Something Ventured, Something Gained

Something Ventured, Something Gained
From the Little Rock Technology Park to the Venture Center to the FIS FinTech Accelerator, Little Rock offers an environment where entrepreneurs and innovators can find the support to develop new ideas. (Danny Johnston)

The Little Rock-based Venture Center and two of its alumni won top prizes at the second annual Finovate Awards.

The center beat out four other finalists to win the Best Fintech Accelerator/Incubator category while Venture Center alum Finzly won Best Enterprise Solution and fellow alum Teslar won Best Fintech Partnership.

“Words could never adequately convey our excitement,” said Venture Center Executive Director Wayne Miller. “Our incredible partners from the state of Arkansas, FIS, and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) made this win possible and demonstrates what can happen when people, organizations and entrepreneurs collaborate. Together, we’re showing the world that Little Rock, Arkansas, continues to build on its esteemed fintech history.”

Globally recognized, the Venture Center helps entrepreneurs develop their startup ideas into full-fledged businesses and innovates programs to help corporations that spark long-term economic growth. The center’s award-winning accelerator programs speed the growth of companies in their early stages and help them develop solutions for real-world problems.

Since 2014 the Venture Center has helped accelerator alumni raise more than $75 million in private equity and generate more than $50 million in revenue.

Held digitally this year from New York City’s Edison Ballroom on Sept. 14, the Finovate Awards annually name 25 winners in various categories including consumer lending, digital banking and ID management. The finalists are chosen by an international group of judges from the Fintech industry.

“Congratulations to The Venture Center for this hard-earned and well-deserved recognition,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said of the Venture Center’s Finovate victory. “The Venture Center has supported and groomed many impressive companies and entrepreneurs in a short amount of time. The center’s success enhances Arkansas’ reputation as a leader in financial technology and computer science. We’re proud to continue our partnership with The Venture Center and support its important mission.”

Finzly, winner of the Best Enterprise Solution category, is a 2020 ICBA ThinkTECH alum. The Best Enterprise award goes to a bank or fintech company that excels in the areas of enterprise payments, balancing speed, ease of use and reliability.

Teslar, based in Arkansas and a 2019 ICBA ThinkTECH product, won Best Fintech Partnership thanks to its partnership with PPPBank. The award goes to fintech companies that cooperate to create something original and innovative.

“We are excited to see this recognition for the FIS Accelerator and the successful partnership we have forged with The Venture Center and the State of Arkansas,” said Gary Norcross, chairman, president and CEO of FIS, a Fortune 500 global banking and payments technology company. “Five years ago, we had a common vision to create a world-class accelerator based in Arkansas. Today, that vision is bringing innovative, real-world fintech solutions to our clients around the world. Congratulations to both The Venture Center and the state for this well-deserved honor.”

Kevin Tweddle, ICBA Senior Executive Vice President of Community Bank Solutions, said the victories underscore the effectiveness of the Venture Center’s efforts and set the stage for more to come.

“This honor is further validation of the hard work and dedication of The Venture Center in fostering an environment where innovation flourishes,” he said. “We’re thrilled to continue our successful partnership with The Venture Center as we embark on our third ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator program. Together, with the state of Arkansas, we’re helping to ensure that the future of community bank innovation remains bright.”

Launched in 2015 as a collaboration between the Venture Center and FIS, the FinTech Accelerator is a 15-week program committed to accelerating development and innovation in the worldwide financial tech industry. There are 10 startups admitted based on their potential to challenge norms in the financial services sector.

The program includes a curriculum that helps participants with strategic planning, take on business and finance challenges and provide mentorship from industry experts from FIS and the financial services community. The 2021 virtual kickoff was scheduled for early January, 2021.