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Catching Up with Red Clay: Pivot Leads to 'Significant Traction'


It's been a while since we last visited IA client firm Red Clay.

Red Clay is the Innovate Arkansas client firm founded in Bentonville back in 2010 by Abby Kiefer, a San Francisco transplant.

After moving to Northwest Arkansas for her husband's job, Kiefer launched her crowdsourcing platform for sustainable home décor.

Red Clay eventually pivoted away from the manufacturing and retail side to a more technical focus, and Kiefer moved back full-time to the Bay area where she could access more tech talent.

(We're still working on that here in Arkansas; progress is being made.)

But she maintains contacts as well as relationships with suppliers and friends in NWA and returns a few weeks a year.

Plus, Kiefer kept her NWA-based Red Clay lawyers and financial advisors who help the firm maintain an Arkansas connection. Kiefer remains a big Bentonville fan, and plans are to put Red Clay "boots on the ground" once again in Bentonville.

The pivot has been a successful one, generating "significant traction," Kiefer says. The focus now is connecting, as the website says, "companies, from start-ups to global enterprises, to a community of award winning designers and provides software to efficiently manage the design process from idea to manufacturing."

Our qualified community, smart approach to talent-project matching, and structured, streamlined process eliminate the common obstacles of project management and let you focus on design solutions.

Kiefer believes the pivot is more of a problem solver than Red Clay's original iteration, and a $1 million seed funding round and $250,000 in generated revenue confirmed the pivot was the right move.

Kiefer says more than 100 products have been run through the new platform, which was tested and refined in partnership with Dillard's. Seems Kiefer remains connected to Arkansas in many ways.

"The relationships that we're building with Walmart and the supplier community are phenomenal," she said. "It's been really helpful to still a presence in Arkansas."

Public launch of the new platform was held in June, and Red Clay recently held a "thank-you reception" in Bentonville for investors and supporters.

Kiefer hopes to raise a series A round over the winter, which could lead to that Bentonville office re-opening. Red Clay employs six full time with plans to add two more possibly by the end of the month.

Stay tuned. More to come…

Stanford Study: Entrepreneurs Are Made Rather Than Born


So, apparently entrepreneurship -- well, the hang of it, anyway -- takes a bit of practice.

That's the consensus of research conducted by Stanford researcher Kathryn Shaw.

Stanford Business reports that Shaw's research, "which examined records of 2.8 million small retailers in Texas, found that entrepreneurs were more likely to succeed the more times they had run businesses in the past. Entrepreneurship appears to be more of a craft than an aptitude."

“If you are an entrepreneur, you want to continue to gain experience as an entrepreneur,” Shaw said. “It’s really a long-term commitment. Learning from that experience can shape your future.”

Shaw, along with Francine Lafontaine of the University of Michigan, examined the successes and failures of retail entrepreneurs over a 22-year period, when 2.5 million retail businesses opened and 2.2 million closed. They found that, overall, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against small retailers. The median length of time the businesses stayed open was only 24 months; the average was 40 months...

...“We concluded that entrepreneurship is really flourishing,” Shaw said. “Even as chain stores grow, the community is supporting more mom-and-pop stores.”

And, if the story of small retail entrepreneurs is one of a constant ebb and flow, the people who try and try again have a better chance of rising above the tide.



Arkansas Research & Technology Park Celebrating 10 Years


The UA's Arkansas Research & Technology Park in Fayetteville will celebrate its 10th anniversary Thursday with an event that will begin at 10 a.m. and is open to the public.

Speakers will include Chancellor David Gearhart; Phil Stafford, president of the UA Technology Development Foundation which oversees the park, Douglas Hutchings, CEO of Picasolar and its sister company, IA client firm Silicon Solar Solutions; and Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan.

The celebration will reveal new information on the park's economic impact as well as showcase park affiliate companies which include several IA client firms.

More from the UA:

Celebrating 10 Years of Innovation

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The 10th anniversary of the Arkansas Research and Technology Park will be celebrated with an event including new information about the park’s economic impact on the state and a showcase of the park’s affiliate companies.

What: 10th anniversary of Arkansas Research and Technology Park

When: 10 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 30

Where: Innovation Center, 535 W. Research Center Boulevard, Fayetteville

Speakers: Chancellor G. David Gearhart; Phillip Stafford, president, U of A Technology Development Foundation; Douglas Hutchings, CEO, Picasolar and Silicon Solar Solutions; Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan.

Parking: Free and available at the north and south ends of the park

Representatives of companies working from the Arkansas Research and Technology Park will be available until 11:30 a.m. at booths throughout the park to discuss their technologies and start-up businesses.

Arkansas Business reported this week that the park's economic impact, as of the past fiscal year, was $54.7 million statewide with $1.8 million in state and local taxes. 

Can't wait to hear the new numbers. The park is a jewel not only in the UA's crown but the city's as well. Good stuff. Stay tuned. More to come. 


