BENTONVILLE, AR — The Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit have named Tom Ward, Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Customer Product, and Francisco Marin, Co-Founder & CEO of Cognitive Talent Solutions, as the Innovator of the Year and Emerging Innovator of the Year, respectively.
“Northwest Arkansas has a rich history of evolving ideas through action and building companies locally to serve a global market. This is the epicenter of entrepreneurship,” says Graham Cobb, President & CEO of the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce. “This year’s award recipients have demonstrated their passion for innovation as well as the ability to utilize technology to solve challenges and improve lives.”
The Innovator of the Year is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding technical or entrepreneurial talent, contributed positively to Northwest Arkansas, and helped advance our region’s economic ecosystem.
In his current role, Tom is charged with helping shape the future of retail at Walmart, including leading the retailer’s Pickup and Delivery business across nearly 3,200 Walmart locations. In addition, he and his team manage the Online Grocery customer experience as well as the company’s latest drone, automation and autonomous vehicle initiatives.
“Walmart has a history and culture of innovation and a consistent cadence of improvement. 2020 has seen this evolution accelerate. Tom and his team have blended the digital and the physical in a way the builds consumer confidence, lessens the burden of adoption and is laser-focused on their mission of improving lives. They have done so in a time of extraordinary user demand and disruptive opportunities amidst supply chains. Tom’s leadership and vision of this omnichannel innovation would be impressive on any scale, for the world’s largest retailer to accomplish this has been astounding to witness,” says Cobb.
“These past several months have challenged us to innovate and scale at an impeccable speed, rapidly adapting to the evolving landscape and ever-changing customer needs,” said Ward. “I am honored to receive this award and am humbled and proud to work alongside so many brilliant and talented team members at Walmart who work hard to ensure we’re always putting the customer first. The Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce has been an incredible advocate for businesses in Arkansas, and this recognition during the NWA Tech Summit reinforces their continued dedication to supporting local innovation and innovators.”
The NWA Tech Summit Emerging Innovator of the Year recognizes those companies, and the individuals leading them, who are currently in early stages of growth, and have demonstrated outstanding technical or entrepreneurial talent, contributed positively to Northwest Arkansas, and helped advance our region’s economic ecosystem. Francisco Marin has fast become part of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as a member of the Fuel Challenge cohort. He has solidified contracts in the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas and has actively looked for ways to be a part of the community.
Cobb added, “Not only has Francisco seen first-hand the economic opportunities in NWA; he recognizes the quality of life in a low-cost package that Bentonville affords the entrepreneur, remote worker or high-level tech talent; of which he is all three. He is currently based in Bentonville; surrounded by trails, art, great food and open spaces. It’s inspiring and affirming to see the success he has realized, as well as the joy he’s found in OZ.”
Francisco Marin started Cognitive Talent Solutions in 2018. Francisco is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt with 8+ years of experience in Cognitive Computing, Business Analytics and Process Improvement. He worked at IBM as a Continuous Innovation Project Manager and later as Business Analytics Leader for Sales Transaction Support EMEA Operations.
“Our team came to Bentonville earlier this year to complete the Fuel Accelerator program and we were humbled by the welcoming attitude and support received from the NWA community. Despite the challenges related to the pandemic, this has been an incredibly productive year for us thanks to the interaction with various stakeholders in a very dynamic startup ecosystem, including Startup Junkie, Catapult Consulting, i2i Labs, the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, the University of Arkansas and Endeavor, among others. We look forward to continuing to expand our presence in NWA and pave the way for other startups to come here in the future.”
The Executive Director of the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit, Ashley Wardlow, went on to say that, “It is our honor to recognize Tom Ward and Francisco Marin at this year’s Summit. Without question, they both have demonstrated their dedication to business building, a commitment to curiosity & excellence in the tech space, and their support of tech & innovation taking place in the Heartland.”
The 2020 Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Council, and Walmart.