May 6, 2024 - News

The Shift: New startup studios set to energize entrepreneurs

Illustration of a car battery with a dollar sign on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Two firms with backing from the Walton Family Foundation are looking to jumpstart 15 new companies in Northwest Arkansas in five years, founders tell Worth.

Why it matters: As the area's economy broadens beyond dependence on a few large companies, startup studios like Highway Ventures and Fieldbook Studio will be key to building a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and attracting talent.

Driving the news: Founders for both companies will present for the first time Wednesday evening as part of the Midcon VC Summit, set for Tuesday-Thursday in Bentonville.

  • Cortodo Ventures of Oklahoma City organized the summit that will convene at least 250 investors, entrepreneurs and VC insiders.

State of play: Lane Patterson and Dylan Terry, both partners of Highway, tell Worth the studio will license intellectual property (IP) related to alternative mobility from the U.S. government's federal labs. They'll develop a commercial company around the IP — hire a CEO and other staff — then move it into the public sector.

  • "Alternative mobility" is broad. It could be for flying taxis or tech to protect planes, boats and cars from cyber attacks.
  • They plan to launch 10 companies in five years — all required to be based in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Fieldbook, backed with $10 million between the Walton Family Foundation and Arkansas Finance Development Authority grants, will focus on software-as-a-service for the retail supply chain.

  • Joshua Stanley, managing partner, tells Worth the plan is to launch five Arkansas-based companies in the next three years.
  • Different from Highway, Fieldbook will develop its own ideas for commercial products based on observations and analysis of pinch points in the supply chain.

Behind the scenes: Patterson and Terry are about to close on a $5 million investment round that will be used to allot each of its startups $500,000 in operating capital, they said.

  • Fieldbook's startups will be allotted $750,000 to $1 million to help them incubate into viable companies.

Context: The Walton Family Foundation grants were made to VentureWell, a nonprofit supporting science and technology entrepreneurship, which, in turn, funds the studios.

Between the lines: Stanley and his team launched Cartwheel startup studio, but now work with High Alpha Innovation — a sort of startup consultant for large companies — and will manage Fieldbook.

  • Stanley is still CEO of Cartwheel but is working to find a day-to-day general manager.

Worth's thought bubble: With these investments and the recent announcement of AI startup Xtremis locating operations near Fayetteville, it feels like NWA is in the midst of a major entrepreneurial turning point.

  • Can't wait to see how these all play out.

⚡️ The Shift is a regular feature to catch up quick on what's happening in Arkansas' economy and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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