The U.S. Small Business Administration announced on Wednesday that Startup Junkie and its Fuel Accelerator are among the 60 winners of the administration’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. Startup Junkie will receive a $50,000 award from a total of $3 million in awards designated to support startups and entrepreneurs.
The financial award will help Startup Junkie and partners RevUnit execute the second iteration of Fuel, which will return in 2020 with a cohort of growth-stage companies in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning to Northwest Arkansas for a 12-week, enterprise-ready accelerator.
“We're grateful for the opportunity to use these SBA funds for our next Fuel Accelerator. Fuel is unique because it is an enterprise-ready accelerator,” said Startup Junkie Executive Director Haley Allgood. “We're combining startups that are innovating with the latest technology with corporations that have problems that can deploy that technology at scale.”
The Growth Accelerator Fund Competition is designed to infuse the accelerators and incubators with additional operating capital to provide focused assistance to entrepreneurs. This assistance includes support for company formation as well as awareness and education on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
Arkansas has been historically underrepresented when it comes to SBIR awards. Local companies have received a total of 31 Phase 1 SBIR grants, which are designed to provide support for companies in the startup phase. Just two have been awarded in 2019, and three were awarded in 2018. “We intend to use the funds from our Growth Accelerator Fund Competition award to help bridge that gap,” said Allgood.
“The SBA is continuously working to build and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Growth Accelerator Fund Competition is a powerful tool in this effort by supporting accelerators and incubators across the country,” said SBA Director of Innovation and Technology John Williams.
“Similar to the SBIR/STTR programs, the aim of the competition is to stimulate markets that are not being served by traditional venture capital and investment hubs,” Williams added. “By infusing operational capital into qualified accelerators and incubators, these entities, in turn, provide resources to boost the startup and entrepreneurship communities around them. This includes increasing the pipeline of new SBIR/STTR companies from communities that have not participated in these programs as much as we would have liked in the past.”
The financial award will help Startup Junkie recruit some of the country’s most innovative startups in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning to Northwest Arkansas with that hope that some will come to call the region home.
“The SBA is excited to support the Fuel Accelerator through this award which will help growth-staged technologies companies find a home in Northwest Arkansas,” said SBA Arkansas District Director Edward Haddock.
“This award supports a unique partnership that brings together 2018 Arkansas SBA Small Business Persons of the Year Joe Saumweber and Michael Paladino, co-founders of RevUnit, and Startup Junkie to fuel growth in ML and AI throughout the Northwest Arkansas area. We’re doubling down on our Regional Innovation Cluster partners to help make great things happen in Arkansas.”
RevUnit is developing the curriculum for the Fuel Accelerator. The Bentonville-based company recently received a significant investment from Mountaingate Capital, a leading private equity firm based in Denver.
“Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science are some of the most disruptive technologies in the world today. They are critical enablers of many transformative opportunities having a direct consequence to the enterprise. For Fuel to cultivate these technologies and help some of the most innovative startups in the space bring their ideas to the enterprise is very powerful and a great opportunity for everyone involved,” said Director of Machine Learning Colin Shaw, of RevUnit.
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission also sponsors the program.
For more information about the Fuel Accelerator, visit fuelaccelerator.com.