Technology startups wanting to take part in a mentorship-driven business accelerator program have until June 17 to apply.
The ARK Challenge is a 14-week camp beginning in August for 15 businesses. Each participating startup will receive $18,333 in seedmoney to cover the cost of living in Northwest Arkansas while building a prototype.
The selected businesses will receive free off ice space, industry research, legal support and marketing services.
Also key to the program is access to a network of experts, advisers and mentors.
More than 50 mentors nationwide plan to participate, including Greg Lee, former chief administrative offcer and president of Tyson Foods; Dan Sanker, chief executive officer of CaseStack; Rick Webb, senior vice president of Global Business Processes at Walmart; Jinhee Kim, founder of Snapette; and Collins Hemingway, best known for partnering with Bill Gates on the “Business @ the Speed of Thought.”
The ARK was one of20 projects nationwide to receive federal funding to advance regional competitiveness. The organization received $2.1 million to hold the tech boot camp for two years.
The Challenge is new, and so is The ARK. The program is designed to recruit and help information technology companies grow in Northwest Arkansas in three core clusters: retail, transportation and logistics and food processing.
The ARK launched in March and is a Winrock International, U.S. Programs, initiative in partnership with the University of Arkansas and the NorthWest Arkansas Community College.
The Economic Development Administration, the Small Business Administration and Employment and Training Administration, as well as Winrock International, Gravity Ventures and Fund for Arkansas’ Future provide funding.
Jeannette Balleza, The ARK director, said she has received 30 applications and hopes to recruit at least another 70 in the next couple weeks. Any business from across the globe can apply, but she said only five of the applicants are from Arkansas.
“I would like to see us get more in-state businesses involved,” she said.
Entrepreneurs interested in applying for the boot camp can do so online at ark challenge.org.