Students take ARK Challenge

Three students from the University of Central Arkansas are participating in the ARK Challenge for a chance to earn $150,000 in business funding.

Matthew Bowlin, Luke Pittman and Lukas Deem, all from Conway, are members of the Impulsive team. Other team members are Dan Fisher, associate professor, and Jon Ulrich, a program developer. They developed Impulsive, a mobile application that acts as a social tool for user that will quickly invite friends to join events.

The ARK is a new mentorship-driven business accelerator program for technology startups serving the retail, transportation and logistics and food industries. Impulsive was of the teams selected from an international pool. The teams received $20,000 in seed funding to create a prototype for their ideas. After living and working in Northwest Arkansas for approximately 14 weeks, teams will present and demonstrate their ideas. From this demonstration, two teams will be selected to receive $150,000 in funding.

“Instead of working other jobs to support ourselves, the funding we received allowed us to put all of our other ventures on the back burner and really zone in on this one project from concept to completion. Being selected as one of the top teams would be extremely important to us because it would make it easier yet again, for us to focus on exactly what we are doing and push it as far as we can,” Deem said.

Pittman and Bowlin are both pursuing degrees in the innovation and entrepreneurship program launched in fall 2012 in the University of Central Arkansas College of Business. The university’s innovation and entrepreneurship major is designed to put students in the position of actually creating a business while they are learning business content, said Michael Hargis, interim dean of the College of Business.

“Creativity is the ultimate business weapon. It is a country’s and company’s growth engine. It is one of the most valuable and marketable business skills today,” Hargis said. “Our students are change and innovation specialists who creatively solve problems. The students in this team benefited from this active approach to learning as they worked through numerous iterations for this idea. This group has been consistently willing to take feedback and use it to advance their idea and make the application better.”

The innovation and entrepreneurship program currently has 43 students with the declared major. Their course work includes small business management, entrepreneurial finance and accounting, human resource management, and new venture creation.

“Doing anything innovative is an attempt to rewrite the way things work. Launching a startup is full of ups and downs, challenges, frustrations, and constant learning. It’s thrilling that these students who are just over 20 years old are building their first funded startup. They are already proving successful because they don’t fear failure — the arch-enemy of creativity,” Fisher, who teaches several classes within the major said.

The group relocated to Fayetteville for the ARK challenge. While working there, they receive free office space, legal support and access a network of experts, advisors, and mentors.

“We’ve have basically been given enough money to cover living expenses and some other expenses such as branding and design,” said Pittman. “It is an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, networking, and implementation. Essentially, we’ve been set up perfectly to get things done.”

The demonstration day for teams is in September. For more information about the team and their application, visit