The mission of the Innovation Fund at Winrock (I-Fund) is to positively impact communities throughout Arkansas and the Delta Regional Authority territory. The program seeks to provide a platform for the creation and launch of high-growth companies, spurring economic development and job creation.
The I-Fund will offer multiple cohorts through the end of 2021. Cohorts will consist of ~10 teams/companies. Teams should consist of two or more individuals, preferably with a balance of business and technical skills.
The types of ideas and startups targeted by the I-Fund are those based on innovative business models, including:
Proof-of-concept funding is often one of the largest barriers entrepreneurs face when attempting to launch a company. The I-Fund provides both funds for technical assistance and training to enable entrepreneurs to make their ideas, research, and inventions a reality.
Access to high value mentors is a critical component of the success of any early-stage company. The I-Fund has identified world-class mentors from the business community and pays these individuals for their participation in the program. The mentor assigned to each team participates in every facet of the program alongside the other team members, as a “coach on the field.” Past I-Fund cohorts have indicated that the mentor relationship was one of the most valuable aspects of the program.
The I-Fund is administered virtually, with instruction provided by video conference. Additionally, customer interviews and instructional team meetings are scheduled around each team’s availability, ensuring flexibility with demanding schedules.
The I-Fund works with very early-stage ideas and companies that need validation, including pre-revenue startups and entrepreneurs still in the idea stage.
The structured training provided during the program was modeled after I-Corps™, a program formed by the National Science Foundation in 2011. Thousands of teams nationally have been through I-Corps, and the curriculum is founded on the Lean LaunchPad™ entrepreneurial training developed by Steve Blank and Stanford University. Entrepreneurs in the I-Fund will be taught to develop and document their proposed business model on a lean canvas, and then to test their hypotheses through a rigorous customer discovery process.
“The focus on validating our problem hypothesis shaped our customer interview process. The ability to definitively confirm our assumptions in our target market is vital to operational success and will strengthen our platform to potential investors.”
– Andrew Miles, CEO, Grox Industries
“The I-Fund was such an enriching experience because it connected us to and allowed us to work with some of the greatest innovators in Arkansas. Without it, our company would not be where it is today.”
— Ingrid Helgestad, Spiritum Solutions, LLC
I-Fund’s seed investment was imperative when designing our business model. It allowed us to define our target market and build a stronger strategic plan, which is proving successful after winning national business plan competitions.”
— Flavia Araujo, Lapovations, LLC
Program awards grants that build regional capacity to translate innovations into jobs through proof-of-concept and commercialization assistance to innovators and entrepreneurs
First Horizon has provided the essential investment capital for the Delta I-Fund to make investments in our teams. Their commitment to entrepreneurship and economic development is pivotal to our efforts. Learn more here.
The Delta Regional Authority works to improve regional economic opportunity by helping to create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of the 10 million people who reside in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state Delta region.
For all questions about the I-Fund at Winrock International, please contact Vicki Malpass at email@example.com.