Annual event showcases best of entrepreneurial Arkansas
by Caleb Talley, Startup Junkie
Northwest Arkansas has an incredible reputation for both business and pleasure across the Natural State and beyond, thanks in large part to its top-tier university, impressive Fortune 500 footprint, a record of charitable giving and outstanding quality-of-life standards. This much, we have all known for some time.
But combine each of those elements with the hard work of mission-driven, entrepreneurial-resource organizations like Startup Junkie, and you have an ecosystem ripe for innovation and ingenuity, an ecosystem that has and continues to serve as an incubator for some of the country’s most incredible and sometimes improbable startups.
It’s a movement, really. A culture, even. Products of this environment are staring down some of today’s problems and working tirelessly to solve them. Innovators and creative thinkers from outside this environment are pulling up roots from more traditional hubs of innovation, like Southern California and Austin, Texas, to be a part of what’s going on right in our own backyard.
These incredible entrepreneurs aren’t revolutionizing their industries in their high towers or tinkering away in their basements – okay, perhaps some are doing that — they’re working hard, quietly, right under our noses.
This month, we’re going to take the time to celebrate those hard workers with hundreds of our closest friends. And we want you to join us.
Like a lot of great ideas, the Startup Crawl was modeled after a similar concept with a little Northwest Arkansas spice thrown into the mix. South by Southwest, the annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, music and tech, throws such a party every spring. After a pilgrimage to the event in 2017, members of the Startup Junkie team resolved to bring the festivities to the Ozarks.
They succeeded. And by all accounts, the inaugural Startup Crawl, held in downtown Fayetteville in September of 2017, was a smashing success, with more than 1,000 registered attendees, all of whom got the opportunity to engage with dozens of local founders, drink local craft beer and listen to great live music.
Since its inception, the intrigue of this now-annual event has only grown. Last year’s event drew more than 1,500 registered attendees. Plus, the Hogs are in town. Will it hit 2,000 this year? That’s up to you.
What is Startup Crawl, anyway?
This year’s Startup Crawl, like the first two, will feature startups, companies and organizations that support startups and others that contribute to that startup ecosystem highlighted as “stops” along the Crawl. This year, there are 12.
As is the case for any good crawl, each stop will feature or be within a stone’s throw of cold, craft beer. Paid attendees (21 years of age and up) will receive a reusable, 16-ounce Silipint cup that they can then take around to each stop to have filled with the featured beer. Beer is free to all those of-age carrying this year’s Startup Crawl-branded cup. Leave last year’s cup at home.
While the beer is great, it’s not the highlight of this event. The people are. Attendees will have the unique opportunity to meet and engage with impressive company founders, innovators and more, the chance to tour their offices, see where they work and get a greater understanding for how these individuals tick and how their companies and organizations contribute to this aforementioned ecosystem.
Keep in mind these individuals aren’t keen to slow down. Entrepreneurs, by design, spend a majority of their time in the grind. At Startup Crawl, they’re pressing pause to give the community a look inside their world.
This year’s stops include Startup Junkie, Zenworks, SharpHue, Metova, Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, Lineus Medical, Big Box Karaoke, AXIS Lounge, the NWA Fab Lab, Likewise, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) and Newmark MTP at 112 Center.
In addition to the 12 stops, the Startup Crawl will feature a “mega-location” devoted to showcasing dozens of the region’s coolest young companies that aren’t physically located on the square – some might not even have a physical location at all.
The mega-location will once again be held in the Pryor Center at 1 East Center Street on the Fayetteville square. Young companies, their founders and entrepreneurial resources will be on display throughout the first and second floor of the beautiful facility.
Some of the featured stops, too, will showcase local startups. At the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, attendees can meet the enthusiastic student entrepreneurs. The ASBTDC will showcase many of its great small business clients. Likewise, a collaborative workspace designed to engage the community in both work and play will feature incoming vendors, artists and chefs.
