The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub today announced that it is launching the Innovation Fund to support and accelerate the development of university-based startup companies in Arkansas.
“The creation of the Innovation Fund addresses the most glaring gap in our state’s equity capital spectrum for startup companies,” said Jeff Stinson, Director of the Silver Mine at the Innovation Hub. “Our goal will be to train and position those startups to receive the angel and venture capital that is already available, and by doing that the Innovation Fund has the potential to jump-start entrepreneurship in a way that’s never been done in Arkansas.”
Stinson will direct the Innovation Fund as part of his role in overseeing entrepreneurial programming at the Innovation Hub. He also currently manages the state’s largest angel investment fund, Fund for Arkansas’ Future, and previously he was Director of TechLaunch at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he worked with university researchers to help them protect and commercialize their technologies and inventions.
The Innovation Fund will be a for-profit equity investment fund aimed at organizing, training and funding university-based technology startup companies across Arkansas. In addition to providing seed capital, the program will include structured content and curricula based on the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps™ model.
Through the Innovation Fund, student- and faculty-based startup teams will be supplemented with mentors from the business community, and they will receive tiered investments based on their progression through the program. The financing will be provided through private investment dollars and will be targeted toward proof-of-concept activities that are so critical at the very earliest stage of entrepreneurial development.
“University innovation gains economic value by getting it to the marketplace, and this translation is getting better in Arkansas,” said Jerry Adams, President and CEO of the Arkansas Research Alliance and a member of the Innovation Hub’s board of directors. “This Innovation Fund is a needed addition to ensure that the flow of ideas gains economic value for Arkansas, and this fund perfectly aligns with the goals of ARA.”
“The Innovation Fund, and the training that accompanies it, will allow us to significantly increase the number of knowledge-based startups in the state,” said Carol Reeves, Associate Vice-Provost for Entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and a member of the Innovation Hub’s board of directors. “There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in Arkansas. The Innovation Fund will accelerate the amazing progress we have made over the past five-to-ten years and will lead to many high-wage jobs in the state.”