VentureWell Launches Collaboration with Highway Ventures To Propel Advanced Mobility in Northwest Arkansas

The Walton Family Foundation Awards $1.5M for Northwest Arkansas’ Economic Development

Advanced Mobility Venture Studio; photo of Bentonville, Arkansas, lit up at night

VentureWell, a leading nonprofit with a 29-year history of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship nationwide, has been awarded a nearly $1.5 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to support an innovative collaboration with Highway Ventures. This collaboration aims to establish an Advanced Mobility Venture Studio in Northwest Arkansas (NWA), strengthening the ecosystem by spurring technology-based economic development in the region.

Over the 18-month project, VentureWell will act as the strategic advisor and project administrator, facilitating the development of this groundbreaking initiative through five strategic phases: Assessment, Community Building, Venture Studio Launch, Startup Formation, and Evaluation. This collaboration will engage the NWA community in an accelerated approach to identifying scalable technologies and developing and launching cutting-edge startups.

“VentureWell has an established track record in cultivating a pipeline of inventors and entrepreneurs to transform ideas into impact,” said Yee-Lin Lai, senior program officer at the Walton Family Foundation. “I am excited to see this initiative amplify the region’s efforts in advanced mobility innovation.”

In conjunction with this effort, the collaboration will introduce the Advanced Mobility Studio Fellowship. This seven-month program will engage 10 fellows to work closely with VentureWell and Highway Ventures to identify and assess market-viable intellectual property (IP). These fellows, selected from local universities, will receive training in the tech transfer process, lean startup methodologies, design thinking, patent basics, and venture capital, as well as a $5,000 stipend. The fellowship aims to build capacity and deepen connections within the regional innovation ecosystem, with a focus on technology transfer and venture creation.

VentureWell will soon welcome more partners to strengthen the program, aiming to enhance commercialization expertise within the Arkansas ecosystem. These partners specialize in R&D development, intellectual property, and the patent and licensing process, enriching the initiative and increasing its potential for success. The project is designed to act as a catalyst for regional economic development, and will strengthen local capacities to commercialize intellectual property, support job creation, and attract significant private investment.

“By bringing together key regional players and integrating the Advanced Mobility Studio Fellowship, we are poised to make significant impacts in technology-based economic development,” said Phil Weilerstein, president and CEO of VentureWell. “This partnership exemplifies our commitment to solving global challenges through localized, sustainable, inclusive innovation.”

VentureWell will oversee the development of a comprehensive roadmap, manage program execution, and provide continuous technical assistance and strategic guidance throughout the project lifecycle. Highway Ventures will launch and manage the Venture Studio in Bentonville, Arkansas. They will be responsible for identifying technology, building companies, attracting talent, and bringing in private capital to fund the companies.

The total budget for this ambitious project stands at approximately $1.49 million, with VentureWell providing significant funding and administrative support to ensure the successful execution and sustainability of the studio. With a track record of fostering nearly 3,900 ventures that have collectively raised more than $5.6 billion in follow-on funding, VentureWell is uniquely positioned to lead this transformative project in Northwest Arkansas.

About VentureWell

VentureWell supports the cultivation of an emerging generation of science and technology inventors and the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems that are critical to their success. Since its founding in 1995, VentureWell has funded or trained over 16,000 science and technology inventors and innovators, resulting in the emergence of nearly 3,900 ventures with groundbreaking technological advancements in fields like biomedicine and healthcare, sustainable energy and materials, and solutions for low-resource settings. The startups they have supported have raised subsequent funds totaling over $5.6 billion and are reaching millions of people in 50 countries. Visit to learn more.

About Highway Ventures

Highway Ventures, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, is a startup studio that incubates and launches mobility companies in Northwest Arkansas. Highway Ventures takes a novel approach to building companies by leveraging intellectual property and technology developed in federal research labs. Our founding team brings years of experience in investing, startups, and federal labs. Learn more at

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