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The Venture Center Celebrates Seven Years of Success

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

The Venture Center recently turned seven years old and we're celebrating! We celebrate all of the courageous women and men leaping into entrepreneurship. We celebrate the community supporting them. We celebrate our partnership with the Little Rock Regional Chamber, which is the cornerstone of what this organization has become. Today, we're reflective of our partnership's accomplishments, and we're planning for the future.

As all of the Little Rock Regional Chamber community knows, President and CEO Jay Chesshir's leadership is motivational, visionary and encouraging.

Jay said of the anniversary, "The Venture Center was created to nurture and expedite the entrepreneurial journey of people seeking to start new businesses here. To grow from ideation to creation and now to world-acknowledged in seven years is a success story that has already exceeded our lofty aspirations. Congratulations to all of the innovative, talented, and awe-inspiring team members who've joined us along the way in helping others achieve their dreams. We've only just begun!"

He couldn't have said it better! In seven short years, The Venture Center's community programming has grown to serve thousands of Arkansans annually, supporting them at every stage in their entrepreneurial journey - providing mentorship and expertise to entrepreneurs cultivating valuable businesses right here in Central Arkansas.

Founding member Lee Watson said the vision for The Venture Center was to, “create a formal process and to be the place where people of all backgrounds and experiences could come together to learn from seasoned entrepreneurs and subject matter experts, make connections and be part of a highly-structured mentorship program.”

Over the years, those processes have evolved and grown into formal mentorship, free and plentiful community programming, and a growing fintech ecosystem, thanks to the support and engagement of a robust entrepreneurial community and a team of mentors here in Central Arkansas. And these programs have played a meaningful role in Central Arkansas’ economic growth.

The Venture Center Board Chairman James Hendren said, “It (The Venture Center) also provides training, and just as important, connections to other organizations and people that can help them solve problems and leverage their growth. And through one of its industry specialties, fintech, have recruited multiple companies and jobs to Central Arkansas. In fintech, The Venture Center has a worldwide reputation, with companies coming through that program promoting it as the best thing that ever happened to their business. These entrepreneurs also learn to love Arkansas, and become great ambassadors.“

It’s exciting for a global community to fall in love with Arkansas the way we all are, but right here at home, our Arkansas entrepreneurs are gaining more and more opportunities because of the collaborative efforts of The Venture Center and other ESOs around the state. Expanding partnerships with organizations like Venture Noire to support Black and Brown Arkansas-based entrepreneurs at a time of economic crisis showed us that we had established a strong community to provide critical support to entrepreneurs when they need it the most.

And of course, the FIS Fintech and ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator programs have become a major point of pride for Arkansas’ entrepreneurial support community. The Venture Center recently won an incredibly prestigious award from Finovate, the world's premier fintech conference due to the success of these programs, as did three of our recent alumni. Arkansas-based Teslar won Best Fintech Partnership, alumni Finzly won Best Enterprise Software and Best in Show, and Lendsmart won Best in Show. The Venture Center took home the 2020 Best Fintech Accelerator program, besting household names like Mastercard and Visa, prompting congratulations from Governor Asa Hutchinson.

"Congratulations to The Venture Center for this hard-earned and well-deserved recognition," Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said. "The Venture Center has supported and groomed many impressive companies and entrepreneurs in a short amount of time. The center's success enhances Arkansas' reputation as a leader in financial technology and computer science. We're proud to continue our partnership with The Venture Center and support its important mission."

And continue our mission no matter what comes our way, we have. A few months ago, we kicked off the virtual 2020 FIS Fintech Accelerator, and now, we're just a few days away from Demo Day. Since mid-June, we've worked with ten technology companies from Singapore, Amsterdam, India, Turkey, and right here in Little Rock! Each company has put in hard work in preparation for Demo Day, a virtual showcase featuring ten emerging technology companies with solutions empowering financial institutions. We hope to see our Little Rock Regional Chamber partners there to celebrate the cohort with us.

At a time when our physical distance is vast, the strength of our partnerships is strong. We're seven years in, but as Mr. Chesshir said, we're just beginning. The best is yet to come!

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If you have questions about how the chamber can help your business or how you can get involved in growing our regional economy, drop us a line.