Student entrepreneurs from across North America will descend on Northwest Arkansas this spring, as the Heartland Challenge Startup Competition returns as a special event with a $100,000 prize pool.
The Heartland Challenge has awarded more than $350,000 since it was first launched in the spring of 2020.
Applications are open until February 10th at 11:59 pm Twelve finalists will be selected for the final round of the competition, which will be held April 13-15 in downtown Bentonville. .
The overall winner will collect $50,000. The second place team will receive $25,000; third place, $10,000; and fourth place, $5,000.
The first- and second-place winners of the elevator pitch competition – decided by audience votes – received $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.
“We are very excited to host the Heartland Challenge in Bentonville again this year,” said Deb Williams, director of student careers and programs in the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“This competition exposes founders from around the world to Northwest Arkansas’ thriving business environment and helps them gain valuable connections and experience as they develop and build their businesses.”
This year’s competition is again hosted by the Sam M. Walton College of Business and organized by the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, with generous support from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. Primary sponsors secured for the 2023 competition include WhyteSpyder, ArcBest, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, ECHO Innovation Alliance and NewRoad Capital Partners.
The Startup Expo, back for its second year, will feature a public showcase of competitors. The free event in Bentonville will include food and drink, culminating in a raffle for a favorite startup. The winner will receive $5,000.
Previous winners have included technology startups focused on the music industry and improving cancer diagnosis, as well as manufacturing companies based on recycling.
Aurig, a music publishing startup from Georgia State University, won first place in 2020, receiving $50,000 for their idea of using blockchain technology to document music publishing.
NurLabs, a team of graduate students from the University of California at Los Angeles, won the 2021 Heartland Challenge. The team, which developed a patent-pending, unconventional, non-invasive liquid biopsy platform for early cancer detection, used their victory to expand the scope and scope of lung cancer studies.
Last year’s winner, KLAW Industries, used its prize to purchase a tractor trailer to transport its products. Founded by Binghamton University students, KLAW turns glass from landfills into a powdered concrete substitute, called Pantheon, which the company sells to ready-mix concrete companies. The new mixture results in concrete with greater compressive strength and a lower carbon footprint.
Jacob Kumpon, co-founder and CEO of KLAW, said the Heartland Challenge was an unforgettable and transformative experience for his company.
“Winning the Heartland Challenge took KLAW Industries to the next level by giving us the connections, experience and funding to acquire our first customers,” said Kumpon.
He added that the visit to Bentonville was “fun” and praised the overall tournament experience.
“I would say this is probably one of the tournaments that does that best, it encourages teams to go out there and build relationships that will last a lifetime.”
About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation:The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and coordinates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students in all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village, and Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, OEI provides free workshops and programs – including social and business innovation teams, internships, competitions and startup coaching. A division of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Division of Economic Development, OEI also offers in-demand support to students who are innovators in existing organizations and start-up entrepreneurs.