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Jeff Amerine Discusses Arkansas Startup Culture

Jeff Amerine

by Tyler Hale

Area movers and shakers learned about startup culture today at Lift the Rock, a weekly program at The Venture Center in Little Rock from a recognized leader in startups.

Jeff Amerine, founding principal of Startup Junkie, discussed how startups begin, how these companies can grow and be sustainable and how a community can be built around startups.

Amerine introduced four vital elements for startups, which he refers to as the four pillars. Startups must focus on talent, culture, community and capital in order to be successful, Amerine said.

Not only do companies need to focus on these elements, but the elements have to be balanced. Amerine said a startup’s pillars have to be part of a cohesive whole in order to make the company successful. “These things need to be in harmony,” he said.

The first step when building a startup community is focusing on talent. Building a community, at its core, is “bring[ing] people together to learn something,” Amerine said.

Many communities try to build a building as the first step in creating a community, but Amerine said this is a mistake. Bringing people together and having activities for the community are the first steps and buildings will follow later.

Jeff amerine

The Venture Center

Amerine cited the Speak Easy, a co-working and startup space in Indianapolis, which he said cultivated its community before constructing a building. “Before they opened the doors, they had a backlog of 1,500 people that were going to sign up,” he said.

According to Amerine, creating a community around startups will provide important nontraditional pathways “for people to learn the skills they need.”

Creating a “cultural drumbeat” is the next step in fostering startup communities. Startup Crawl, presented by Startup Junkie, is an example of creating a cultural drumbeat. The Startup Junkie team developed a plan to highlight different startups and small businesses across Fayetteville, and over 1,200 individuals signed up.

“We did prove that people were supportive,” Amerine said. It was an effective way, a fun way to highlight what is going on.”

However, he emphasized that one-time events are not enough to create a community. It can’t be something you do one time,” he said. “An event doesn’t cut it. It needs to be something every week, it needs to be something every month.”

Amerine also addressed capital, which he said has to be available in order for startups to function. Although startup leaders may think there is not enough capital available, Amerine said capital can be found and is necessary to sustain companies.

“Entrepreneurs always say there’s not enough capital. The people who have capital always say there’s not enough [to invest in],” he said.

He listed multiple sources that startups can use to seek capital.

  1. Angel Forums
  2. Alternative debt sources
  3. Member managed angel funds
  4. Series A gap funds
  5. Growth equity

Read more about Startup Junkie here.

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