Jeannette Balleza-Collins: Recap of Inaugural Arkansas Code Festival


Reaction to the first-ever Arkansas Code Festival, held over the weekend on the Fayetteville square, has been -- as the kids say -- off the chizzang.

(That's a thing, right?)

Anyway, it's been all positive.

The event was sponsored in part by the ARK Challenge and IA. ARK Challenge director Jeannette Balleza-Collins has a recap below:

Just wanted to share some links to the social media and video
roundups of the inaugural event Arkansas Code Festival at Centerspace,
also home to The ARK Challenge.

Check out this link for video footage, demos and keynote talk.

Five student teams from all over Northwest Arkansas, including
Bentonville High School and Northwest Technical Institute among
others, demonstrated the games/projects they developed over the course
of 36 hours during the coding hackathon.

These included Project Bailey, Spider/Monster game, Unity environments, Toaster Clicker,
VisualBasic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game and more.

Keynote speaker Neal Sales-Griffin, Founder and CEO of Startup League out of Chicago,
spoke to the students about his entrepreneurial and coding journey and
left the attendees with a few takeaways:

  • In the words of Notorious B.I.G., "Treat everything like it's your first project."
  • You have to be humble; you have to start new. Like you know nothing and have
    everything to learn.

More than 50 students registered, and mentors from Walmart Information Systems Division, Harvest Data Corp, Explainify, Lofty Labs, NTI, Your Tech Envangelist, etc., helped out the students with Java, Rails, Python, Unity and more.  

Big round of applause for our visionary, local front-end developer Ben Davis
( for pulling this first event off with great success.
Email him for more details.

Catch up on the entire weekend's happenings at the following link -
big thanks to Connecting Dots Media for making the trip up to help
with social media coverage too.

Feel free to share the links liberally with hashtags:



Sponsors included Walmart, Startup Junkie Consulting, Winrock
International, Innovate Arkansas, KA+A, KIND Snacks, The ARK
Challenge, Field Agent and Starter League - you all are the best and
made a huge difference to these students.




Special Edition of Saturday Morning Meeting Looks at 'Omnichannel'


This week, Saturday Morning Meeting devotes its entire half hour to "omnichannel." 

No, the venerable old Omni magazine has not been brought back as a TV network (sadly), but the folks at 8th & Walton take a look at this latest retail buzzword that represents how consumers shop these days given the myriad of options available to them.

IA adviser Jeff Amerine and his popular Swimming in a Sea of Data segment are taking a break this week but will return next week.

Here's more about this week's special edition show from 8th & Walton:

Omnichannel is one of retail’s favorite buzzwords, but no two people have the same definition. Our impressive panel of retail service providers and suppliers cover the four pillars for survival in the omnichannel market and give you actionable steps to apply to your business. Bill Akins, SVP of Business Innovation at Rockfish is the moderator, with guests Ryan James, Senior Director of Sales and Team Lead at Electronic Arts, Lisa Bohn, Director of US Mass Sales at Retail Solutions, and Thomas Tessmer, Owner of Integrated Insights.

Plus, 8th & Walton wrote an e-book on omnichannel, available here.

Saturday Morning Meeting (and the regiular Swimming segment) airs weekly at 6:30 a.m. Saturdays on KNWA in northwest Arkansas, and is posted Mondays to 8th & Walton's YouTube channel, and, of course, shared in this space.

And finally, here's SMM's special "ominichannel" edition: 


The Week Ahead: Unplugged with Millie Ward, 1MC, Conway Geek Breakfast


It's a light schedule this week as the Arkansas techpreneur ecosystem prepares for hugeness on the horizon.

That hugeness includes G60 making a stop in Hot Springs, the Arkansas Technology Summit, the ARK Challenge fall Demo Day, Arkansas Startup Week and more.

Like we said, hugeness. More to come, and more here at Arkansas Startup Digest.

This week won't roll without some significant stuff, though. Let's take a look:


Tesla's Elon Musk Warns of AI: 'Summoning the Demon'


Skynet, here we come?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke at MIT's Aeronautics and Astronautics Centennial Symposium on Friday, reports the Washington Post, and let's just say he's wary of artificial intelligence.

Musk called our increased use of it, "summoning the demon."

The Post has the story here, including a link to video of the entire talk.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has warned about artificial intelligence before, tweeting that it could be more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Speaking Friday at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, Musk called it our biggest existential threat:

"I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out."

Musk was so caught up on artificial intelligence that he missed the audience’s next question. “Sorry can you repeat the question, I was just sort of thinking about the AI thing for a second,” he said.

Musk spoke expansively for over an hour, at one point even asking a MIT student what his favorite sci-fi books were. He left to a standing ovation. You can watch the entire interview here.


Field Agent Tackles 'Pink Branding' in The City Wire


October's color palette used to stress orange, red and yellow, as pumpkins begin to adorn front porches and the vibrant colors of fall foliage begin to reveal themselves.

These days, if October has a color -- at least in popular culture -- then that color is pink. 

