Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Little Rock, AR

Little Rock

A shipping hub, Little Rock hosts the headquarters of some major companies such as Dillard’s. The city also has a burgeoning entrepreneurship scene…

Little Rock, AR, named after a distinctive rock formation on the river, is the state’s capital and largest city. A shipping hub, Little Rock hosts the headquarters or locations of major companies, including Dillard’s. The city also has a burgeoning entrepreneurship scene, though it still has room to grow, as does the state as a whole.

While Little Rock only ranked 147th on WalletHub’s 2018 list of the best large cities to start a small business, it was ranked 52nd in the “access to resources” category as well as 93rd in “business costs.” As a whole, the state of Arkansas ranked 12th in entrepreneurial growth among smaller states in the Kauffman Foundation’s 2017 research.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Little Rock’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

While not explicitly intended for entrepreneurs, the Arkansas Coding Academy hosts meetups to help educate people in coding and technology.

Little Rock Entrepreneurs is a large, active networking group in which entrepreneurs can meet one another, make connections, and grow their businesses.

Startup Grind Little Rock is one of many branches of Startup Grind, an organization that hosts regular events to help support entrepreneurship around the country.

 

Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Matchmaking event is a large networking opportunity held annually in Little Rock for small businesses owned by minorities and women.

Little Rock Tech Fest is an annual event celebrating technology and software development through networking and educational events

Held annually in Little Rock, Made by Few is a conference for designers, developers, and other creative people.

Techtober is a collection of independently-organized events focusing on and celebrating technology and entrepreneurship that occur every October.

 

Startup Competitions:

The Arkansas Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan competition is open to college and university students and offers large cash prizes to winners.

Entrepreneurs in the Pitch ‘N Pint competition give 60-second elevator pitches for a chance to win cash prizes and “swag” by winning the judge and audience choices, respectively.

In addition to the Arkansas Governor’s Cup competition for college students, Arkansas Capital hosts the Y.E.S. for Arkansas 5th-8th Grade Business Plan Competition.

 

Co-working Spaces:

Founded in 2015, The Hive is a co-working space specifically designed for entrepreneurs and creative people that offers a variety of amenities and professional development services.

Located just down the road in Maumelle, Jolt Office Hub offers hot desks and dedicated desks as well as private office space and meeting rooms.

Regus has a co-working location that offers office space for rent in the Regions Center in downtown Little Rock.

 

Maker spaces:

Hosted just down the road at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, The Conductor provides tools and equipment to the Central Arkansas community.

The Dee Brown Library in Little Rock includes a maker space in the back with tools and equipment available to the public.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub offers a maker space, art and design studios, and even co-working options.

 

Incubators:

Arkoitchen is a kitchen incubator that offers 5,000 square feet of commercial kitchen space open 24/7.

Hosted at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, the BioVentures Life Science Business Incubator supports startups based on UAMS technologies.

The Little Rock Technology Park offers co-working space as well as advising, counseling, and financial advice to entrepreneurs with technology-based ventures.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers support and incubation services to small businesses in the area.

 

Accelerators:

Health InnovatAR is an accelerator and early-stage investment fund that works with promising startups in the field of health technology.

Innovate Arkansas supports a number of programs to help support and accelerate entrepreneurship around the state.

Organized by the Venture Center, the VC FinTech Accelerator is a 12-week program for promising early-stage financial technology startups.

The Venture Center also organizes a 12-week Pre-Accelerator program that supports entrepreneurs at the earliest stages.

 

Colleges/Universities:

Located in North Little Rock, Pulaski Technical College offers an entrepreneurship program with an associate’s degree and two certificate programs.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers an Innovation and Entrepreneurship emphasis in the management major as well as several out-of-the-classroom entrepreneurial resources.

Down the road in Conway, the University of Central Arkansas organizes a number of entrepreneurial resources as well as a bachelor’s degree in innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

Angel Groups/VCs:

Not exactly a venture capital firm, Arkansas Capital is a group that gives loans to entrepreneurs to help grow the state’s economy, with over $1.5 billion loaned since its founding in 1957.

Located down the road in Conway, Cadron Creek Capital invests in early-stage technology startups from around the state of Arkansas and the mid-South.

Diamond State Ventures is a firm that provides debt and equity financing to lower middle market companies throughout the United States.

Founded in 2005, the Fund for Arkansas’ Future is an angel investment firm that works with early-stage companies based in the state.

With five offices across Indiana and Arkansas, Gravity Ventures in promising early-stage technology startups.

 

Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

Arkansas Business, a weekly business journal covering just what it says, offers daily news delivered through email.

Arkansas Money & Politics magazine, which includes a section focusing on startups from around the state, offers an email newsletter.

Talk Business & Politics, which covers business and politics news from around the state of Arkansas, offers a daily email newsletter.

 

Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Little Rock not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Jacksonville, FL, Greenville, SC, Birmingham, AL


Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at Funding$age where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.