Jan 19, 2022 - Business

Startup studio set to launch tech companies in Northwest Arkansas

Illustration of a hand lighting the fuse of a rocket.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cartwheel generates the spark of a product idea and lights the fuse.

  • Then it hires a pilot to, hopefully, navigate the launch of a company around the idea.

What's happening: The Bentonville-based startup studio is partnering with Winrock International on a yearlong effort they hope will eventually sprout two to three tech companies in NWA.

The Walton Family Foundation provided $1.2 million to fund the project.

  • Why it matters: As NWA broadens its economy beyond its dependence on a few companies, startup accelerator programs like Cartwheel's will be important to build a regional entrepreneurial mindset and attract out-of-market talent.

Context: A startup studio begins by identifying a commercial need. Its principals vet the concept, test its potential as a commercial product and develop the skeleton of a company.

  • Studios often provide back-office support such as accounting, legal, recruiting services, and hire a CEO to bring the product into the marketplace.
  • In theory, this improves the new business' chances of success.

What they're saying: Cartwheel will focus on ideas that use software as a service.

  • In particular, the studio will focus on a niche in software used by frontline workers, such as waitstaff, workers in manufacturing or retail employees, Cartwheel's CEO Joshua Stanley told Axios.
  • "Startup studios are really just about diligent, unbiased idea validation," Stanley stated in a news release. "We're seeking to pull the known '90% failure rate of startups' up to the preformation phase to produce new companies that have the highest probability of success."

What to watch: The studio's first project, code-named "PushKin," is underway.

  • Amanda Earhart, who spent most of her career at eBay and Facebook before moving to NWA, is the CEO of the project.
  • Stanley couldn't discuss details but said it's for a quick-service restaurant and its workers.

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