i2E http://i2e.org Innovation to Enterprise Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:35:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Former VAP Participant, Leche Lounge, in the Journal Record http://i2e.org/news/former-vap-participant-leche-lounge-in-the-journal-record/ Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:35:36 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28850 Former VAP Participant, Leche Lounge, in the Journal Record
Frustrated mom launches portable lactation lounge business
By Sarah Terry-Cobo
Copyright © 2016 The Journal Record

TULSA – Stephanie Conduff came up with an idea for a product after months of preparing her infant daughter’s meals in bathrooms. Her solution could help hundreds of Oklahoma businesses follow labor laws, and potentially create a more loyal workforce, said Oklahoma Disability Law Center director Kayla A. Bower.

Conduff said her main challenge is finding the right investor to help her scale up her business, Leche Lounge.

Conduff gave birth to her daughter in 2014, while still attending law school. She was forced to pump breast milk in bathrooms because there weren’t adequate accommodations at her university. She ran into the problem in many public places, from sports stadiums to hotels. She even took a break from the bar exam to express milk in the bathroom.

Federal labor laws require employers to provide a private space for lactating mothers to pump breast milk at work. A 2010 amendment requires that employees also have break time for pumping. A February 2016 study in the scientific journal Women’s Health Issues found that only 40 percent of mothers surveyed had access to a private space and break time for expressing breast milk.

A 2006 Oklahoma law urges employers to provide a private space, other than a restroom stall, for lactating mothers, but the law has no enforcement mechanism.

Conduff said she realized there was an opportunity to create a solution to the problem she and so many other breast-feeding mothers faced. It was also an opportunity to create local jobs for Native Americans. She and her brother designed portable lactation rooms.

The stalls include hospital-grade breast pumps, have locking doors for privacy and are insulated to provide comfort and to mask the sound of the pumps. There are two sizes: a 4-foot by 4-foot and a 5-foot by 7-foot, which can accommodate a wheelchair. Prices range between $10,000 for the smaller size with no pump to $15,000 for the larger size with custom features. The units can be purchased or leased.

She said it was important to find a local manufacturer run by a woman, but there aren’t many women-owned manufacturing businesses. She uses Parks Custom Cabinets in Chelsea, owned by Cherokee citizen Bruce Parks.

Conduff installed one lactation room in the Winstar Casino. The stall can collect anonymous data on how often it is used, and she discovered that it had been used seven hours per day. Only two employees stated they were breast-feeding, but the data showed there were more using the lounge who hadn’t requested accommodations.

She said many women who return from family medical leave after giving birth are happy to have help from their employers.

“The last thing they want to say is, ‘I have a legal right for this, make it work,’” Conduff said.

She said her market potential is large; she’s had discussions with 45 interested parties including airports, hotels, casinos, universities, military bases, even a payday lending company. She projects that she can gross $10 million in revenue if she sells 1,000 in year.

But it hasn’t been easy to find the right angel investor, she said. Though she’s won several business competitions, including $15,000 from a Native American entrepreneur investment program, she is still searching for the right person or venture capital firm to help her scale up the business.

She said she’s left more than one meeting because of sexist comments. One potential investor asked her what her husband thinks about her running a business. Another suggested she should wear high heels to the pitch meeting.

Conduff said there is an opportunity for government contracts, to provide the lactation stalls for military bases. As a small, woman-owned, Native American-owned business, she has a leg up on the competitive bidding process.

“There is a lot of momentum to provide space for people,” she said.

Bower wasn’t familiar with Conduff’s product, but said she has seen great benefits providing a breast-feeding-friendly workplace for nearly three decades. She allows her employees to bring their infants to work so they can feed their babies.

She said she was nervous at first, but no mother has brought her child to work after the baby was 6 months old. Her employees were so grateful that she allowed them to adjust to motherhood, it created more stability and loyalty.

“You set yourself apart if you do this and you create an incredibly productive workforce,” Bower said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has certified 167 employers as breast-feeding-friendly workplaces, up from 144 the previous year. The majority of those businesses are in the health care industry. The Oklahoma Disability Law Center and public relations firm Public Strategies are the only non-health care industry businesses that have been certified, according to a list the Health Department provided.

