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Five Reasons to Be Proud of Little Rock's Role in Fintech Innovation

Guest blog post by Wayne Miller, executive director of The Venture Center

This week, FIS Global and The Venture Center kicked off the 2020 FIS Fintech Accelerator, officially welcoming ten high-potential emerging technology firms to the now-virtual fold. COVID-19 has temporarily changed some of how we operate, but what remains is how proud we are to showcase Little Rock to tech entrepreneurs, bankers and financial services leaders at the forefront of global innovation. My list of reasons to be proud of Little Rock and its role in fintech innovation is long, but there are five high points I hope you'll ponder.

Little Rock is known as the birthplace of fintech, but is evolving rapidly to build on that brand and claim rights as the birthplace of fintech innovation.
We know that many other places around the world are driving innovation, and we're grateful for all of their contributions. But there's a special pride in knowing that the first fintech company, Systematics, was founded right here in 1968. Systematics eventually became Alltel Information Systems, which then became FIS. FIS maintains a Little Rock presence (1,400 jobs), and a significant piece of the FIS innovation arm is right here at The Venture Center. That's huge!

Little Rock grows fantastic tech companies.
Every year, The Venture Center fields around 500 applications to the FIS Fintech and ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerators from scores of countries around the globe. Each accepted company has earned its spot in the program due to its strength, the quality of its leadership and its relevance to the market. Little Rock-based companies like FI Works and Cobbler Tech rose above the competition and secured coveted spots with the accelerator programs. Little Rock builds good fintechs and we're proud of that.

Little Rock offers first-class, dependable hospitality to a global cache of visitors.
With every accelerator program, The Venture Center hosts hundreds of bankers, financial services leaders and entrepreneurs. While in-person events are on hold for now, we know we’ll be back at it soon. Thanks to Little Rock's knack for hospitality, each of these visitors is welcomed with open arms and world-class cultural experiences and networking. Visitors leave having received an experience melding high-tech innovation with homestyle hospitality. That's a unique mix we're proud of - each of them leaves here as an ambassador for our great city and state.

Our governor, mayor, congressional leaders and business leaders are incredibly supportive.
The level of support our leadership has for tech innovation in Little Rock and in Arkansas cannot be overstated. In what other cities does the mayor give out his cell phone number to guests, the president/CEO of the chamber welcomes them with a spectacular dinner and the governor takes an afternoon to bowl with groups of entrepreneurs? In terms of relationship building, these leaders are spectacularly generous. People from all over the world witness the accessibility and connectedness of our business community with government leadership, and it's a significant point of pride.

Fintech is a niche field experiencing a rapid evolution, and Little Rock remains a significant player.
Through COVID-19, we've seen tech adoption across all industries and in all facets of life. Banking and financial services have been uniquely challenged by these circumstances though, and have looked to fintech partnerships to navigate a new and ever-changing landscape effectively. From the deluge of Payroll Protection Program loan applications to increased cybersecurity, fintech partnerships are critical. As we serve our tech clients, Little Rock is the backdrop to innovation strategies that impact all of our lives positively. We are incredibly proud that Little Rock plays such an essential role in helping at this level.

People who call Little Rock home know how wonderful it is, and we love showing it off through our accelerator programs. As The Venture Center moves through the 2020 FIS Fintech Accelerator program, we encourage everyone to stay involved and engaged, even if it looks slightly different than it did last year. We'll have a virtual kickoff event on August 5, and would love to "see" you all there. We’ll be proud to show Little Rock off because we know you’ll shine - even on Zoom!

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