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The Delta I-Fund™ is an early stage, proof-of-concept accelerator formed to train entrepreneurs in the eight-state Delta Regional Authority territory. Each startup team accepted into the program will be matched with a mentor, complete 12 weeks of rigorous training alongside other startup teams and receive technical assistance or access to seed stage capital, depending on the team's geographical location. The Delta I-Fund is administered by Winrock International.

THE MISSION

The mission of the Delta I-Fund is to positively impact the low-to-moderate income communities throughout the Delta Regional Authority territory. The program seeks to provide a platform for the creation and launch of high-growth companies, spurring economic development and job creation in the region.

The Program

The Delta I-Fund offered multiple cohorts from the fall of 2017 through early summer 2019. To date, the program has assisted 166 entrepreneurs from 20 cities throughout the DRA footprint. 40% of our alumni founders are people of color and 35% are women.

The types of ideas and startups targeted by the Delta I-Fund are those based on innovative business models including:

• Patented university research, including medical, biomedical, science, and engineering applications.
• Software and other IT-based platform solutions.
• Any other patented or proprietary technology or innovation which provides a competitive advantage.

As for the stage of the company, the Delta I-Fund worked with very early-stage ideas and companies that needed validation, including pre-revenue startups and entrepreneurs still in the idea stage.

The structured training provided during the program was modeled after I-Corps™, a program formed by the National Science Foundation in 2011.  Thousands of teams nationally have been through I-Corps, and the curriculum is founded on the Lean LaunchPad™ entrepreneurial training developed by Steve Blank and Stanford University.  Entrepreneurs in the Delta I-Fund were taught to develop and document their proposed business model on a lean canvas, and then to test their hypotheses through a rigorous customer discovery process.

The Value Proposition

  • Proof-of-concept funding is often one of the largest barriers entrepreneurs face when attempting to launch a company. The Delta I-Fund provided both funds for technical assistance and training to enable entrepreneurs to make their ideas, research, and inventions a reality.

  • Mentorship is a critical component of the success of any early-stage company. The Delta I-Fund identified world-class mentors from the business community and paid those individuals for their participation in the program. The mentor assigned to each team participated in every facet of the program alongside the other team members, as a “coach on the field.” Past Delta I-Fund cohorts have indicated that the mentor relationship was one of the most valuable aspects of the program.

  • The Delta I-Fund was administered virtually, with instruction provided by video conference. Additionally, customer interviews and instructional team meetings were scheduled around each team’s availability, ensuring flexibility with demanding schedules.

Alumni Testimonials

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The focus on validating our problem hypothesis shaped our customer interview process. The ability to definitively confirm our assumptions in our target market is vital to operational success and will strengthen our platform to potential investors.”
— Andrew Miles, CEO, Grox Industries
The Delta I-Fund was such an enriching experience because it connected us to
and allowed us to work with some of the greatest innovators in Arkansas. Without it, our company would not be where it is today.”
— Ingrid Helgestad, Spiritum Solutions, LLC
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Delta I-Fund’s seed investment was imperative when designing our business model. It allowed us to define our target market and build a stronger strategic plan, which is proving successful after winning national business plan competitions.”
— Flavia Araujo, Lapovations, LLC

 

IBERIABANK Investment Portfolio

 
 
 
 
 
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Our Partners

The Delta region, made up of 252 counties and parishes in eight states, is one of the most historic, culturally rich parts of the country, yet daily life remains a struggle for many. The Delta Regional Authority (dra.gov) supports job creation and improves quality of life through strategic economic development investments in the Delta region's communities, families, and businesses.

IBERIABANK has provided the essential investment capital for the Delta I-Fund to make investments in our teams. Their commitment to entrepreneurship and economic development is pivotal to our efforts. Learn more here.
      
The Delta I-Fund has partnered with the above entrepreneurial support organizations, or “ESOs”, located throughout the Delta region. Through these ESOs, the Delta I-Fund is able to recruit top entrepreneurs, mentors and sponsors into the program. Learn more about how each ESO is committed to advancing entrepreneurship by clicking on its logo.

The BALSA Group is a collection of high-achieving graduate students, post-doc researchers and young professionals who consult with early stage companies to help solve real business and scientific problems. They bring their knowledge, resources and network for the benefit of Delta I-Fund teams. See more details here.

Innovate Arkansas is a state-funded initiative that helps scale promising Arkansas technology ventures. Funded by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and administered by Winrock International, Innovate Arkansas assists technology entrepreneurs in turning startup companies into viable commercial enterprises. Learn more here.

PPGMR Law is a full-service business-oriented law firm for entrepreneurs, investors, and technology startups. The firm helps to organize and form businesses, helps with private investment and other financing transactions, and helps with company operations. Practice areas include mergers and acquisitions, securities compliance, intellectual property, contracts, corporate governance, internet and software matters, and other general business transactions. Learn more here.

See more details here.

The Delta I-Fund targets entrepreneurs with innovative business models in the Delta region. The program was made possible by a grant awarded by the DRA. See more details here.

The Team

Amy Hopper
Program Officer

Sarah Goforth
Instructor

Brian Shedd
Instructor

John Chamberlin
Instructor

 

Carol Reeves
Instructor

Jameelah Jordan
Instructor

Steve Rice
Instructor

Katie Milligan
Instructor

contact

For all questions related to the Delta I-Fund, please contact Amy Hopper at amy.hopper@winrock.org.