It’s crunch time for nine entrepreneurial teams taking part in this year’s ARK Challenge as they get ready for the high stakes program finale — Demo Day — set for Thursday (Sept. 5) at Crystal Bridges Museum of America Art in Bentonville.
This field of nine was chosen from 92 applications for the rigorous 14-week boot camp. Each team earned $20,000 in seed money in exchange for a 6% interest. They also were provided access to a mentoring network to help them get their startup business going and ready to pitch to other angel investor groups on Sept. 5.
“This year’s class is a very competitive international group chosen from 15 different states and 15 countries. They are further along with their ventures than last year’s contenders as some of them already have customers and are generating revenue,” said Jeannette Balleza Collins, program director for the ARK Challenge.
Collins said the selected companies have each put in three months of intense, hard work to get their business ventures ready for an 8-minute investment presentation in hopes of winning one of two coveted $100,000 investment prizes given by the ARK Challenge sponsors: Fund for Arkansas’ Future, Gravity Ventures, Winrock International, New Road Ventures and Arkansas Development Finance Authority.
The contest criteria includes that the companies have some application in retail, transportation and logistics, food industries or consumer technology.
One lucky winner will also be chosen as a new board member for the University of Arkansas RFID Research Center.
“That is another opportunity for one of entrepreneurs presenting in Thursday’s Demo Day,” Collins said.
The business ventures that will be pitched to a room of investors on Sept. 5 include services for consumers that will help track luggage and make flying more convenient, provide a tool to order home-cooked meals that are delivered hot to the front door and help keep the country’s highways safer by forewarning of accidents. There are also ventures to help newspapers and crafters among this group of contenders.
Collins said the this year’s teams are in their final lap preparing for the Demo Day showdown.
“We have had more inbound interest from outside investor groups who plan to attend this year’s Demo Day. Last year there were three winners chosen by the ARK Challenge judges, but three other teams also secured funding as a result of that day from outside investors. This cohort is more mature, and that should bode well for their attracting more investors,” Collins said.
THE NINE TEAMS
Langhar : a web/mobile app to access a trusted community marketplace where students, young professionals and businesses can book delicious, home cooked meals for pickup, delivery or dine-in experience at the chef’s home. Founders: Karanpreet “Karan” Singh, Pankaj Sharma, Pawan Saini and Sunil Kumar from Delhi, India
Passenger Baggage Xpress: Your luggage passport, PBX is the travel baggage tracking/recovery network, complete with website, mobile app and unique PBX ID system, that makes flying with luggage secure and easy. Founders: Michael Eason and Brandon Eason of Little Rock
WeGreek: A group management tool, built exclusively for fraternities and sororities, to help chapters manage all activities in a single place. Founders: Mary Dunlap, Luke Pittman, Lukas Deem and Jonathan Ulrich of Conway and Little Rock
PressBaby: Multimedia digital content creation and distribution engine for newspaper and magazine publishers. Founders: Jody Shackelford and Emily Reeves of Hardy and Little Rock
Visualogistic Technologies: Distributed, low-cost, networked forewarning Automated Detection & Alert System (ADAS) to prevent highway collisions and to promote safety awareness. Founders: Brett Schaefer, Eric Specking, Andrew Dodson and Dr. Scott Smith of Fayetteville.
Overwatch: Mobile app, hardware and branded guns and gear that combine core game features and technologies from combat video games for enhanced live-action airsoft, paintball and laser tag matches. Founders: Josh Moody, Joe Saumweber and Michael Paladino of North Little Rock and Bentonville
Info Assembly: An intelligent enterprise search and analytics platform that accelerates investment research and empowers faster reporting and business decision making.
Founders: Aditya “Adi” Goel and Karthik “Kar” Vaidyanath of Delhi, India
Gamerius: Focused on delivering a seamless experience for the entire lifecycle of a game, the only community-curated marketplace where gamers can choose, fund and purchase games. Founders: Juan Videla and Agustín Juárez of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay
Craftistas: A monetization platform that not only helps bloggers and content creators turn their creative content into a personal shopping experience, but also changes the way people discover and buy craft materials. Founders: Camille Malkiewicz and Ashleigh Pinkerton of Syracuse, New York, and Fayetteville.