This week, Arkansas Business features the upcoming Startup Weekend Little Rock as its monthly Innovate Arkansas feature.
Here’s more from event organizers Max Farrell and Jordan Carlisle, each of whom are pumped to be bringing Startup Weekend to their hometown on April 5.
How big is it for Arkansas to finally get a Startup Weekend?
Having an event like this not only shows the belief from outside the state, but validates that Arkansas has the right people in place to make an event like this really thrive.
Describe the progress the state has made in the last five years in terms of supporting tech-based startups.
Five years ago neither of us would have imagined being back here helping with the startup scene, especially not together.
There has been a national push making entrepreneurship sexy and the right people are falling in place in the state for Arkansas to be noteworthy. The talent is here, the resources are here. Now we just have to build the community to connect all the pieces.
This is where it gets fun.
Is Arkansas, in your view, starting to emerge onto the national startup map?
Arkansas is a place where the people will define how the state is viewed on a national scale. There are some amazing people we’ve met while exploring the startup space here and the difference-maker will be whether they have enough resources to continue building here.
The seeds are definitely planted for the scene to grow, but retaining current talent, attracting new faces and encouraging creative building throughout the cities here will be crucial. People need to know it’s okay to take a leap of faith on their passion and entrepreneurship needs to integrate into our culture. Technology is continually breaking barriers to entry, so in 2013 and moving forward, it’s risky not to take chances. When people take ownership of everything they do, life will be more fulfilling.
With this mindset, Arkansas has a chance to ingrain entrepreneurship in the way we all learn and carry out our lives.
Tell us about your backgrounds, describe your “day jobs” and any other startup ventures you’re involved with.
Max: Hip-hop and a 6-month stint in South Africa really opened my eyes to entrepreneurship. Startup Weekend steered me on the path to being involved with startup communities.
This path led me to Des Moines, Iowa, after college [Grinnell College], where I build with a startup company called Dwolla. We’re building a new digital cash-based payment network to bypass credit cards and other legacy payment networks. Working at Dwolla keeps me pretty busy.
Jordan: Seeing my family run businesses inspired me to do big things. I studied international business in Shanghai, which opened my eyes to our “flat world” (Thomas Friedman).
At Columbia Startup Weekend 2012, I started Project Olympia — a social cloud for coaches to build workouts, share them with players and track their metrics through mobile and web-devices. Currently, we are shopping for more cofounders and launching to several Arkansas high schools this summer.
After graduating from Mizzou in December, I began working at Wal-Mart HQ in Bentonville. So far, I’ve really seen the effects of a powerful culture. Sam Walton’s entrepreneurial mentality bleeds through every part of Wal-Mart, and it has definitely inspired me as it should every Arkansan.