Plug and Play, the accelerator network that works with corporations to invest and advise startup technology companies, is partnering with Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt to set up a logistics-focused program in Northwest Arkansas.
Retailers, software vendors and any number of contracting companies have been forced to make the trek to Bentonville, Ark. to prostrate themselves before Walmart’s corporate juggernaut, and now it seems some of Silicon Valley’s startup gurus are going to make the trek, as well.
“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,” says Saeed Amidi, founder and chief executive officer of Plug and Play, in a statement. “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.”
The new initiative is backed by the Walton Family Foundation (the nonprofit affiliated with Walmart’s founding family), the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the accelerator’s three corporate partners.
“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 chief executive officer. “This program will shine a greater spotlight on all of the great things happening in Northwest Arkansas.”
Plug and Play’s program will identify 10 companies to participate in two cohorts annually. The focus will be on supply chain optimization, last-mile delivery, warehouse automation, sensor technologies, predictive analytics and machine learning.
“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,” said Greg Smith, executive vice president, Supply Chain, Walmart U.S. “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.”
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, Plug and Play said in a statement.
“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.”