Business leaders and start-up hopefuls were joined by elected officials Tuesday for the launch of the Arkansas Venture Center in Little Rock. Governor Mike Beebe pledged a $500,000 matching grant to the center, governed by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Proponents of the development argue it will foster a climate that accelerates the growth of innovative, tech start-ups. Governor Beebe said Arkansans have succeeded in starting international companies that dominate their industries but more needs to be done to encourage new, start-ups with limited resources.
“For every successful start-up you’re going to have many, many more failures and that’s the risk you take. It’s like research. Research ends up failing more often than it ends up succeeding but you’ve got to have it because that’s the cutting edge of how we get better as a society. Research, like entrepreneurial start-ups sometimes is not sexy enough for politicians because there’s not a lot of instant gratification,” said Beebe.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola touted the use of public funds to spur private development.
“Cities don’t create jobs what we do is create an environment for jobs to grow and to thrive and that partnership, that public-private partnership is what we really know works best, not just the public sector. So, what are we doing? We’re funding the initial start-up for AVC in terms of where they’re going to be located and more importantly the citizens of Little Rock have stepped up to the plate,” said Stodola.
Sree Shreedy helped to develop the start-up Acorn Hours that creates online portfolios for college students and universities to package and track volunteer and service work. Shreedy said the founders of Arkansas Venture Center have proved valuable to him in the time leading up to Tuesday’s announcement.
“We were kind of struggling doing our own thing. But then when we started talking with Lee and Mike, this is before AVC was a real entity, they helped us out a lot. They definitely put us on the right track. Even as AVC is still becoming a formalized entity they’ve still helped us tremendously,” said Shreedy.
Mayor Stodola said he believes the center will help further realize the city’s vision of a Main Street Creative Corridor adding to the presence of the Argenta Innovation Hub, the Little Rock Tech Park, and creative and cultural spaces like the Reparatory Theater.
Arkansas Venture Center will be housed at the Little Rock Tech Park after further partnerships and sources of private funds are finalized. The total amount of private investment has not yet been released. Partners include: Acxiom, nGage Labs, UALR, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Center, and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.