The Plug and Play tech center is opening a new supply chain and logistics accelerator program in Bentonville, Arkansas, the center announced on May 14. The program will bring startups from around the world to a region that is home to the program’s three founding partners – J.B. Hunt, Tyson and Walmart – along with a network of companies that support these businesses and the University of Arkansas.
An official launch event will take place in Bentonville this summer.
“We are excited to accelerate and invest in startups in Northwest Arkansas as it is the birthplace of some of the world’s largest companies,” said Mike Zayonc, founder of Plug and Play’s supply chain and logistics program. “The founding partners in this program will be able to collaborate with our worldwide startup network right in their own backyard.”
Since its launch in 2015, the Sunnyvale, California-based Plug and Play platform has become the world’s largest supply chain business accelerator. The program works with over 30 corporate partners and has helped hundreds of startups build their businesses and connect with major corporate clients.
News of the Bentonville-based spin-out comes less than a month after Amazon sent shockwaves throughout the retail, logistics and supply chain sectors with the twin announcements that it would launch a new digital brokerage and reduce its Prime delivery window to one day from two.
The three Plug and Play accelerator’s founding partners have invested heavily in supply chain technology and partnerships with startups. The new program will help the brands ramp up those efforts and better compete against their common e-giant enemy – Amazon.
“Technology is changing the way we move freight, and collaborating with Plug and Play gives us the opportunity to team-up with leading startups on solutions that will help our customers,” said John Roberts, president and CEO of J.B. Hunt, in a statement. “We look forward to working with these startups on the next big idea.”
Greg Smith, Walmart’s executive vice president of U.S. supply chain, said:
“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. 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.”
Separately, Walmart on May 14th announced it was launching free one-day shipping in select markets.
Although Northwest Arkansas is recognized as a regional economic center, the area lacks an abundance of startups and investors. Economic development boosters are eager to change that.
A grant from the Walton Family Foundation will support the education and training curriculum for accelerator participants, as well as community events and mentoring workshops. The effort will be coordinated locally by the Northwest Arkansas Council.
The Plug and Play accelerator will focus on supply chain optimization, blockchain, last-mile delivery, warehouse automation, IoT sensors, predictive analytics, machine learning and more. It will be staffed by four Plug and Play employees and include two cohorts of 10 companies each year.
Participating startups will be matched with mentors to refine their business models. They will also be able to work with the founding partner companies to identify potential collaboration opportunities.
At the end of each program, entrepreneurs will showcase ideas to prospective customers and investors.
“With our startups, we can bring efficiency and cost savings in the supply chain,” said Saeed Amidi, founder & CEO of Plug and Play. “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.”