Little Rock Landing: For Arthur Orduña, All Roads Led to The Venture Center

Posted on June 15, 2023
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After more than 25 years of navigating through many career moves that took him all over the country, fate brought Arthur Orduña to Little Rock to manage The Venture Center.

For Orduña, the road to The Venture Center has been a long one — full of twists and even a bit serendipitous. First, he received a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell and then, with some NYU dramatic writing courses under his belt, he worked as an editor for a small newspaper. From there, he pivoted into marketing and technology by helping a Des Moines startup software company grow into an IPO. Then, he went to Silicon Valley (mid-bubble) and worked in software management for progressively larger and larger companies until he pivoted into media.

He was hired away from Silicon Valley to help launch the North American division of France’s largest entertainment provider, Vivendi. He rode the wave of mergers and acquisitions that led to Vivendi Universal, one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world.  Then, another move. This time to Syracuse to help run product and technology for Bright House Networks. That led to the launch of Canoe, a joint venture between the top six cable companies. He took on the roles of CEO and CTO. From there, he went on to manage technology and innovation for PayPal and, later, ADT.

Then, another pivot with a move to New Jersey to work with Avis Budget Group. Again, the role was to leverage new technology, new products, and new services, and not only significantly improve the core business of global car rental and car share (Avis Budget owns Zipcar) but also to leverage assets and technologies into new mobility markets. According to Orduña, that’s how to find the next billion-dollar mobility marketplace. Up until two years ago, he was busy creating partnerships between the car rental giant and Google (for its self-driving cars), Uber, and Lyft. He focused on providing fleets for rideshare drivers while bringing in telematics and electrification.

“And then, just like with cable, I needed a break,” Orduña recalled. As he figured out what to do next, he considered all the disparate industries he had been a part of — some at the C-Suite level, some multinational companies, and some at the startup stage — and what he found was one great overlap. In every role, he helped create new products and services.

“From early-stage companies to later-stage companies, it all had to do with translating technology into services and products that meant something to people in their homes or in their businesses,” he noted.

A New Start

To figure out his next steps, he decided to test out three different business options, beginning with startups. Did he want to go back to working in a startup environment? He tested that by becoming an adviser to a few early-stage businesses, and the answer was, “yes.” He liked helping new businesses grow, and he continues to advise several early-stage technology companies today. The second question he asked himself was: Did he want to work with an accelerator or an incubator? To answer that, he connected with Newlab — a leading accelerator and pioneer technology incubator — and thrived on helping them create new mobility studios with Ford Motor Company. Lastly, he thought about going into capital investment and helping to fund early-state businesses. That was when Jeff Fox came in.

The two men had met back when Orduña worked at Avis Budget Group and Fox was on the board of directors. Now, Fox was reaching out to him as the founder and chairman of Circumference Group with an idea. They could create a partnership between his business and The Venture Center. For Orduña, the perfect combination of everything he had been looking for careerwise had just presented itself.

He had just gone through two years of advising companies, helping accelerators, and being a part of investment decisions. It had all been good training. “To join as a colleague with the existing team and to become the executive director,” he explained, “seemed like — and I know it sounds weird — like the natural culmination of all those different things I’ve done for the last 20 to 25 years. They all came to a head with The Venture Center.”

Orduña joined The Circumference Group as chief innovation officer, overseeing CG Ventures, and then accepted the position of executive director for The Venture Center in January of this year. In his current role, he guides the company’s growth, strategic direction, and business accelerator programs. “Well, that’s our mission,” he said, “to use our platform, our programs, our processes, and our people to help entrepreneurs be successful at every stage of their journey.”

It couldn’t have been planned any better. Every job from college until now checked a box that prepared him for this position. Even his role as an Eagle Scout, which might count as his actual career start, played a part. As an Eagle Scout, he learned one of his most valuable business lessons.

“Never make a promise that you know you cannot keep,” he emphasized. “Only promise when you are absolutely sure that you will do it or you’re going to die trying.” As Orduña steers The Venture Center, this mentality informs many of his decisions.

Short Term, Long Term

In the short term, the executive director plans to keep broadening and enriching the firm’s fintech expertise while expanding it into other industries. The Venture Center is already known for its strong, award-winning fintech capabilities. The long-term goal is to help make Arkansas, and by extension the whole central region of the U.S., into a roaring economic engine. Together with other organizations — including FIS and ICBA and agencies such as the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce — The Venture Center team plans to bring in “a lot of capital into the area, so that it becomes recognized as one of the leading areas for entrepreneurship and businesses in the country.”

Orduña, meanwhile, plans to do all this while maintaining a company culture that is founded on mutual respect. “That begins with building trust and earning it. It begins with honesty,” he said. That’s where that important Eagle Scout lesson comes in — keeping promises. “Culture may be maintained and derived in all parts of the company, but everybody always looks to leadership, especially when there are times of uncertainty, especially during periods of change.”

He also wants to make sure The Venture Center is a place where they’re not only supporting the entrepreneurs who are their clients, but they have entrepreneurs who work for The Venture Center as well. “A mark of our success is that we’re helping entrepreneurs on the outside, and we’re helping our own people become entrepreneurs and launch their own businesses as well.”

Orduña is incredibly proud of how much his colleagues have accomplished. “The team is amazing, and it’s a small team that has done and continues to do incredible things.” He notes that when he started working with them many important relationships with other organizations “were already in flight.”

“My job,” he added, “is to make sure to knock down barriers for them as fast as I can and to put tools into their hands and resources on their desks so, that they can see what they can do.” Lastly, he noted, “What I’m most proud about is the fact that they’re filled with this mission and this passion, and they’re inspiring me. I would love for The Venture Center to continue to be a place that attracts the best.”