Read the story at Journal Record. (Requires subscription)

CrowdSeekr.com partners with WeGoLook http://i2e.org/news/crowdseekr-com-partners-with-wegolook/ Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:10:31 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28848 Avoid choosing the wrong path to market http://i2e.org/featured/avoid-choosing-the-wrong-path-to-market/ Tue, 26 Jul 2016 14:12:43 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28845 Avoid choosing the wrong path to market
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

“It’s always helpful to learn from your mistakes because then your mistakes seem worthwhile.”

That quote, posted by Forbes, is from famous writer and producer Garry Marshall, who passed away last week. It’s interesting to me that the wry but apt observation came from a person as successful as Marshall.

With “Happy Days” and several more smash TV series and movies that included “Pretty Woman,” Marshall didn’t seem to make many mistakes. He had a flair for recognizing when an actor in a role worked — inviting Henry Winkler (from Yale) to morph into The Fonz and instantly casting Robin Williams as Mork when Williams, who, when being asked to take a seat during his audition, sat on his head like any respectable Orkian would do.

Marshall was a writer, actor, producer, director and comedian. He proved that he could wear all the hats, but what’s really interesting to me is that he didn’t try to wear them all at once.

That, brings me to the fourth mistake in my series of missteps that can cause an entrepreneur to fail: Choosing the wrong path to market.

There are many entrepreneurs who are developing a product that would have the best chance at success if someone else took that product to market.

‘Loving the baby’

Instead, we see entrepreneurs — and this gets back to “loving the baby” — who are determined to try and break into a market that’s already dominated by powerful players such as Microsoft, Cisco or P&G.

Companies like these, or even many midsized companies, already have the brand, infrastructure, strategic partners and sales channels (direct and indirect). It’s hard for a startup to compete against that.

It’s even harder to compete in a broad market as one component of an end-to-end solution with one segment of a software suite (no matter how innovative), a single piece of equipment, or one component of hardware. Entrepreneurs get focused on going head-to-head, when a goal of building a solution that they get to the market either through established sales channels or by being acquired by an established player in the industry would likely yield a better result.

Coachable entrepreneurs who tackle their end game early on by doing the scenario planning to map out the various routes (including acquisition) and available sales channels (it is the very rare startup that should be considering building a direct sales force!) may not automatically score a megahit, but they stand a better chance of getting to market without having to stand on their heads.

Read the story at NewsOK.com

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Entrepreneurs must be willing to swap equity for high-risk capital http://i2e.org/news/entrepreneurs-must-be-willing-to-swap-equity-for-high-risk-capital/ Tue, 19 Jul 2016 14:56:10 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28831 Entrepreneurs must be willing to swap equity for high-risk capital
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

This is the third column in my series about things that can and do lead entrepreneurs to fail.

Technical founders being unwilling to accept the advice and experience they need to carry their ventures forward was No. 1. Founders who are so enamored with their product that they believe they are a proxy for their customers and ignore the mirror of the marketplace was No. 2.

No. 3 on my short list of things that cause startups to fail is not having enough capital. I don’t mean “not having enough capital” in the way you might expect, at least not in the way that I do when I write about the dearth of seed-stage capital.

With only about 2 percent of all VC funds going to seed-stage deals in the first place, and most of that in Silicon Valley and to a handful of other areas across the country, there is simply not enough seed capital in play. That’s a challenge, but not the whole picture.

In the aggregate, access to capital is sort of out of entrepreneurs’ control; it falls to states and public/private partnerships like i2E to work to expand the continuum. But there is another side to lack of capital, and that’s when companies fail because a founder is not willing to accept capital at the cost of dilution.

Bootstrapping (financing an early stage business through sales and revenue) is a great way to start in some circumstances, to build customer experience, and to position a new business with potential investors. However, that’s not the whole story. 

Oftentimes it’s a mistake to put too much weight and time on first sales. Startups waste a lot of time hand-holding first customers. Early adopters tend to be firms with the biggest problems or the companies more willing to take risk on a new solution from an untested vendor. Meanwhile, competitors with capital to scale may be moving in on the broader market.

To try and bootstrap past the window of opportunity for seed or early stage equity investment while competitors are moving or being educated by the bootstrapping company’s nominal progress because founders don’t want to give up a significant percentage of ownership (sometimes as much as 50 percent) is not a recipe for success.

Founders need capital to scale quickly in competitive markets. When investors are interested enough in a startup to put in that much-needed, high-risk capital, they deserve a larger share of equity to compensate them for the risk they are assuming. This is where companies are the most risky to investors. This is the aptly named “valley of death.”

Windows of opportunity close quickly. Competition is swift. I’ve seen founders get their fingers smashed as others reach a market first or expanded to grab share and dominate.

