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Plug and Play announced plans today to expand and create a new supply chain and logistics accelerator in Northwest Arkansas.

Plug and Play’s accelerator will support the next generation of promising startups that will strengthen our innovation ecosystem.

Karen MinkelWalton Family Foundation

The new program will bring innovative startups from around the world to Northwest Arkansas and build upon the fast-growing region’s robust innovation ecosystem. The area is home to the three Fortune 500 founding partners, a network of global and national companies that support these enterprises and the University of Arkansas. An official launch event will take place in Northwest Arkansas this summer.

“We are excited to accelerate and invest in startups in Northwest Arkansas as it is the birthplace of some of the world’s largest companies like Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt,” said Mike Zayonc, founder of Plug and Play’s Supply Chain & Logistics program. “The founding partners in this program will be able to collaborate with our worldwide startup network right in their own backyard.”

The effort, supported by the Walton Family Foundation, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and founding corporate partners J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods and Walmart, will be coordinated locally by the Northwest Arkansas Council.

“This new relationship with Plug and Play will leverage our regional strength in supply chain and logistics,” said Nelson Peacock, the Northwest Arkansas Council’s president and CEO.  “This program will shine a greater spotlight on all of the great things happening in Northwest Arkansas.”

With a population of over 555,000 people, Northwest Arkansas offers one of the top regional economies in the U.S..  The region will provide participants in the accelerator program access to a network of industry experts, including Fortune 500 companies, leading supply chain and logistics faculty from the University of Arkansas and business development opportunities.

For the last four years, U.S. News & World Report has recognized Northwest Arkansas as one of the Top 5 Best Places to Live in the U.S. Known for its expansive 400-mile trail network and world-class art institutions such as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the area is recognized as an emerging technology and entrepreneurial activity hub in America’s Heartland. This infographic describes some of what’s happening in the region:

Plug and Play will work collaboratively with participants from the region to identify key industry challenges in supply chain and logistics. Once identified, Plug and Play will seek out the best startups to help develop solutions to these key challenges. The program will include two cohorts of 10 companies each year and will feature workshops, mentorship sessions, and summits that will bring innovation, business development and investment opportunities to Northwest Arkansas. The accelerator will focus on supply chain optimization, blockchain, last-mile delivery, warehouse automation, IoT sensors, predictive analytics, machine learning, and more.

 A grant from the Walton Family Foundation will support the entrepreneurial education and training curriculum for accelerator participants, as well as support community events and mentoring workshops.

“Northwest Arkansas is known for driven entrepreneurs who created access to opportunity and transformed communities,” said Karen Minkel, Home Region Program Director at the Walton Family Foundation. “Plug and Play’s accelerator will support the next generation of promising startups that will strengthen our innovation ecosystem.”

As part of the accelerator program, participating startups will be matched with mentors to refine their business models. Participants will also be able to work closely with the founding partner companies to identify potential collaboration opportunities. At the conclusion of each program, startups will be able to showcase ideas to prospective customers and investors, including strategic partners from the Plug and Play’s global network.

Technology is changing the way we move freight, and collaborating with Plug and Play gives us the opportunity to team-up with leading startups on solutions that will help our customers. Bringing the Supply Chain and Logistics Accelerator program to Northwest Arkansas will also showcase the region's status as an innovation hub, and we look forward to working with these startups on the next big idea.

John RobertsPresident/CEO, J.B. Hunt

Innovation in logistics and the overall efficiency of supply chains are critical as we continue to grow our company. We've been working with Plug and Play for more than a year and feel there's more opportunity to collaborate. Having an accelerator like this in Northwest Arkansas will give us access to the creative and entrepreneurial thinking we need to succeed in our highly-competitive industry.

John R. TysonDirector in the Office of the CEO, Tyson Foods

Innovation that increases efficiency in our supply chain will help our team continue to be a competitive advantage for the company and ensure we can maintain everyday low prices for our customers however they want to shop. By combining the strength of Walmart and the speed of startups, this partnership with Plug and Play will accelerate innovation and support our efforts to maintain a best-in-class supply chain.

Greg SmithExecutive Vice President, Supply Chain, Walmart U.S.

We are very excited to begin our work with these great organizations like Walmart, J.B. Hunt, and Tyson Foods in Northwest Arkansas to develop the ecosystem and culture of entrepreneurship. With our startups, we can bring efficiency and cost savings in the supply chain. Through this new operation here, we will be able to connect Northwest Arkansas to Silicon Valley, China, Singapore, Germany, and the rest of our global network.

Saeed AmidiCEO/Founder, Plug and Play