The launch of the HubX Life Sciences startup accelerator, announced Friday by Baptist Health and the Innovation Hub in partnership with Iron Yard Ventures, signals what many state officials believe is a turning point for the state’s tech startup ecosystem.
HubX, which the Hub plans to grow into a series of accelerators representing various industries, is the first privately funded accelerator of its kind in the state. Baptist Health is funding the venture and the Iron Yard, which runs its own renowned health-care accelerator in South Carolina and recently graduated its first class of coders in downtown Little Rock, is providing expertise and support.
The program will be run from the Hub’s Argenta Innovation Center in downtown North Little Rock and participants will have access to Baptist Health facilities across the state. Five to 10 startups will be selected for the first installment, which will run April to June of next year, and those startups will receive $25,000-$50,000 in seed money.
State and private officials heralded the HubX launch and the sponsorship of a major private corporate entity like Baptist as a turning point for the state in its efforts to build a vibrant tech startup ecosystem.
Reactions from those on hand for Friday’s announcement, held in the main lobby of Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson: “This partnership represents the heart of what we’re trying to do in Arkansas…We want Arkansas to become a micro-hub for health-care technology…We’ve dramatically moved forward in terms of funding for tech startups.”
Innovation Hub Director Warwick Sabin: “Health care is a challenging industry, but adversity breeds ingenuity…This program will advance innovative health-care solutions through entrepreneurship.”
Spencer Jones of Jones Innovative Medical Solutions, winner of the 2014 ARK Challenge accelerator in Little Rock and 2015 graduate of the 2015 Zeroto510 health-care accelerator in Memphis: “This is such an important event for Arkansas. With this accelerator, you’ve got people building the products working with the stakeholders. It’s so important to have that hospital tie-in. It’ll help the process be more efficient.”
Baptist Health CEO Troy Wells: “Sometimes health-care entrepreneurship just needs an outlet…This came from us seeking opportunities to invest in health-care startups and asking ourselves how could we use our own resources to do so. Who knows, the next Spencer Jones may be out there.”
HubX Director Jeff Stinson, director of Fund for Arkansas’ Future, the Silver Mine co-working space at the Hub and the Hub’s Arkansas Innovation Fund: “Eleven years ago, Fund for Arkansas’ Future was the first organized source of early-stage capital in the state. Now there are six angel funds in Arkansas and 25 to 30 events, organizations and other sources of activities for startups. The entire ecosystem has flourished and all the activity has been built from the ground up by entrepreneurs and investors.
“Today is the first time an organization like Baptist has put resources into something like this in Arkansas, and we can recruit world-class talent to Arkansas just because Baptist is involved. Eleven years from now, people will look back and say they’re glad that Baptist was a visionary and decided to do something like this.”