Read the story at NewsOK.com

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Spiers New Technologies brings international perspective to Oklahoma http://i2e.org/news/spiers-new-technologies-brings-international-perspective-to-oklahoma/ Mon, 18 Jul 2016 21:20:19 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28829 Video: Did you know strep throat can give your child mental illness? http://i2e.org/news/video-did-you-know-strep-throat-can-give-your-child-mental-illness/ Wed, 13 Jul 2016 21:06:05 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28827 Program aims to assist local entrepreneurs http://i2e.org/news/program-aims-to-assist-local-entrepreneurs/ Tue, 12 Jul 2016 13:46:11 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28820 Program aims to assist local entrepreneurs
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Starting a successful business is a very heavy lift, even when an entrepreneur does everything right. When a new company initially sets the wrong direction and moves down the wrong path, it’s almost impossible to succeed.

That brings me to No. 2 in my series of recipes for startup failure: Entrepreneurs who believe that they are a proxy for their customers and, as a result, are on a bridge to nowhere. These folks think that just because they react to their product in a certain way and recognize the “obvious” benefits, customers will share their view.

That usually is not the case.

At i2E, we see this potential failure point all the time. Entrepreneurs underestimate and undervalue the importance and the benefits of gathering direct feedback from real customers on their problems and on their willingness to pay for alternative solutions.

That’s the driving force behind our Venture Assessment Program (VAP). In VAP, we help entrepreneurs perform market analysis and figure out the commercial opportunity for their business. This intense three-week initiative includes an analysis of pricing, competition, market barriers and profit potential, but VAP isn’t limited to an internet search or the study of published market research.

Entrepreneurs in this three-week program, talk directly with potential customers to learn firsthand about their problems and to road-test, at a high level, the fit and value proposition of the entrepreneur’s solution. When they do, they inevitably discover important facts they didn’t know — about the customer or about the market or both.

This new knowledge compels VAP entrepreneurs to reassess their business plans. For many, it’s the first time they gain an inkling that their “baby” isn’t as beautiful as they first thought.

Armed with new insight, successful entrepreneurs (the “jockeys” that investors tend to invest in) either stop chasing an idea that the marketplace doesn’t want, or they pivot.

They realize that features are missing that customers require. Or they figure out that a competitor is already doing something similar and that they need to provide a solution that’s more unique or more cost efficient. Or that solving the problem they were attempting to solve isn’t valued by the customer. Sometimes with a few tweaks and iterations, a more fitting solution and value proposition might be possible.

Once an entrepreneur grasps that future success of their venture depends on independent customer validation of whether the new business solves a big enough problem for the customer that they will pay for the entrepreneur’s product to solve it, then we can work with the entrepreneur to convert No. 2 on the checklist for failure into No. 1 in a game plan for success.

Did you know?
The top reason for startup failure (42 percent) is no market need.
Source: CB Insights

Read the full story at The Oklahoman. (Requires subscription.)

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Innovators need to know when it’s time to cede corporate leadership http://i2e.org/news/innovators-need-to-know-when-its-time-to-cede-corporate-leadership/ Thu, 07 Jul 2016 20:38:29 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28809 Innovators need to know when it’s time to cede corporate leadership
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

In our business, like in any other, we talk a lot about the recipes for success.

Having worked with multiple startups over multiple years — some that succeeded, some that are still struggling, and many that failed, I’ve concluded that sometimes, we get lucky and think that we are good as a result.

A company might clear a milestone but the why behind that particular success might not be so clear. But when something fails, the lesson is right there, smacking us in the face.

Starting a new business is so inherently risky that there is always going to be a higher failure rate. But that doesn’t mean it has to be as high as it is. Failure, when we look at it, and study it, always teaches something that can increase the odds for success with the next milestone or deal.

In the next series of columns, I’m going to take a bit different approach and zero in on my checklist of things that can and do lead to failure.

Here’s No. 1 — the inventor or developer turned entrepreneur who falls in love with his product and won’t let go.

It’s his baby, the most beautiful baby ever born, and they believe that they know everything there is to know about raising that baby and delivering it into the marketplace.

That inventor may be a brilliant engineer or scientist, but often he doesn’t understand marketing, markets or strategy related to taking new products to market.

Unless they are a serial entrepreneur, and most of them are not, they haven’t had that experience. They don’t know how difficult it is to figure out a go-to-market strategy and execute on that strategy.

