Kristian Andersen has a plan to connect local students with local businesses, creating an environment where Arkansas’ talent steps out of the classroom and into jobs without leaving the state.
Andersen told fellow entrepreneurs about his plan at the Startup Arkansas launch today at Hendrix College. The event brought entrepreneurs together from across the state to start a discussion about creating a strong ecosystem for new startup businesses.
Arkansas Fellowship, Andersen’s startup, will begin this fall connecting college students with lots of potential to companies willing to foster their talent.
“If you can accelerate the development of somebody’s professional network, if you can really truncate the timeline it takes for a young person to develop meaningful relationships in the business world, you also speed their route to success and business entrepreneurship,” he said.
Andersen splits his time between Conway and Indianapolis, but he is working with several people across the state of Arkansas to make Arkansas Fellowship a success and hopefully keep Arkansas’ best and brightest within the state. He said that by starting a young businessperson’s career in Arkansas and fostering those business relationships, that entrepreneur will be more inclined to stay in Arkansas and continue with those connections.
“Wherever you build your professional center of gravity is where you will ultimately end up starting and developing your business,” he said.
Arkansas Fellowship will be a two-year program where the “highest-potential entrepreneurial minds locked inside of Arkansas’ colleges and universities” are paired up with high-performing Arkansas-based businesses, Andersen said. The business-minded students will work for pay for 24 months while being paired with the CEO of the company.
Applications for the fellowships will be accepted in the fall with the actual program starting in spring 2014. Andersen said they are looking for kids who have an entrepreneurial spirit, not necessarily the top student in school.
“It is the kid who got sent to the principal’s office in elementary school for reselling Lemonheads on the playground,” he said, “It’s the kid who started mowing lawns one summer in high school and by the end of the year he was no longer mowing lawns; he had his friends mowing lawns and he was cashing the checks.”
On the other side of the coin, Andersen told the room he was looking for technically-oriented entrepreneurial companies willing to invest in the professional journey of an up-and-coming businessperson.
The pitch went out to other entrepreneurs involved with startup companies from across the state attending ThinkBigArkansas, Startup Arkansas’ launch event.
Startup Arkansas is the 32 region of Startup America Partnership to launch. Startup American Partnership supports a national network of communities working toward the success of American startups.
“We’re not a structure organization. There’s no funding. There’s no staff,” said Lee Wilson with Startup Arkansas. “This is coming together to build a platform to better connect the state.”