Update: Venture Center Sparking New Entrepreneurship Program


Update: Venture Center Sparking New Entrepreneurship Program
The facade of the Venture Center's space on the first floor of the Little Rock Tech Park. (Sarah Campbell)

The Venture Center last week told Whispers it would be launching a new offering Monday in partnership with the Little Rock Regional Chamber.

What is the nonprofit entrepreneurial support organization based out of the Little Rock Technology Park up to now? It’s giving away — free — four to six desks at its tech park headquarters to up to eight startups. The Venture Center is also hosting a pre-accelerator for startups that have annual revenue of at least $50,000.

The 14-week program is called Spark!!, and the Venture Center is thinking about doing it twice a year, depending on interest, said Chief Strategy Officer Mimi San Pedro.

Applications are being accepted through Sept. 4.

“Spark! will empower our local entrepreneurs by equipping them with tools and mentorship through a one-of-a-kind experiential pre-accelerator,” said Jay Chesshir, President & CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber, in a news release. “We have a world-class business community in Little Rock who want to see our economy continue to grow. By partnering with The Venture Center, experts in accelerating entrepreneurial growth and development, we’ll positively impact our small business community and the amazing entrepreneurs who drive it."

The pre-accelerator companies won’t receive a seed investment like the more established companies that are chosen for the Venture Center’s accelerator programs. Spark! is also not industry-specific; the startups won’t get access to potential customers.

But Spark! will, in addition to the desks and discounted parking in downtown, hook the startups up with many other resources.

The list includes office supplies and equipment (a copy machine and coffee machine, for example), access to conference rooms, mentoring, help validating the ideas they want to commercialize, business loan and grant information, the opportunity to collaborate with their peers and the chance to pitch to investors at the culminating Pitch ’N Pint event on Dec. 10.

Startups that were not chosen for Spark! will also be able to compete for a cash prize at the pitch event.