VentureWell Secures $5.75 Million Grant To Launch Fieldbook Venture Studio in Arkansas

Fieldbook Venture Studio; photo of downtown Bentonville, Arkansas

VentureWell, a nonprofit with a 29-year history of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship nationwide, has been awarded a $5.75 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to establish the Fieldbook Venture Studio in Arkansas. This initiative is set to catalyze the region’s burgeoning technology entrepreneurship ecosystem over the next three years, focusing on creating high-impact business-to-business software-as-a-service startups.

This pioneering venture studio will leverage Arkansas’ growing potential within the retail value chain, a sector that includes 80% of the global workforce. The collaboration between VentureWell and Fieldbook Venture Studio, supported by High Alpha Innovation, a venture studio, and Cartwheel Studio, an Arkansas-based venture partner, aims to enhance economic and cultural vibrancy by activating startup talent and creating inclusive pathways for diverse innovators. It also prepares them for significant venture capital opportunities, all while maintaining a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and social and environmental sustainability.

“The Fieldbook Venture Studio project is an investment in Arkansas’ future,” said Phil Weilerstein, president and CEO of VentureWell. “Through this collaboration, we are creating new ways to amplify our impact, accelerate innovation, and support new inclusive pathways to entrepreneurship that leverage the strengths of the region.”

The Walton Family Foundation’s grant will be matched by an investment from the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), promoting American entrepreneurship and providing equitable access to capital, particularly in underserved communities. This matching funding arrangement will multiply the impact of the foundation’s investment, fostering substantial economic growth within the state.

“The venture studio concept will complement the other resources we have developed to build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northwest Arkansas,” said Yee-Lin Lai, senior program officer at the Walton Family Foundation. “The match from SSBCI will help supercharge the work to build a pipeline of high-growth and high-potential startups in the state.”

With decades of experience in managing inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives, VentureWell is ideally positioned to lead this new venture. Its extensive network and successful track record in supporting diverse early-stage innovators and entrepreneurs will be crucial to the success of the Fieldbook Venture Studio in Arkansas.

The Fieldbook Venture Studio promises to be a transformative step toward establishing Arkansas as a hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurial success.

Why Arkansas?

Recent studies indicate a substantial rise in venture capital investments in Arkansas, with more than $120.6 million invested since early 2023. Despite this growth, Arkansas remains one of the states with the lowest venture capital investments relative to gross domestic product (GDP). The Fieldbook Venture Studio model aims to support the Arkansas ecosystem by increasing early-stage business development and education, activating startup founding talent in underrepresented groups, directly incubating companies to better prepare them for venture capital funding, and attracting more investment dollars to the state.

What Will the Fieldbook Venture Studio Do?

The Fieldbook Venture Studio will operate on a comprehensive model designed to:

  • Identify and validate new venture opportunities
  • Incubate startup concepts with a focus on underrepresented founders
  • Form viable startup companies
  • Raise funds for these startups from private investors

Projected Impact and Long-Term Goals

The Fieldbook Venture Studio is expected to form five new startups, secure $5 million in matching SSBCI funds, and raise investment from investors at spin-out for each startup. These efforts will support long-term job creation and foster an environment where startups not only succeed but also contribute significantly to the regional economy.

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 venturewell.org to learn more.

About Fieldbook Venture Studio

Fieldbook Venture Studio (“Fieldbook”) is a $10 million “venture building” studio established to create advantaged startups throughout the State of Arkansas. Fieldbook will drive economic impact by tapping into the state’s global reach and areas of expertise to unlock validated opportunities for Arkansas’ entrepreneurs. Brought to life by VentureWell, and backed by the Walton Family Foundation and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, Fieldbook has the initial goal of bringing five new value-added technology businesses to Arkansas, each with an outsized ability to win and scale—which ultimately will bring new knowledge worker jobs to the region while attracting outside venture capital.

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