The Ark Challenge drew teams from around the world to Northwest Arkansas for a chance to build up a company in just three months.
"It has been an emotional grinding three months where we've had nose to the ground and just crank crank crank," says Sara Beck. "We really have built a business from ground up."
Beck and her brother created Btiques, offering shop owners a quick and easy way to sell products through social media.
"Social commerce is really taking off," she says. "It's this big monster that's coming that can't exactly be ignored."
Fifteen teams were given $18,333 in seed money, as well as product development and design support, promotion, networking and guidance from a group of mentors.
"It's fascinating," Beck says. "It's invaluable information that's not something you're going to learn on the street."
Director Jeanette Balleza says Northwest Arkansas is a natural fit for the program.
"We already have such strong industry here in retail transportation, logistics and food processing," she says. "There was thought behind that, why don't we become the destination for tech that are serving those three industries because we have so many experts."
She says the program helps start-ups succeed, but it is also great for the area.
"Not only are we able to attract talent to help solve problems that industry here is already facing, but we're also finding a way to engage our mentorship and to help them create the next generation of entrepreneurs," she says.
On Thursday the 15 teams pitched their final products to a group of investors for a chance to win $150,000 in funding. The contest guaranteed two teams would be offered the top prize, but after the pitches were made, Governor Mike Beebe announced the state would kick in another $150k for a third company.
"We want you to succeed," Beebe told the teams. "We want America to continue to prosper and go forward in new age technology, and to the extent possible, we want it done in Arkansas."
Beck's effort paid off, she and two other teams, Mind What, and Stack Search, each won the funding.
"The opportunity to really grow tech knowledge based job creation in this state would be incredible," she says. "It's just a great starting point to get those meetings to get an investment and to be able to build our our business."
The Ark is a member of the Global Accelerator Network, and is one of 20 projects nationwide selected to receive federal funding for the advancement of regional competitiveness.