As we sometimes say, “they don’t know what they don’t know.”

Moving forward

Startups sometimes falter and fail because those technical founders insist on continuing as the CEO and strategic lead for the company instead of stepping back and bringing in an experienced chief executive with complimentary skills who can carry the venture forward.

The net result is failures in execution — not because the founder is badly intended, but because he has a really hard time letting go of the baby.

In venture capital decision making, more investments are made on the jockey (the entrepreneur) than on the horse (the product). With a technical founder, especially if he or she is a first-time entrepreneur, we look for an indication of how that individual will react when it’s time to bring in an experienced CEO to take the startup to the next level.

When founders are willing to accept a different role as the company begins to meet milestones, for example becoming the chief technology officer instead of insisting on continuing as CEO, it can be the best of both worlds — a fantastic product road map and superior execution that reduces the riskiness of the new venture instead of increasing it.

Read the story at NewsOK.com

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Journal Record to honor innovators Aug. 11 http://i2e.org/news/journal-record-to-honor-innovators-aug-11/ Thu, 07 Jul 2016 20:16:06 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28805 Journal Record to honor innovators Aug. 11
By Journal Record Staff
Copyright © 2016 The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) – This year’s group of honorees for The Journal Record’s Innovator of the Year program demonstrates that Oklahoma’s pioneering spirit is still alive and well.

The companies, representing a variety of industries, will be recognized during the Innovator of the Year luncheon Aug. 11 in Oklahoma City. An overall winner will be announced at the event, which begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Embassy Suites Downtown Medical Center.

“Innovations in pharmaceuticals, software, health care, transportation, agriculture, aerospace, mobile apps, search engines … all of these and more are found in this year’s class of honorees for Innovator of the Year,” said Joni Brooks, president and publisher of The Journal Record. “Their ideas and implementation are amazing, and we’re proud to showcase their creative minds and spirits through this program. We also thank all the technology centers that are helping entrepreneurs succeed in bringing their ideas to fruition; Oklahoma is truly a leader in innovation.”

For the seventh consecutive year, a Creativity Award winner also will be recognized as part of the program.

Robin Smith, co-founder of WeGoLook, will be keynote speaker for this year’s event. Oklahoma City-based WeGoLook won the 2015 overall Innovator award for its custom inspection and tasking service that uses crowdsourcing technology to connect online shoppers with people who can inspect the items they are browsing online and send them a report, complete with photographs.

Sponsors of the 19th-annual Innovator of the Year event include BIS and Francis Tuttle Technology Center.

2016 Innovator of the Year honorees

Biolytx Pharmaceuticals Corp., Oklahoma City
• BIS, Edmond
• Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Tulsa
• Commuter Air Technology, Oklahoma City
CrowdSeekr.com, Oklahoma City
Driven Analytics Inc., Edmond
• Francis Tuttle Technology Center, Oklahoma City
• Haus Bioceuticals, Oklahoma City
• High Caliper Growing, Oklahoma City
• ICON HDT LLC, Edmond
• J. Thomas Construction LLC, Oklahoma City
Job Pact, Tulsa
Linear Health Sciences LLC, Norman
MedEncentive, Oklahoma City
Mobile tAPPestry LLC, Oklahoma City
• Monscierge Inc., Oklahoma City
• NextThought LLC, Norman
• Pioneer Library System in Partnership with Phase 2, Norman
• Spiers New Technologies, Oklahoma City
• University of Central Oklahoma Institute for Learning Environment Design, Edmond
• Verinovum, Tulsa
• Viatrax Automation Corp., Pryor

Profiles on all of the innovators will appear in the Innovator of the Year magazine to be inserted in the paper on Aug. 12.

Innovator of the Year
Aug. 11, 2016
Embassy Suites Downtown Medical Center, 741 N. Phillips Ave., Oklahoma City
Individual tickets are $75, and tables for 10 are $750.
Call Angie Anson at (405) 278-2820 or email angie.anson@journalrecord.com.

Read the story at the Journal Record. (Requires subscription.)

Oklahoma Innovation Institute kicks off two new programs, graduates Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance http://i2e.org/news/oklahoma-innovation-institute-kicks-off-two-new-programs-graduates-tulsa-regional-stem-alliance/ Wed, 06 Jul 2016 13:58:10 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28800 Oklahoma Innovation Institute kicks off two new programs, graduates Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance
By Casey Smith
Tulsa World, Tulsa, OK © 2016 BH Media Group, Inc.

