Icon (Close Menu)


Plug & Play Celebrates First Success

3 min read

The partnership between the innovation platform Plug & Play Tech Center of Sunnyvale, California, and the Fortune 500 companies of northwest Arkansas is already paying off.

Plug & Play partnered with Walmart Inc. of Bentonville, Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell, among others, to start an accelerator for startups to tackle issues in supply chain and logistics. Twelve startups made the first cohort, and Plug & Play announced nine had achieved pilot partnerships with companies at its winter summit Friday at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the crowd of about 300, which included representatives from partners Walmart, Tyson, J.B. Hunt, Georgia-Pacific of Atlanta and Crowley Maritime of Jacksonville, Florida. Hutchinson said the state believes in accelerator programs such as Plug & Play and invests $1 million annually in such endeavors.

Plug & Play officials said the global logistic market is predicted to be $10.3 trillion by the year 2022. 

“We want these companies to say Arkansas is the right place to do business, Arkansas is a good place to have a tech company,” said Hutchinson, who later met with several of the startup companies. “We want to grow the tech economy here in our state. We want to add technology as a critical link to the growth of the economy of our state.”

Hutchinson said he wants Arkansas, and northwest Arkansas in particular, to become a “microhub” for technology companies. It makes sense because of the global reach of the area’s Big Three companies and their expertise in supply chain issues.

“We want you as a startup technology company to have incredible success,” Hutchinson said. “We hope you can have that success here, but if you decide to go back home [then] have your success there and start up your branch office right here in northwest Arkansas.”

Hutchinson mentioned that on Thursday he had been in east Arkansas with the Walton Family Foundation, which announced a $20 million grant for a biking and pedestrian trail in the Delta. Those cultural amenities are one of the foundation’s pet projects, but its investment in the Plug & Play initiative falls into line with the foundation’s culture focus.

“We believe that supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem is important to the community broadly,” said Karen Minkel, the foundation’s home region program director, who also addressed the meeting. “We think entrepreneurs bring jobs, but they also bring a culture of innovation. That bleeds over into some of the many things that matter to quality of life. 

“So much of what is great about northwest Arkansas can be tied back to this entrepreneurial spirit.”

Northwest Arkansas Council President Nelson Peacock said four of the startups plan to establish offices in northwest Arkansas and four more plan regular travel to the area. The council, the Walton Family Foundation and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission were among the organizations supporting the Plug & Play program.

Peacock said the hope was that startups working with supply chain companies in the area would establish offices in northwest Arkansas, thus creating job and economic activity. As the program grows, Peacock said the results could compound as more startups compete and more partner companies get involved.

“This is what we had in mind when we established this partnership with Plug & Play,” Peacock said. “Hopefully it attracts them to stay here. This is working out so far the way we hoped it would for the first one.”

Among the startups that earned partnerships:

  • Advanced Voice Research Labs (AVRL) of Seattle
  • Gideon Brothers of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Ocean Insights of Rostock, Germany
  • Shoof Technologies of Sunnyvale

Plug & Play CEO Saeed Amidi created the platform in 2006 to help encourage and support entrepreneurs. Plug & Play has an office with a staff of three in Bentonville and plays to hire two more, including a director of the northwest Arkansas office, in the coming weeks.

“I am very proud of setting up a Plug & Play here in northwest Arkansas,” Amidi said. “In the year 2020, we would like to invest in 20 of them [startups]. We would love to possibly seed round the next Walmart or the next J.B. Hunt. The startup needs corporations to grow.”

Send this to a friend