Axios Northwest Arkansas

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Welcome to your Friday!

  • 🎸 How 'bout some Radar Love to kick off the weekend?

🌀️ Mostly sunny today with highs near 70.

Today's newsletter is 801 words β€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: The Shift β€” AI startup moves to NWA

An advanced dynamic spectrum reconnaissance unit developed by Xtremis (left) and Jay Harrison, CEO. Left photo: Courtesy of Xtremis; right photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Some of the most important real estate on Earth can't be seen because it's electromagnetic energy.

  • Tech startup Xtremis uses artificial intelligence (AI) to map that energy in a given geographical area, then helps make the info usable for wireless telecommunications and the military, CEO Jay Harris tells Worth.

Why it matters: The Washington, D.C., company will locate its research, development and manufacturing at the former SEFOR nuclear reactor test site, 21 miles south of Fayetteville.

  • Xtremis paid $1.1 million to the University of Arkansas for the nearly 620 acres last year.

How it works: Microphone-like instruments distributed across a geographic area "listen" to wireless traffic.

  • In a commercial application, the AI radio system can find unused slices in the spectrum and help a carrier jump to them for more bandwidth.
  • The tech could lead to a virtual marketplace where, say, Verizon could temporarily "rent" bandwidth from AT&T.

The big picture: Xtremis' technology is being tested by the U.S. Army as part of the Department of Defense's electronic warfare effort β€” a $3 billion-$5 billion market, Harris said.

State of play: UA distinguished professor of electrical engineering Samir El-Ghazaly started working with Xtremis about two years ago, developing hardware for military-grade, frequency-sensing antennas.

  • His department also is designing an anechoic chamber β€” an acoustics testing room.

What they're saying: "They are creating … a hub and a magnet that's going to attract other companies here," David Sanders, director of enterprise ecosystems for Winrock International, told Worth.

  • The nonprofit helped recruit Xtremis to NWA and is considering making a financial investment.

The bottom line: Harris expects to triple last year's $10 million in revenue by the end of 2024.

  • It will take about three years to fully staff up to 75 or so employees, as the proving ground is being built, but Harris is in no hurry. "I want 75 LeBron James," he told Worth.

What's next: Members of the Xtremis team and the University of Arkansas will make a public announcement Monday.

Read the full story

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

2. Bonus: Proving ground plans

The existing Warren Segraves building at the SEFOR site. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Harris plans to spend about $30 million on development at the former SEFOR (Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor) site.

  • It'll be called the Devil's Den Proving Ground, a nod to its state park neighbor.

State of play: Renowned local firm Marlon Blackwell Architects is designing the site, which includes an original Warren Segraves building.

  • A walking trail, ponds, sleeping accommodations for customers, a commissary and a helicopter pad are in the plans, Harris said.
  • The first phase should take about 18 months to complete and should start by the end of this year.
An artist's rendering of the Devil's Den Proving Ground. Rendering: Courtesy Marlon Blackwell Architects
An artist's rendering of the Devil's Den Proving Ground. Rendering: Courtesy of Marlon Blackwell Architects

3. Kitchen Sink: Feelin' plucky

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🎹 Fayetteville released its lineup for the Gulley Park Concert Series this summer. It kicks off June 13 with Opal Agafia. (Fayetteville Flyer)

πŸ’΅ A state legislative panel advanced a proposal to double a taxpayer-funded grant to support pregnancy resource centers, which are often religiously affiliated and discourage abortion while encouraging birth. (Arkansas Advocate)

🧬 The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing additional DNA testing of evidence in the 1993 deaths of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis. (KNWA-TV)

4. Your weekend plans: Strawberries, art and sports

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Get out on this fine April weekend.

πŸ“ Strawberry Festival β€” The annual festival is back where you and the kids get to pick your own strawberries while enjoying music, food, bumper cars, a barn-chute slide and train rides. It begins this weekend at McGarrah Farms' Rivercrest Orchard in Fayetteville.

  • Hours are 10am-6pm Saturday and noon-6pm Sunday each weekend through May 19. Get tickets for $16.

🎨 Art Market β€” Shop from local artists in the art market area at the Bentonville Farmers Market, 7:30am-1pm Saturday on the downtown square.

⚾️ Game days β€” The Arkansas Razorbacks softball team plays a three-game homestand against Alabama at 6pm today, 8pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday at Bogle Park. Get tickets for $10.

  • The Northwest Arkansas Naturals entertain the Midland Rockhounds at 7pm today, 6pm Saturday and 2pm Sunday at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. Get tickets for $9-$15.

5. Walmart-backed Ibotta jumps on debut

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

Digital-rewards company Ibotta debuted today at $117 after pricing at $88 per share Wednesday night.

Why it matters: The opening trade marks a 33% increase, as the IPO market continues to shed its inertia, Axios Pro Deals co-author Claire Rychlewski writes.

By the numbers: Walmart-backed Ibotta raised $577.3 million in its IPO at a $2.7 billion valuation.

Zoom in: Ibotta's IPO is a significant liquidity event for many of its individual shareholders, including family and friends of CEO Bryan Leach who are elderly and ready to get off the private-company investor ride, Leach told Axios.

  • Leach sees ad tech company TradeDesk as Ibotta's closest comparable, he told Axios. TradeDesk was trading at about $80 per share at the time of this writing.

Read the full story

Thanks to Fadel Allassan for editing and James Gilzow for copy editing this newsletter.

πŸ‘ Alex thought "To Kill a Mockingbird" at Walton Arts Center was one of the best things she's seen in a long time. It's her favorite classic novel.

πŸ™ Worth is remembering the 168 people who died in the Oklahoma City bombing 29 years ago today.