Ark Tank, A Startup Pitch Competition for Arkansas Tourism Announced

by Innovate Arkansas December 18, 2018 Acceleration, Events

Arkansas Tourism, in partnership with Innovate Arkansas, is now accepting applications for Ark Tank, a startup pitch competition to be held on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at the Hot Springs Convention Center in conjunction with the 2019 Arkansas Governor's Conference on Tourism. The pitch competition winner will walk away with a cash prize of $5,000, a guarantee for mentorship from professionals in the field related to the winning business idea, and ongoing advisement with Innovate Arkansas and the Arkansas Tourism research and development section. Applications are due by January 9, 2019.

“We are looking for the ideas and energy that entrepreneurs bring to everything they do. To apply those ideas for continued tourism business growth in our state is a great opportunity,” said Arkansas Tourism Director Jim Dailey. “Ark Tank will be an exciting addition to our annual conference and we can’t wait to see the ideas that will be presented.”

“Both tourism and entrepreneurs are driving forces for the Arkansas economy,” said David Sanders, director of Innovate Arkansas at Winrock International. “Winrock and Innovate Arkansas’s team is dedicated to helping startup founders grow their businesses in Arkansas. We are excited to partner with Arkansas Tourism to extend the startup spirit and our support to an industry that is so important to our state.”

Startup businesses that are related to tourism in Arkansas will be considered for the Ark Tank competition. For purposes of this competition, a tourism-related business is defined as one that directly interacts with tourists, deals with businesses that cater to tourists, encourages tourism in and travel to Arkansas, and/or supports tourism-related activities in Arkansas. Proposed applicant projects must promote tourism or be associated with a tourism or hospitality entity in Arkansas that offers an experience, location, attraction or travel planning assistance to potential visitors from both inside and outside the state.

Innovate Arkansas will manage the application process and will select competition participants with advisement from Arkansas Tourism. The Ark Tank judges will be selected by Arkansas Tourism and will be advised by Innovate Arkansas.

There will be three phases to the application process. The first phase is the online application that must be completed by January 9, 2019. Applicants selected for the second phase will be contacted by January 23, 2019, and will be asked to complete a “lean canvas” for the business model. Finalists selected for the third phase, the pitch competition, will be notified by February 6, 2019. The Innovate Arkansas team will work with those finalists to develop, refine and practice their pitches in preparation for the competition to be held on February 26, 2019, in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The competition will also be streamed live for people from all over Arkansas to watch. Audience members will be able to text their vote for a winner after the competition and an audience favorite winner will be announced at the same time as the grand prize judges’ winner is announced.

“Arkansas has a thriving startup ecosystem driving innovation in industries all across our state. I’m looking forward to seeing the ideas that come when that entrepreneurial spirit is applied to tourism, one of our state’s biggest economic influencers,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “The Ark Tank competition will be a fitting highlight to my annual Conference on Tourism and will send attendees off with excitement and energy to apply to their own businesses.”  

Interested parties can apply to Ark Tank here.


Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State. For more information, visit


Innovate Arkansas ( assists technology entrepreneurs in turning startup companies into viable commercial enterprises. Innovate Arkansas is focused on building and managing the programs needed to accelerate business growth for tech-based startups and established corporations in Arkansas. As the primary conduit between both sides, Innovate Arkansas serves a critical role in developing talent, building commerce, and securing the capital required to develop the state's high-growth economy.


Winrock International ( is a recognized leader in U.S. and international development with a focus on social, agricultural and environmental issues. Inspired by its namesake, Winthrop Rockefeller, Winrock combines scientific and technical expertise with entrepreneurial innovation to deliver market-based solutions that improve lives around the world. Winrock’s mission is to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity and sustain natural resources across the globe.

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