2017 Curriculum Overview
Week 1: Orientation & Building a Lean Start-Up
The focus of week one was to introduce the 2017 cohort to the program, the buildout of their lean canvas, and participation in multiple sessions designed to refine the the messaging and positioning of their solutions. An overview of FIS and their involvement in the accelerator was presented by FIS CEO Gary Norcross and Rob Lee, Chief Product Officer of Banking and Payments. During the formal Kickoff event later in the week, the cohort was welcome to the state of Arkansas by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Rep. French Hill and Mayor Mark Stodola, as well as a number of other friends to The Venture Center. The cohort rounded out the weekend with a retreat at Winthrop Rockefeller Institute located on Petit Jean Mountain.
Week 2: Finance & Accounting
Week two sessions included deep dives into finance concepts and strategy, including individualized metrics, KPI’s, budgeting and forecasting performance. Founders attended mentor sessions with Scott Ford, CEO of Westrock Asset Management, and Lou McAlister, Founder of Broadband Development Group. Weekly deliverables included revised Cap Tables and Pro Formas - preparing the companies for follow-on investments.
Week 3: Product & Pricing/Customer Validation
Week three focused on each individual company Product Roadmaps and the Product Development process. Scott Shellabarger, a mentor at The Venture Center worked through best practices and tools to tackle the product development process. In addition, representatives from DSG Consulting conducted group sessions on sales strategy and tactics, including frameworks on how to advance sales to close and conduct sales calls. Representatives from The State of Arkansas attended to communicate available investment opportunities. The cohort also paid a visit to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's College of Engineering and Information Science, where they participated in live demos of some of the latest technology in robotics, cyber security, big data and virtual reality.
Week 4: Strategic Partnerships
The curriculum shifted to strategic partnership and partnering with corporations in week four. Elevator pitch practice continued as the companies began to find strong pitch structure. Deliverables included the Business Ecosystem Diagram, a visual aid to map and communicate strategic partners and integrations. The week ended with a trip to northwest Arkansas to visit RevUnity and attend the Walmart Shareholders Meeting. Founders were surprised with a meet and greet with Walmart CFO Brett Biggs—most of whom launched immediately into their elevator pitches. The cohort enjoyed an afternoon visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a massive project spearheaded by Alice Walton, philanthropist, former investment banker, and the daughter of Arkansas' most famous entrepreneur.
Week 5: Sales, Business Development & Key Performance Indicators
Week five began the bank engagement phase of the program, including visits from McHenry Savings Bank and Southern Bancorp. Lucas Timberlake from Fintech Ventures Fund also visited to hear pitches and provide feedback. In order to begin socializing their solutions with financial institutions, founders began developing a sales deck geared to that audience. Sessions included sales pipelines, selling to banks/financial institutions and how to differentiate a sales plan based on the relative size of the financial institution.
Week 6: Marketing & Growth Hacking
Branding and marketing was the focus of week six. Stone Ward advertising agency provided a panel discussion about intelligent branding, effective growth hacking, using metrics to locate a target audience and how to prepare for media engagements. Other sessions included how to segment data in a CRM for optimum audience engagement. Founders also presented their slide decks for constructive criticism in the area of design, leveraging some of the best minds from the local marketing community. Bank engagement continued with Bear State Bank, Simmons First National and FNBC. The cohort was treated to a tour of the private Clinton residence that sits atop the Clinton Presidential Library.
Week 7: Funding Strategy
Bank engagement continued in week seven. Attorney Heartsill Ragon highlighted the importance of mentor sessions and reporting to investors. Leaders from the Arkansas State Banking Commission also paid the cohort a visit. Work sessions focused on visual feedback and refinement of slide deck presentations for Demo Day.
Week 8: Culture, HR & Executive Development
Mentors for this week included Collins Andrews, CJ Duvall, and Kent Burnett—all leaders that have effectively created corporate culture and have served as executives in major companies. Week eight focussed on developing the executive by creating an environment in which a company can succeed, and the importance of beginning that process early. Visits from several financial institutions highlighted the week, including Scotia Bank, Iberia Bank, USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union and Stone Bank. The cohort was also treated to a Souther-style shrimp boil at the home of Alese Stroud, a master mentor at The Venture Center and CEO of Corporate Insight Strategies.
Week 9: This & That
The Venture Center presented The Financial Choice Act Panel, which was attended by nearly 80 local banking professionals and was headlined by Congressman French Hill, and Congressman Patrick McHenry—both members of the House Committee on Financial Services. Shelly Loftin, Chief Administrative Officer at Bear State Bank, and Lee Watson of The Venture Center rounded out the panel. A teleconference with Hancock Whitney Bank capped off the short week. Due to the Fourth of July holiday, founders enjoyed a long weekend off before gearing up for Demo Day.
Week 10: Regulation
Regulation was the primary topic in week 10. The cohort ended the week with a company retreat to Hot Springs, where the companies would focus on finalizing their presentations for Demo Day as well as their Executive Summaries. Banking visits included valuable feedback from executives from Arvest Bank, First National Bank, Peoples Bank and Fifth Third Bank.
Week 11: Legal & Intellectual Property
Founders worked to further refine their company pitches for Demo Day and presented to select FIS executive leadership. Financial institutions on the docket this week included Centennial Bank and Virginia Credit Union. Trey Kelso and Rich Howe—both of Inuvo—also paid the cohort a visit to discuss digital strategy.
Week 12: Demo Day Week
The week began with visits from Emprise Bank and final pitch rehearsals. Demo Day was held at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center, with more than 300 people in attendance. Afterward, top executives from major business units inside FIS and more than a dozen financial institutions joined everyone for a VIP dinner and celebration at Forty-Two. Founders spent the remainder of the week in one-on-one meetings they secured with potential investors during Demo Day.