've joined groups, hosted events and traveled to conferences. We thought, there's got to be a better way to do this. We created Launch to provide entrepreneurs with support and fill a void in the NWA business development ecosystem."

Baker and Eldridge recruited a regional, all-star list of mentors to help them fill that void.

So far, the list of mentors includes:

 

 

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