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From a Flame to a Blaze

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

Arkansas is home to a number of incredible museums, Fortune 500 companies, as well as an abundance of natural resources. But some may not know that Arkansas is also widely known as the birthplace of fintech, or financial technology. Little Rock holds special claim to the title because in 1968, Little Rock businessman Walter Smiley formed the financial technology company Systematics. Systematics eventually became Alltel Information Services, which was later purchased by Fidelity National Information Services, or FIS. FIS’s strong Arkansas roots are the basis for a partnership with The Venture Center, located in Little Rock, and has helped Arkansas garner international recognition as more than just the home of fintech, but as a leader of the fintech revolution.

At The Venture Center, we collaborate with entrepreneurs and community partners, leverage every resource available to educate early-stage fintech companies, and then accelerate their growth. Our current FIS-sponsored FinTech Accelerator is a 12-week boot camp where this collaboration and education happens, and the word about our work is out. Incredibly, our latest FIS FinTech Accelerator had 225 applicants from 32 countries. The applicants are early-stage companies with products in market and customers invested. On their own, these entrepreneurs started a flame, and they seek collaboration with FIS and The Venture Center to fuel a blaze.

Through its partnership with FIS, The Venture Center provides these businesses a once in a lifetime accelerator opportunity with unprecedented access to an all-encompassing range of industry leaders. The chosen companies come to Little Rock, take up residence, and fully immerse themselves in our community for the full 12-week program. The bootcamp has a different weekly focus that includes: customer focus, product development, regulatory and compliance education, pricing, building strategic partnerships, marketing, funding strategy, vendor due diligence, legal & IP, leadership culture and HR, and culminates with our showcase event, Demo Day.

We estimate around 50 banks taking part in Demo Day, along with crowds of venture capitalists and business leaders who want a glimpse of the future and of technological advances The VC FinTech Accelerator has nurtured. We’re extremely grateful to the 60+ banks that visit Little Rock to support the FinTech Accelerator, the FIS executives who have invested time and finances to the program, and to the state of Arkansas for bolstering our efforts.

Our participating companies boast average capital raises of $1.75 million, which speaks to the quality of the companies we recruit and the strength of the program. Technological innovation and growth will continue to build at an unprecedented pace, and The Venture Center will keep working to accelerate companies with valuable offerings that can grow and thrive in the marketplace. At the end of the day, it’s undeniable that financial technology innovation is wildly exciting. But what fintech innovation offers to consumers trying to find financial stability, and to the banks desiring stronger relationships with their customers, is fuel for life-changing innovation on an enormous scale - and we’re proud to be part of igniting that blaze, right here in Arkansas.

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