Breast-cancer awareness pink. And football, as much as any institution, has adopted the cause. Gridirons from the NFL on down sport players accessorized in pink gloves, cleats and towels in a show of support for breast cancer patients, survivors and victims.

Innovate Arkansas client firm Field Agent of Fayetteville talks "pink branding" this week with the City Wire. Field Agent is uniquely positioned to help determine just how much punch pink packs. Or something like that...

A sample:

Consumers have most likely been desensitized to the pink, but that doesn’t mean companies necessarily have anything to lose from promoting awareness. New research from Fayetteville-based Field Agent found 52% of women surveyed this month said they have not made a purchase decision of one brand over another because one of them supported breast cancer awareness. They surveyed 250 moms on that question in mid-October, at the height of “pink” mania.

Rick West, CEO of Field Agent, said the study objective was to engage shoppers at the very moment of decision making. They did so using mobile technology to engage shoppers in various locations in 44 states during the “pink” promotional month.

“It’s a very different way to think about research, it’s real time data with expansive coverage collected at a low cost. At Field Agent we are able to get answers to questions that brands want to know about a myriad of topics, even consumers’ attitudes toward breast cancer awareness campaigns and their effectiveness,” West said.

Field Agent’s research on the power behind “pink” brands began in late August with the first set of respondents who were asked if pink branding made the difference in their product purchase decision. In that first survey of 250 — 175 females and 75 males — they found 58% were not influenced by pink branding.

60% of men in the first survey said they were not influenced by the “pink” designation. The second survey conducted in October included 250 moms, with the average age of and a diverse income criteria. Again, 52% of them were not driven to buy a product because of its “pink” designation. Each of these mobile surveys showed that while pink brands do enjoy influence over consumers, the majority of shoppers remain unswayed when making brand selections, Field Agent noted in the research.

Interesting stuff. Read the whole thing here


Startup Week Events Scheduled for Nov. 11-14


 Startup Week 2014 runs Nov. 11-14, and Startup Arkansas has the full agenda of central Arkansas events, with registration links, here.

It's gonna be a big week, and will include the ARK Challenge fall Demo Day and the Arkansas Technology Summit.   

Scheduled speakers are include Frank Gruber of Tech Cocktail and Michael Burcham of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

Here's a rundown of the week's Little Rock events:

  • VetCamp, hosted by the Arkansas Venture Center at the Little Rock Chamber, 9-4 on Tuesday.
  • AVC's Build IT, with Gruber, 5:30 Tuesday from the Chamber.
  • The weekly 1 Million Cups will roll as usual from 9-10 Wednesday morning from the Chamber.
  • Demo Day for ARK 4 will run from 1-4 Wednesday afternoon from the Clinton Library. Here's the latest of our ARK fall team profiles with links to all of them.
  • A cocktail reception for the ARK and the Summit will follow at 4:30.
  • Then at 7, the AVC will host a startup ecosystem celebration mixer from Club Level at 315 Main in downtown Little Rock's emerging creative arts corridor. 
  • The Technology Summit runs all day Thursday, 7 to 4, from the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub's Argenta Innovation Center.
  • And on Friday, Burcham will provide a keynote address at 10 a.m. from the Chamber.

More to come, and again, all the registration links are available at Startup Arkansas

ARK Challenge, NWA Council Win Entrepreneurship Award


The ARK Challenge and the Northwest Arkansas Council were jointly awarded an Excellence in Economic Development Silver Award for Entrepreneurship Monday at the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Here's the full story from the NWA Council.

The award goes to "programs, policies, or initiatives that nurture and support individuals or emerging small businesses to develop their ideas, products, and/or services into viable, competitive businesses."

Here's a sample:

“When we started focusing on entrepreneurs about three years ago, one of our primary objectives was to create a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem for Northwest Arkansas,” said Mike Harvey, chief operating officer for the Northwest Arkansas Council, a private nonprofit organization that works to improve economic opportunity and quality of life in the region. “This validates some of the progress we’ve made. It’s a special recognition.”

The entrepreneurship award goes to programs, policies, or initiatives that nurture and support individuals or emerging small businesses to develop their ideas, products, and/or services into viable, competitive businesses.

“Economic development efforts have long been a keystone in the quest to bolster the economy and improve quality of life in every locality across the country,” said Bill Sproull, the International Economic Development Council’s chair and president and CEO of the Richardson (Texas) Chamber of Commerce. “As the nation continues to tackle challenges in the midst of global uncertainty, these efforts have taken on an even greater significance. With this award, we laud trendsetting organizations like the Northwest Arkansas Council for leading the charge.” 

Jeff Amerine and Jeannette Balleza-Collins represented the ARK. Well deserved award for both the ARK and the NWA Council, a big supporter of the ARK and local entrepreneurship in general. Keep up the great work, guys.

The ARK's third installment from Fayetteville wraps this month, and the fourth installment, based in Little Rock, will hold its Demo Day Nov. 12.

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