Early-Stage Entrepreneurs Create Big Impact in Little Rock

Graduates of the spring Pre-Flight class presented their early-stage companies to a panel of investors and business professional judges at the Venture Center in downtown Little Rock. Pre-Flight is a 14-week pre-accelerator class that helps entrepreneurs vet their ideas and begin the process of turning those ideas into real ventures — scalable, repeatable, investable businesses.

Tuesday morning at the Venture Center, the community gathered to hear from Levi Jabben of Kari•Cam, Christie Ison of ARFoodJobs.com and Tina McCord of ZUNI Learning Tree.

Jabben's idea consists of a pivoting mechanism to turn any camera device into a personal camera man through technology which allows the Kari•Cam to follow your child on the sports field and capture the important moments.

Ison has created a highly-targeted digital platform where service industry employers can connect to the best talent and receive on-going training and human resources support.

ZUNI Learning Tree is a digital platform of aggregated educational resources for teachers, parents and students. McCord has raised over $400,000 in revenue over the past two years with the ZUNI K-5 solution, and is seeking an investment to build out the 6-12th grade ZUNI product. McCord hopes to initiate a statewide rollout of ZUNI Learning Tree by 2016.

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"Real Ventures" Create Real Economic Impact

In addition to the presentations by early-stage companies, three additional Venture Center-supported companies gave a brief showcase of the traction they have gained in the community.

Jeston George of Apptegy, Bridget Farris of Merger Match and Lou McAlister of Broadband Development Group presented an overview of their respective companies.

George is completing an initial round of funding which will allow him to expand his workforce in Little Rock. He has added more than half a dozen employees in the past few months and hopes to add up to 15 jobs in the next year.

Merger Match helps companies in acquisition better align so that the risk of the nearly 80% failure rate of standard acquisitions can be mitigated. Farris indicated that Merger Match is not raising capital but is building out a strong customer base for future growth and expansion.

Broadband Development Group (BDG) has launched a product called HyperLeap and is completing initial investment rounds as it seeks to fill pre-sold orders.  BDG looks to expand aggressively in the coming months and years, and will be adding additional high-value, knowledge-based jobs to the economic environment in Little Rock.

At the close of the event, Venture Center chairman and early technology innovator, Dr. James Hendren announced that the companies represented by the Venture Center have created over 15 new jobs in the last year.

The Venture Center and LR Regional Chamber Join Forces

The momentum from the inaugural Pre-Flightclasses in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 will continue when the pre-accelerator opens for registration in the Fall of 2015.

The Venture Center recently announced its continued interest in playing a key role in attracting and retaining technology talent in Little Rock and across the region, and is partnering with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce to co-host a special tech community mixer on Thursday, May 14 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Representatives of tech businesses, technology and professional talent and technology startups from across the city are invited to attend the free event. Participants will engage in a spirited Q&A with recent Fribourgh award winner, Dr. Hendren, and early stage investor, Rod Ford of Xcelerate Capital. At the event, guests will enjoy a showcase of business and startup successes as well as a high-energy speed mixer to allow collisions and collaboration.