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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 from the business community, 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, in partnership with entrepreneurial support organizations (“ESOs”) throughout the DRA territory.

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 provides 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 offers multiple 12-week cohorts through June 2019. Please click the "Apply Now" link at the bottom of the page for application deadlines and start dates.

Each cohort will include approximately 10 teams. Teams must have at least two team members, though a minimum of three is preferable (single-founder companies are ineligible). It is recommended that teams have a balance of business and science-based backgrounds. During the cohort, each team will be eligible to receive funds for technical assistance and will be assigned an experienced mentor from the business community.

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.

If you are an entrepreneurial team searching for an innovative idea or technology to serve as the basis for your startup, please contact Amy Hopper at amy,hopper@winrock.org prior to applying. She will provide you with information on technologies within the DRA territory available for potential commercialization.

As for the stage of the company, the Delta I-Fund seeks very early-stage ideas and companies that need validation, including pre-revenue startups and entrepreneurs still in the ideation stage. Companies that are post-revenue and already positioned for angel and venture capital funding are likely to be too advanced for the program.

The structured training provided during the program is 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 are 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 provides 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, in coordination with its partner ESOs, identifies world-class mentors from the business community, and pays those mentors for their participation in the program. The mentor assigned to each team will participate 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 mentorship received was one of the most valuable aspects of the program.
     
  • The Delta I-Fund is administered virtually, with instruction provided by video conference. Additionally, customer interviews and instructional team meetings are scheduled around each team’s availability, ensuring flexibility with already 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, MBA candidate, Walton College of Business, UA
As a first-time entrepreneur, the I-Fund program was invaluable because it provided a framework that gave our team the ability to break down the process of commercialization into addressable steps. We were partnered with an amazing mentor who had successfully launched and exited a company in our industry. She worked with us every day and is still a great advisor and friend to our team.”
— Nathan Watson, Masters of Public Service and MBA Candidate, Walton College of Business, UA
The Delta I-Fund provided an excellent opportunity to pitch for equity investment worth a total of $50,000 at the earliest and highest risk stage of our startup. This seed funding was extremely helpful in getting us off the ground and to cover expenses such as setting up the LLC, traveling to meet with customers and experts, and attending business plan competitions.”
— Gurshagan Kandhola, MBA candidate, Walton College of Business, UA

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.

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

Daniel Applewhite
Instructor

Katie Milligan
Instructor

 

Eric Matthews
Instructor

Jeff Stinson
Instructor

John Chamberlin
Instructor

contact

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