John James doesn’t fit the mold. A would-be family practice physician, James gave up medicine on the final day of his residency in 2001 to focus full-time on growing a retail ecommerce he had launched during his residency. James paid for med school with money earned through another startup — he published academic quiz bowl questions and study guides — launched from his dorm during his undergraduate years at the University of Arkansas.
After raising $100 million in venture capital in 2013 to grow his e-commerce platform Acumen Brands, unheard of for an Arkansas startup, James went on to launch his latest ecommerce platform, Fayetteville’s Engine.
Engine was built to help ecommerce brands adapt to market changes. Through his latest venture, James wants to turn the methods and best practices learned over more than 20 years into tools for brands wanting to grow their direct-to-consumer presence online. And his experience is vast. At Acumen, James grew a four-person startup into a multi-billion dollar operation of more than 200 that included 56 robots filling orders in a warehouse just off Interstate 49. Its ecommerce brands included Country Outfitter, which attracted more than 10 million social media followers and email subscribers in less than a year.
James’ Hayseed Ventures, founded in 2015, functions on three levels: as a startup studio focused on ecommerce; as a funding arm to gap-stage companies and as an educational nonprofit.