Plug and Play, Sunnyvale, Calif., announced plans to open a supply chain and logistics accelerator program in Northwest Arkansas. The new program will bring innovative startups from around the world and build upon the region's robust innovation ecosystem.

"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 like Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt," says 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."

The effort, supported by the Walton Family Foundation, Bentonville, Ark.; the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Little Rock, Ark.; and founding corporate partners J.B. Hunt, Lowell, Ark.; Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.; and Walmart, Bentonville, Ark., will be coordinated by the Northwest Arkansas Council, Springdale, Ark.

"This new relationship with Plug and Play will leverage our regional strength in supply chain and logistics," says Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. "This program will shine a greater spotlight on all of the great things happening in Northwest Arkansas."

The region will provide participants in the accelerator program access to a network of industry experts, including Fortune 500 companies, leading supply chain and logistics faculty from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark., and business development opportunities.

Plug and Play will work collaboratively with participants from the region to identify key industry challenges in supply chain and logistics. Once identified, Plug and Play will seek out the best startups to help develop solutions to these key challenges. The program will include two cohorts of 10 companies each year, and will feature workshops, mentorship sessions and summits that will bring innovation, business development and investment opportunities to Northwest Arkansas. The accelerator will focus on supply chain optimization, blockchain, last-mile delivery, warehouse automation, IoT sensors, predictive analytics, machine learning and more.

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.

"Northwest Arkansas is known for driven entrepreneurs who created access to opportunity and transformed communities," says 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." 

At the conclusion of each program, startups will be able to showcase ideas to prospective customers and investors, including strategic partners from the Plug and Play's global network.

"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," says John Roberts, president and CEO of J.B. Hunt. "Bringing the Supply Chain and Logistics Accelerator program to Northwest Arkansas will also showcase the region's status as an innovation hub, and we look forward to working with these startups on the next big idea."

"Innovation in logistics and the overall efficiency of supply chains are critical as we continue to grow our company," says John Tyson, director in the office of the CEO of Tyson Foods. "We've been working with Plug and Play for more than a year, and feel there's more opportunity to collaborate. Having an accelerator like this in Northwest Arkansas will give us access to the creative and entrepreneurial thinking we need to succeed in our highly-competitive industry."

"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," says 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."

"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 CEO of Plug and Play. "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."