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SCALE Challenge to Kickstart Supply Chain Innovation

Innovation in supply chains received a big boost on Thursday when the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) and the Walton Family Foundation announced the SCALE Challenge.

Rosemarie Truman, CEO and founder of CAI, broke the news at the Supply Chain, Innovation & Technology (SCIT) NYC ’19 conference in Manhattan, explaining how the SCALE (Supply Chain and Logistics Enterprises) Challenge is an open innovation contest to disrupt the supply chain and logistics industry sector.

Supported by the Walton Family Foundation, run by the family behind Walmart Inc., the SCALE Challenge will launch 20-plus companies around inventions with potential for near-term impact and plant them in Northwest Arkansas, home to three Fortune 500 companies: Walmart, Tyson Food and J.B. Hunt. Truman said executives from those companies will be involved in the challenge.

“The whole purpose of this challenge is to launch 20 companies to disrupt the supply chain,” Truman said.

She said disrupters are defined as “making things that make the old things obsolete.” As with CAI’s prior challenges, teams will advance promising inventions with teams of mentors, advisors and ambassadors to “de-risk” their products or systems with rigorous due diligence by potential investors and industry experts.

“Out of this we’ll be creating brand new knowledge-based jobs in completely different areas then we’ve done in the past,” she told the audience at the SCIT conference. “We’ll be amplifying entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world, addressing economic inequality–60 percent of our companies are co-founded by women, 80 percent are co-founded by minorities and 46 percent of our companies that we launch are in underserved, underprivileged regions.”

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At, individuals or teams can apply to enter the challenge and are automatically put into the “elevator speech” phase where applicants create a two-minute pitch describing their innovation or invention, supported by an executive summary, Truman explained. If entrants are chosen to move ahead, they go into the “business plan phase,” where a 10-page business plan is created and a full financial model with the risk and reward laid out.

Challenge entrants compete for a $2,000 cash prize and a chance to pitch for funding for their startup or idea.

A panel of judges will then ultimately select 20 winning teams. The final phase is the startup or  individual being awarded funds for existing companies.

The challenge will also include an investor forum for interested individuals or companies looking to potentially buy into one of the inventions.

Truman said the most important aspect to entering the challenge is to be able to create a startup with seed funding, while also getting media attention, prize money attached to each winner, and a complex accelerator training program.

CAI’s curated accelerator training program includes entrepreneurial success factors, commercialization planning, research and development roadmaps, IP strategy, financial and commercial strategy, valuation modeling, market analysis and investment strategy.

“The other thing is that we put people in front of these world-class mentors that they would perhaps have difficulty accessing otherwise,” Truman said.

The SCALE Challenge winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Northwest Arkansas, where they will demonstrate their solutions and pitch for seed funding at an investor forum. With guidance from CAI, the SCALE Challenge winners will form startup companies and pursue licensing.

“The SCALE Challenge has the potential to transform retail supply chains. The platform accelerates the introduction of breakthrough innovation that is unique to any other program,” Cameron Geiger, senior vice president at Walmart, said in a statement. “Walmart is excited to see what the SCALE Challenge will offer to help us serve our customers with even greater quality and precision, allowing us to better sense and predict in dynamic marketplaces.”

CAI, a global non-profit public-private partnership, is focused on creating a virtuous circle of innovation and driving growth breakthroughs through novel, creative paradigms and models. Truman noted that CAI works to realize the trillions of dollars of IP funds available through the government and connect researchers with entrepreneurs. CAI has launched 280 companies in the past four years that have spawned 170,000 inventions.

“We pick the invention and launch the company around the invention and match them with capital,” Truman added.