First Cohort in U of A’s Out of doors Startup Incubator Graduates from the Greenhouse

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Brandon Howard

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Pedro Somarriba wanted to make rock climbing safer by developing innovative, dynamic ropes with custom designs and meter markings.

In February, he joined the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program, also known as GORP, an incubator at the University of Arkansas focused on outdoor startups.

Now he’s a month away from launching his product.

“We would be at least three months behind where we are now if we hadn’t been involved,” Somarriba said. “We’re already expanding.”

Sombarriba and his company Lacaida Ropes joined three other startups Thursday at the U of A Collaborative Greenhouse in Bentonville for Demo Night, a showcase of the first GORP cohort.

Launched in 2021, GORP offers a multi-level engagement platform to grow early-stage companies from idea to market, with full support through workshops, mentoring, consulting, co-working space, network connections and product/service design .

American Hunt, which mimics AirBnb by connecting outdoor enthusiasts with private land for hunting, fishing and camping, used GORP’s resources to redesign its website.

In just a few months they went from a static website to a dynamic website where users can search and book their adventure. Landowners also now have the ability to list their property with a robust set of categories covering a litany of outdoor activities.

Encore Bike Rentals joined GORP with the goal of helping visitors to Northwest Arkansas “Ride Like a Local.” The company rents quality mountain bikes through a concierge service to riders in Bella Vista, Bentonville and Rogers. They deliver and collect directly to the trailhead, hotels, vacation rentals, and other locations in these areas.

Now, Encore Bikes is looking to hire additional employees and work with the community to provide a “one-stop-shop” experience on the trails, said Taylor Baumgardner, who co-founded the company with his wife Morgan.

Trail Tours, a startup that offers guided audio tours of the trails by a local expert, has seen tremendous growth, with its app hitting 100,000 downloads. Co-founder Mark Marsiglio said GORP has helped the company focus on creating “tremendous momentum” in accelerating Trail Tours’ commercial launch.

Marsiglio added that the company plans to integrate points of interest like breweries and restaurants into the trails and allow users to upload their own guided tours.

“All four (companies) are on the way, and all four got there because of the community around us and what they provided,” said Phill Shellhammer, director of GORP with the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Applications for the fall 2022 cohort will open in June. The 12-week cohort begins in August.

GORP supports startups in the cohort with workshop training, team mentoring and dedicated product/service development to help them scale globally. The program also offers up to $15,000 in “non-dilutive seed financing” per company, financing that does not require the owner to give up equity in the company.

The Greenhouse is located at the U of A Collaborative, the university’s education and research center in Bentonville. GORP is the first of three planned business incubation programs launched by OEI within the Greenhouse; The Northwest Arkansas BioDesign Sprints program is scheduled to start this summer, and a software incubation program is planned for early 2023.

About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students of all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village and the Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, OEI offers free workshops and programs – including social and corporate innovation design teams, venture internships, competitions and startup coaching. A division of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Division of Economic Development, OEI also provides on-demand support for students who will be innovators in existing organizations and entrepreneurs starting something new.