Out front of the Pryor Center on South East Avenue, from East Rock to East Mountain streets, live music will be performed from the Startup Crawl’s main stage, one of three throughout the Crawl. Musical performances include Dial Up, Faye Moffett, Arika Lewis, Josh Noren and Melody Pond.
East Avenue will also feature a beer garden, located right outside of the Pryor Center, and games, activities and awesome swag will be provided by Startup Crawl’s title sponsor, Cox, a company with a stunning reputation for continued support and assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners. And if all goes according to plan, electric scooters will make their Fayetteville debut during the event allowing attendees to scoot their way around downtown Fayetteville rather than crawl.
And, of course, you can’t have festivities of this scale without food. The square will feature local food trucks with bites for purchase, all served on biodegradable materials that will help make the event as waste-free as possible, thanks to the help of food-waste solution startup Food Loops.
In contrast with past Startup Crawls, this year’s event will take place exclusively around the downtown square. In years past, the festivities kicked off at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park on South School Street. This year, our friends at the ARTP will be joining us downtown.
Friends of Startup Junkie from the Fayetteville’s Mill District, a featured location at last year’s event, will also join the Crawl on the square. So, no need to bring the hiking boots — unless, of course, that’s part of your look. Each location will be within a comfortable walk from the square.
Also new this year will be the addition of passports, featuring each of the stops along the Crawl. Attendees will receive a passport at check-in to carry to each location, where they will receive a mark to show they visited. Completed passports can be turned in at the end of the Crawl for a chance to win a prize.
And no party is truly complete without an afterparty, and that has to be the case for the biggest startup party in Arkansas. The youngest of the featured stops, Likewise, will be hosting an open house during the Startup Crawl to showcase their new space. As such, live music and beverages will be enjoyed there well after the official festivities on the square have concluded.
Pinpoint, Arkansas’ first and only pinball bar located on Block Avenue, will be hosting crawlers until 2 a.m., serving as the official afterparty of this year’s Startup Crawl. Paid attendees to the Crawl need only to show their wristband, which will be given out at check-in, to gain access to a specialty cocktail crafted exclusively for “crawlers.” With the purchase of this specialty cocktail, crawlers will get complimentary tokens to play any of Pinpoint’s more than 20 arcade games.
More than a party
While Startup Crawl is a party (and a fun one, at that), it’s much more than that.
Startup Crawl is an evening-long opportunity for the Northwest Arkansas startup community to showcase the culture, creativity and companies that make this corner of the world so special to entrepreneurs. It’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs, founders and their employees to meet with peers, to share and connect.
It’s no accident that the metropolitan statistical area that makes up most of Northwest Arkansas is growing rapidly and perennially recognized as one of the best places in the country to live and start a business. It’s no accident that acclaimed urban studies theorist Richard Florida named it one of the nation’s top 10 rising tech hubs, or that the Milken Institute listed is in its top 27 best performing cities.
The hardworking men, women, mothers, fathers, students (etc.) that make up Northwest Arkansas’ entrepreneurial ecosystem contribute a lot to the region and the state, and it’s vital that the region and the rest of Arkansas respond by giving back to them through their support and encouragement.
There’s no better time and place to start than at this year’s Startup Crawl. Admission to most events is free, but a $15 ticket and an ID are required if beer is involved.
Other things to look for at this year’s Startup Crawl
• Maker Made CNC, one of the companies exhibiting at the Pryor Center, will be giving away a brand-new 3D printer to a local school that receives the most nominations from attendees.
• Three stages will be set across downtown Fayetteville, outside of the Pryor Center, on Church Avenue and Block Street.
• Electric scooters are scheduled to make their Fayetteville debut during this year’s Startup Crawl. With plans to be on-line in early September, VeoRide electric scooters will be available to attendees.
Paid attendees (21 years of age and up) will receive a reusable, 16-ounce Silipint cup that they can then take around to each stop to have filled with the featured beer. Beer is free to all those of-age carrying this year’s Startup Crawl-branded cup. Leave last year’s cup at home.