The seven startups participating in the fall installment of the ARK Challenge accelerator will pitch products and progress Wednesday at the Clinton Presidential Center.
The ARK Challenge is the tech-based startup “boot camp” launched in Fayetteville in 2012 through a federal grant that funded two installments. This year, the program was picked up by the state and private investors, continued in northwest Arkansas and expanded to Little Rock.
At Demo Day, participating teams pitch their final products developed over the course of the three-month program before a group of peers and potential investors. The ARK provided each team with $20,000, relocated the out-of-town teams to central Arkansas and provided mentoring and all the services needed to develop their products, including space across from the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock.
A panel of judges will name a winner that will receive an additional investment round of $150,000. Wednesday’s event is sold out. It begins at 1 p.m. at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library.
The Arkansas Technology Summit will begin immiediately following Demo Day at 5 p.m. at the library. It continues on Thursday at the Argenta Innovation Center in downtown North Little Rock. It will showcase 20 of the state’s top tech-based startups borne of university research.
The ARK will showcase its own group of startups, to which it provided a diverse group of fall session mentors including Arkansas Systems founder John Chamberlin; Ross Cranford of Cranford Co.; Arkansas Business contributor Robert Coon of Impact Management Group; Ruth Whitney, founder and CEO of inVeritas Research & Consulting; and London-based entrepreneur and investor Permjot Valia.
Warrick Sabin, who directs the Little Rock version of the ARK, believes the program plays a crucial role in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“We will pave the way for other accelerator programs to get traction and support, as the companies we directly accelerate will be the success stories that others will use to demonstrate the utility of the process,” he said. “And those ARK companies will bring more entrepreneurial startups behind them and serve as the next corps of mentors. It is a virtuous cycle that needs the catalytic spark provided by the ARK.”
The teams making up the first Little Rock cohort of the ARK hail from central Arkansas, northwest Arkansas and Minneapolis, Minn.
All ARK Challenge startups become client firms of Innovate Arkansas, which in partnership with Arkansas Business, profiled each of the seven teams throughout the fall (click links for profiles).
The fall 2014 teams are:
- My Color of Beauty, Little Rock — online platform for women of color designed to help them discover beauty products from online influencers that are specific to their needs.
- Eatiply, Minneapolis — a TOMS Shoes-inspired campaign where participating restaurants donate to a food bank for every Eatiply-designated meal purchased.
- Tagless, Little Rock — Partner shoppers with personal stylists who hook them up with clothes from nonprofit, second-hand clothing distributors.
- Politapoll, Rogers — an online tool that polls citizens and tracks legislative votes regarding specific legislation and helps advocacy groups form alliances.
- Fair Share Data, Bentonville — an “anti-loyalty” program for businesses and consumers that collects consumer purchasing data and for which businesses compete.
- Jones Innovative Medical Solutions, Little Rock — developed the patent-pending Bifurcated Venous Access Device that provides hospitals with a “one stop” blood draw system.
- Acorn Hours, Little Rock — online service that verifies community service hours for students and frees up teachers from paperwork associated with tracking those hours.