Silicon Valley Startup: Sooligan Moves To Arkansas To Help Strangers INTERVIEW

Startups flock in droves from their home city to Silicon Valley. It’s like the pilgrimage that actors and actresses make to Hollywood and models make to New York (some startups too). It’s not often that you hear of a startup moving from Silicon Valley to “everywhere else” to grow.

Back in June we brought you the story of the vitamin and supplement subscription box startup, Bulu Box. The husband and wife team behind Bulu Box moved from Silicon Valley to Lincoln Nebraska to grow their startup. Paul and Stephanie Jarrett were able to get an investment from the Nebraska Angels. They decided to pack things up and move to Nebraska, not only because of the investment but because costs would be more manageable there.

Today we’ve found Sooligan. Sooligan is a social discovery startup for the things around you. The idea behind the startup is that whether you’re traveling to a new city or your’re moving their, you can use Sooligan to crowdsource expert advice from the best experts, the locals.

Sooligan has rolled a few concepts into one big idea. They submitted the idea to the Ark Challenge accelerator in Fayetteville Arkansas and we’re accepted.

The two female founders from Sooligan, Nikka Umil and Natasha Malaihollo have relocated their headquarters to Fayetteville and plan on staying there after the accelerator program is over. Umil told why they decided to relocate to Arkansas and then stay there:

“I think everyone already knows about Berkeley! It is minutes away from Silicon Valley, and is a hub for the country’s best and brightest. This makes moving to Fayetteville, Arkansas (where we are currently based) quite shocking and a bit unexpected. We had NO clue whatsoever that this place had a booming startup scene/culture. We were very surprised by what we found once we started researching the area. Not ony is it home to the biggest Forbes 500 and 1000 companies, but it is also home to great up-and-coming startups like TTAGG, MobileFWD, Acumen Brands and more. Initiatives like the Ark Challenge and The Iceberg are also testaments to the growing startup culture in the area.”

Umil found a laundry list of accolades for their new home:


· Forbes named Fayetteville, Arkansas, a Best Place for Businesses and Careers.

· Fast Company recently named Fayetteville, AR as one of the “9 cities you wouldn’t think are hubs for tech startups”

· Travel + Leisure named Bentonville, Arkansas, one of the hottest travel destinations for 2012.

· The region, relatively insulated from the macroeconomy, offers a high quality of life and low cost of living.

· Northwest Arkansas is home to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies, as well as thousands of their big-brand suppliers.

· In 2011, Arkansas was cited by CNBC as having the lowest overall cost of doing business in the nation.

· The Kauffman Foundation ranks Arkansas as the 15th most entrepreneurial state in 2011 in the current issue of its annual report, the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. The calculated index for Arkansas is at 0.34%, which means there are 340 entrepreneurs per 100,000 adults per month in the Natural State.

· The nation is seeing progress, innovation clusters and cultural revival in the Midwest and American South.

· Northwest Arkansas is the sixth fastest growing region in the country, surrounded by the beautiful Ozark Mountains.

· The Northwest Arkansas MSA has grown 35% since 2000 and now numbers more than 463,000 residents—the fastest growing population in Middle America.

· Northwest Arkansas is a hub at the center of a regional market including Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, St. Louis, Little Rock, and Memphis metropolitan areas.

· Northwest Arkansas has a welcoming entrepreneurial culture with quick-start networking opportunities.

· Northwest Arkansas sees a high degree of philanthropic engagement from its citizenry, as well as creative and business communities.

· Northwest Arkansas has the most billionaires per capita than anywhere in the United States.

· As part of a regional strategic economic development plan, Northwest Arkansas has an intentional focus onnurturing mobile and Internet startups.

Below is the rest of our interview with Umil.

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