National Entrepreneurship Expert Susan Amat Gives Little Rock a Boost

May 3, 2016

12:37 pm

Susan Amat, Ph.D., founder of Miami-based Venture Hive visited Little Rock a while back. The Venture Center, an entrepreneurial incubator focused on building high-growth startups, hosted Dr. Amat for a visit that entailed discussions that ranged from ecosystem development to economic development through entrepreneurship.

Who Is Susan Amat?


Dr. Susan Amat founded Venture Hive, an organization focused on democratizing entrepreneurship education through a global network of accelerators, universities, and K-12 programs.

After completing her MBA, Dr. Amat developed pediatric health monitoring products and earned a Ph.D. in Strategic Entrepreneurship (coursework in industrial engineering, business, and education).

While teaching at the University of Miami, she founded The Launch Pad, which was considered the top model in entrepreneurship education. Her program and platform was replicated throughout the United States as Blackstone LaunchPads.

Dr. Amat served as the founding Chair of the STEM Board for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and actively speaks about entrepreneurship education internationally. She has also consulted with the US State Department, The Kauffman Foundation, and the World Bank on ecosystem development. In 2012, Dr. Amat was honored as a ‘Champion of Change’ at the White House.

A Clear Path for Entrepreneurs

While in Little Rock, Dr. Amat met with local startup founders as well as business and civic leaders. Dr. Amat led discussions focused on helping Little Rock (and all of Arkansas) to build a pathway for entrepreneurship.

During a lunchtime discussion with Venture Center personnel, University of Arkansas Little Rock leadership and local tech startup founders, Dr Amat focused on the topic of an entrepreneurial pathway for Arkansas students which would improve talent development and retention. This systematic approach to education would expose students to ideas of entrepreneurship starting in high school. As students move into college, they would be introduced to entrepreneurship outside of the confines of the business school. This engagement, early in the college experience and outside of the context of traditional entrepreneurship, would help students realize that learning how to become more effective problem-solvers is a valuable skill set no matter the setting in which it is applied.

Dr. Amat spoke at length with University of Arkansas Little Rock’s provost, Dr. Zulma Toro, answering questions from startup founders and Venture Center representatives more about how this type of program could be engineered. A major key for success is clarity and communication between resources that already exist in the community, said Dr. Amat. Effective communication provides students and community members seeking entrepreneurial guidance a seamless path to the support that they need to achieve success.

Economic Impact Through Entrepreneurism

DSC_0088Later in the afternoon, Dr. Amat met with economic development representatives from higher education, business, government (City and State), the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, and the Delta Regional Authority.

Dr. Amat shared expertise and recommendations from her experience working at the University of Miami and the decision to develop the Venture Hive as well as her experience consulting with the Federal Government and the World Bank.

She encouraged the leaders of Arkansas to grab hold of the industry verticals and strengths that already exist in the community and leverage them to grow additional entrepreneurs. Dr. Amat also cited the development of high-exposure programs like the Governor’s Computer Science Initiative and the VC FinTech Accelerator, a collaboration between the Venture Center and global FinTech leader FIS, as opportunities to let the world know that Arkansas is a great place to build high-growth tech companies.

Entrepreneurship Is Building Leaders

In addition to these heavy-hitting conversations, Dr. Amat took time to conduct lightening-round mentor sessions with select Venture Center founders. Entrepreneurs gained direct feedback and insight for their businesses in Dr. Amat’s results-driven focus and approach.

“Dr. Amat’s insights on scaling and international expansion were helpful as Apptegy continues to grow,” said Jeston George, founder and CEO of Apptegy – a local ed tech company. “She also offered concrete, practical advice for my company, emphasizing the importance of hiring a CFO early on in our growth.”

Throughout the day, Dr. Amat emphasized that entrepreneurship and building a solid, vibrant startup ecosystem requires support from a variety of players in the community. To build effective businesses, you have to grow effective leaders, Dr. Amat insisted. It is the foundation on which she has built her work in Miami. And the results of that work make an impact around the world.

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A self-proclaimed “Startup Nerd,” Steve Rice is the principle of SR Communications, a strategic communications and leadership consultancy. Steve also founded the Start Here Initiative, a community-led effort that seeks to close the gap that exists for women and minorities in access to capital in entrepreneurism. He routinely writes on inclusion, entrepreneurism, and leadership for local, regional and national publications.

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