No risk, high reward: Secretary of State Mark Martin presented Permjot with his Arkansas Traveler certificate.
Nothing wrong with having friends in low places. They can come in handy down there. Arkansas, like everyone, has a few of its own, of course. But fortunately, we’ve got some friends in influential places too.
Permjot Valia is one of ‘em. Valia is an English entrepreneur and angel investor, a prolific one, and something of a rock star in the international startup community. Fortunately, he took to heart a recent charge to be a goodwill ambassador for the state.
Oh, and he’s bullish on Arkansas startups. Valia believes what the state may currently lack in volume (for now) is more than made up for in talent.
“People don’t necessarily think of Arkansas, but businesses like Acumen, Movista, BlueInGreen, cycleWood, Silicon Solar Solutions and Picasolar are capable of big, billion dollar plays,” he told us.
Valia’s interest in Arkansas began back with Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. His encounter with cycleWood Solutions at a 2011 international business-plan competition in Manitoba made him determined to learn more.
Pleasantly surprised by the prowess displayed by UA teams under the tutelage of Carol Reeves, he’s put his money where his mouth is by investing in BlueInGreen and Picasolar. In addition, he’s an ARK Challenge mentor, and next month he’ll bring his Mentor Camp to Fayetteville. He now spends about three or four weeks in the state each year.
Perhaps most importantly, he’s simply a big fan of the state — the quality of the startup ventures, the friendliness of the people (more on that below). Last week, he spent three days and two nights on Petit Jean Mountain with roughly 50 scientists and school officials from the state’s four research universities for the second-annual Arkansas Commercialization Retreat, organized by Reeves. And he was a part of the inaugural event as well.
Valia led sessions on helping these scientists commercialize their research, a potentially daunting task. His sessions included Idea Validation; Sales, Marketing and Buying; and Opportunity Analysis.
Fortunately (again) for us, he shared with INOV8 his thoughts on a range of subjects, from Arkansas hospitality to China.
- Valia said Arkansans are competitive in a Southern way — inner steel wrapped inside genuine warmth and charm. “They believe they can do it,” he said. If all people see is the charm, he said, that doesn’t help. It’s the inner steel that makes the difference. And he called Arkansans some of the nicest and most polite people he’s encountered.
- The successful business-plan teams coached by Reeves deliver a big impact to the entire state. Valia called these teams brand ambassadors. After all, it was the performance of cycleWood at Manitoba that showed him an example of what Arkansas had to offer.
- Valia trumpeted the quality of the business opportunities in NWA (which he likened to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he is active). And hailing the “Arkansas discount,” Valia said you’d pay 34 percent more for the same business in Silicon Valley as you would in NWA.
- Arkansas isn’t necessarily on the national radar just yet in terms of startups, he said, but has “loads of businesses like Acumen with massive potential.” Give the state another two to three years, he said, and it’ll be taken very seriously. All it takes is one or two big-time successes and the attention will follow. Stay the course, he said. “There is some serious talent here.”
- But he warned, “Nothing fails like success.”
- He believes the wealth in Arkansas remains very dynastic.
- Recently, Valia was presented with an official Arkansas Traveler certificate. He took its charge to be a goodwill ambassador for the state seriously. “It was such a simple thing to do,” he said of the presentation. “But it made me feel special. I feel an obligation to promote Arkansas.”
- On the international front (Valia is a first-generation Englishman; his father immigrated from India), Valia believes China is soon to “implode” and the U.S. will recapture its mojo. In fact, he’s considering moving his home base to America from London.
And here’s some of Valia’s recent tweets (follow him @permjotvalia):
- If a start up is backed by a University Tech Office it is 114x more likely to be IPO’d
- The most fun and agreeable people I have met have right wing views. My fellow lefties tend to be elitist and just very angry.
- Never understood finishing schools in Europe. If you really want to learn about good manners and charm just visit Arkansas
- Americans are seriously so friendly. I thought I was going to miss my connecting flight – and got invited to dinner by 3 fellow passengers
- Off to Arkansas today – always great fun there with lots of buzz
- Potential Angels are being asked to pay $600 to attend a one day angel investing course. Just go for a coffee with an experienced investor!!
- Einstein understood the elevator pitch. “If you can’t explain it to a 6 yr old, you don’t understand it yourself” great advice.