Is the ARK challenge in Arkansas a good accelerator?

Is the ARK Challenge a good accelerator?

The ARK Challenge has some advantages that help it stand out from the crowd but like with any good start-up match you need to focus on what is best for you and your company. TL;DR check out the bottom paragraph

Bare bones overview


Focus – Retail, Transportation & Logistics, Food Processing
Team Size – 2-5 people
Program – 14 weeks starting June 2013 (Application process closed)
Terms/Equity – $20k of funding in exchange for 6% equity
Location – Fayetteville, AR
Founded – Late 2011
 

Alumni Companies (not a full list)


Argricultural Food Systems, Btiques, CayMay Education, Earn and Play, EpicPledge, Farmeto, Mass Vector, Minewhat, Regurrl, SavvySync, Sooligan, SpareTime, StackSearch, Streamix, and Truckily
 

Young Accelerator


I haven’t been following ARK for too long but I will give you my stance on their operations. Founded in late 2011, they are still relatively new. Being new can be great because you are fresh with energy and are still relatively flexible with operations. Being new can also be rough because you won’t have the name or creditability reputation yet that is often a key factor at an accelerator.  Also being new requires that you take time to navigate all the bumps in the road.

Location


A key point that ARK tries to make clear on their website is that Fayetteville is in fact actually a hot spot. They must get a lot of questions about what is going on there, I know I’m still have doubts. While it is not the most exotic or popular place to try and start a company NWA (Northwest Arkansas) has cost-reductive advantages. NWA boast a low cost of living, low cost of doing business, and geographicallyclose to Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, St. Louis, Little Rock, and Memphis metropolitan areas.

Mentors


As far as mentors goes it looks like they have a well-rounded group of really smart people. Kristian Andersen and Jeff Amerine have done some great things with Gravity Ventures and continue to help out with ARK today. The presence of Mike Malone, President of the NWA Council, shows that they also have a lot of regional support. 

Connections


ARK is definitely connected into the surrounding area. They are backed by theArkansas Northwest Council which is a group that focuses on basically improving NWA through economic and community development. 

ARK is also a part of GAN or Global Accelerator Network (formally known as Techstars Network) which “is the global champion of the seed-stage, mentorship-driven accelerator model and includes over 50 of the most respected accelerators from six continents around the world.” The potential for connections through this network could prove very beneficial. 

I am a big fan of the strong bond between ARK and the University of Arkansas. Educating students and allowing the opportunities for them to gain experience is a great way for any accelerator to get more involved with the community.

I would say that ARK definitely has the resources and potential to be a “good” accelerator. Although ARK is still young and the location isn’t the best, the right founder or doesn’t care about these things will have a great time through ARK. As a very curious and persistent founder, which I’m sure you are, I suggest that you call up ARK  and talk about what kind of intimate TLC opportunities there are for you and your team.   

PS. they give you a sweet packet with plenty of good information on their industries.