Arkansas Thinks Big Everywhere Else

Arkansas, Startup Arkansas, Think Big Arkansas, Lee Watson, Startup Communities

Lee Watson organizer of Think Big Arkansas and Startup Arkansas (photo: NMI 2013)

Hendrix College in Conway Arkansas was bursting at the seams with young entrepreneurs and seasoned corporate executives. They’ve come together this morning to celebrate the kick off of Startup Arkansas and to Think Big Arkansas.

Event organizer, Lee Watson, did a great job of bringing startup community leaders from the entire state in to Conway for this event.

Scott Case the CEO of Startup America and founding CTO of Priceline will be keynoting today. Brad Feld, the author of Startup Communities should be at the event in the evening as well.

The morning session kicked off with entrepreneurs and event organizers from

Mike Smith, Innovate Arkansas (photo: NMI 2013)

organizations like BarCampConway, Startup Weekend, Innovate Arkansas, Ark Challenge, Made By Few and many others, to talk about what’s going on with their organization and how to bridge it all together in one cohesive unit.

In a pre-event dinner Thursday night Startup Arkansas Regional Champion Luke Coleman reached out to myself and Scott Case to address the problem that there are “cliques” in each part of Arkansas. Noooooo I had never heard of that before????

Case was able to give him some great advice which was summed up as “do you want the good news or the bad news first”, of course Coleman elected to take the bad news first which was “every region in Startup America has been in that same spot”, the good news? “Every region in Startup America has been in that same spot”.

Tennessee is no stranger to where Coleman sees a huge opportunity for growth, however in Tennessee we’ve done a great job of overcoming our hyper local focus and celebrating the victories in each of the 9 accelerator regions. It’s not uncommon to see a van or bus ful of Memphians at a Nashville or Chattanooga startup event, and vice versa.

Friday morning the parallels continued, confirming the main theme of the recent everywhereelse conference, startups and startup communities everywhere else have commonalities in problems and growth areas.

At the beginning of the event Arkansas Regional Champions Dave Moody, along with Coleman, brought 5 attendees up to the mic to share their ideas for a better community.

Abbey Keever with RedClay echoed one of Scott Case’s favorite themes,which was don’t try to be the next Silicon Valley. Keever, an experienced business woman and the fearless leader at RedClay, said she would love to see Arkansas expand in startups in their biggest areas, of course retail (Walmart) and logistics (Walmart and JB Hunt).

Most every startup community we’ve seen is starting to get their patriarch companies or at least their industries intertwined in the growth of the community.

Other ideas included keeping the dialoge open and holding vertical specific summits to give entrepreneurs access to closer related resources.

If you haven’t seen this amazing video from Thursday night, Go here now!


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