Startup Weekend Coming to Northwest Arkansas

Startup Weekend, a grass roots, 54-hour startup mashup that aims to get local entrepreneurs together to create new ventures, will be held in Fayetteville Nov. 15-17 at the Iceberg co-working space.

After a successful Startup Weekend Little Rock in April, the official debut of the event in Arkansas, organizers Max Farrell and Jordan Carlisle wanted to capitalize on the success of that event.

Innovate Arkansas caught up with Farrell and Carlisle to talk about Startup Weekend NWA:

IA: Did you always plan to follow up on Startup Weekend Little Rock with an event in northwest Arkansas?

Farrell: Absolutely! Northwest Arkansas has such a thriving entrepreneurial scene and supportive business community that makes doing a Startup Weekend event here a no-brainer. It was important for us to do the first Arkansas event in Little Rock to give back to our hometown, but we’re excited to build from the experiences of the first event and ramp up to have an amazing Startup Weekend.

IA: How's the event been received so far?

Carlisle: Pitching this Startup Weekend to this community has been a lot easier, not only because we showed Startup Weekend can foster entrepreneurial action, but because entrepreneurs in the state have quickly backed us in expanding the event. We’ve been able to build up our organizing team from two to eight members and more people are reaching out to us than we’ve had to engage on our own, so the support has been amazing. It’s a lot more exciting when the hype comes to us!

IA: How is the startup environment in NWA different than central Arkansas?

Farrell: Startups feed off of their environment and NW has strong corporate clusters in retail, logistics and food services on top of the largest institution in the state. Also, Northwest Arkansas startups have found ways to innovate within these industries to add growth to the community. Central Arkansas has strong industries in finance, big data, telecommunications, medical research and government, but the startups that are taking off don’t necessarily fit within that box.

IA: In what ways does each region complement the other?

Carlisle: At the end of the day, we’re all Arkansans. Arkansas is too small to be divided by region, so anytime great minds can collaborate because we’re Arkansans there’s a chance to build the entrepreneurial community. Arkansans are (for the most part) humble, personable, welcoming and have a dedicated work ethic that gives us a competitive advantage over other communities.

IA: Any plans to organize more Startup Weekends outside of LR and NWA?

Farrell: At this point, we are not directly involved with facilitating events in other locations, but we have every intention of inspiring our team of co-organizers, attendees, and community members to step up and host events in other communities. Folks in the state have had our back, so we’ve definitely got theirs.  

IA: Will this event benefit from the momentum created by Startup Weekend Little Rock?

Carlisle: We couldn’t have asked for a better Little Rock event. Two teams raised $20,000 each and completed The ARK Challenge. The event transformed corporate employees into co-founders. Strangers became friends and then became collaborators. The hype from the upcoming event has all the makings to surpass what was accomplished in Little Rock. We’re pumped!

IA: Startup Weekend, G60, the ARK, the plans for Argenta….describe the entrepreneurial momentum in the state right now.

Farrell: Entrepreneurship isn’t just happening with startups; government types and corporations are all looking for ways to be more innovative and demonstrate intrapreneurship inside their operations. It’s the perfect breeding ground for disruption whether a business is already in a space or another wants to penetrate a new market. Small companies can move fast, make mistakes and keep building -- that mindset gives startups a huge competitive edge to disrupt larger companies and the state’s core industries.

IA: What’s the toughest thing about organizing a Startup Weekend?

Carlisle: Getting the community to buy in. We know this event will be life-changing for the attendees. The tricky thing is getting the entrepreneurs, business leaders and curious minds to give us a chance.

IA: What’s the most fun part?

Farrell: Building community. Connecting people. Making friends. Seeing the ripple effect of activity after a Startup Weekend.

Startup Weekend NWA tickets are $50 and $75. Get more information here, and register here