The past few weeks have been especially busy ones for Oklahoma Innovation Institute, a nonprofit committed to building an innovative economy in the Tulsa region.

The launch period for Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, the institute’s answer to the need for growing STEM programs in the area, has come to an end. As Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance moves on, the institute is turning its incubation efforts to beginning two new initiatives with the goals of increasing the number of commercially viable businesses that enter the marketplace and of helping the fledglings get through the earliest stages of the entrepreneurship process.

“What we do at OII is we try to identify gaps in resources,” Executive Director David Greer said of the nonprofit that officially launched in 2012 with the goal of addressing an array of current and future business issues faced by the Tulsa area. “We don’t want to duplicate — we want to fill identified gaps.”

Tulsa has a great entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s already been developed, Greer said, pointing to programs like 36°North, The Forge and i2E that help small businesses grow. But, Greer said, what Oklahoma Innovation Institute thinks the economy needs more of are services to help great ideas take that first step into the marketplace and get to a point where they can enter one of those entrepreneurial startup programs.

The institute is launching two new programs this summer: a community technology commercialization platform and BetaBlox, the startup accelerator that focuses on entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur training and mentorship.

“Our hope is using this technology commercialization portal system, using this BetaBlox program, we want to widen the funnel of startups in Tulsa, provide more of them to the ecosystem that can be passed through to the right resource at the right time,” Greer said. “This very early stage I think is a gap that we have not addressed in Tulsa. With the work we do at OII, we feel we’re going to fill that gap.”

Chase Curtiss, the institute’s recently hired director of commercialization, will lead the three-year initiative to build a community technology commercialization platform. Curtiss said the goal is to create a network that identifies commercially viable research being done at universities and helps those ideas move through the startup business process. “Usually that’s a pretty big gap from the university to the entrepreneurship level,” Curtiss said.

The new initiative will be complemented by Kansas City-based BetaBlox, a startup accelerator that helps early-stage entrepreneurs quickly build their business through coaching on lean startup models, modern customer acquisition channels and raising investment funds.

In the four years or so that BetaBlox has operated, Greer said, the organization has launched around 100 businesses with an 85 percent success rate — twice the national average.

Oklahoma Innovation Institute wants to create more self-sustaining solutions as it did with the successful launch of the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, an organization that works to connect all the entities interested in growing science, technology, engineering and math in the area.

The alliance, which started in 2014 under Oklahoma Innovation Institute’s umbrella, is now in the process of becoming its own entity. The transition will be complete this month.

Xan Black, program director for the alliance, said the group will exist as part of the Tulsa Community College Foundation until it receives its own nonprofit status.

“They did such a great job of incubating us that it was time to spread our wings,” Black said. “We’re really grateful to OII for the opportunity and grateful to TCC for taking us through the transition phase, and we’re looking forward to stepping out on our own.”

Read the story at the Tulsa World

Oklahoma City startup qualifies for up to $1.9M in state incentives http://i2e.org/news/oklahoma-city-startup-qualifies-for-up-to-1-9m-in-state-incentives/ Tue, 05 Jul 2016 13:58:13 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28792 Oklahoma City startup qualifies for up to $1.9M in state incentives
By Brianna Bailey
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

An Oklahoma City-based startup company has qualified for up to $1.9 million in state incentives over the next 10 years through the Oklahoma Quality Jobs program, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce said Thursday.

Spiers New Technologies Inc., which remanufactures batteries for use in electric cars and other alternative forms of energy, hopes to create 116 new jobs in Oklahoma City over the next decade with the help of the incentives.

The Quality Jobs incentives will help the company hire engineering staff and technicians at a quicker pace, said Dirk Spiers, president of Spiers New Technologies.

“I think it will help us accelerate growth and it allows us to add more engineers and high-level jobs sooner rather than later,” he said. 

Spiers founded the company about a year and a half ago, and it now employs 35 people in Oklahoma City. Spiers hopes to eventually expand into Europe and China. 

The company, based in a warehouse at 50 NE 42, grades and remanufactures used high-performance batteries. The batteries are used in electric cars, or in energy storage systems that hold excess energy from renewable sources, like solar power.

The Quality Jobs Program gives companies quarterly cash payments to locate and expand in the state.

Incentive payments are based on payroll numbers, and companies can obtain payments for up to 10 years. Most companies must maintain a taxable payroll of at least $2.5 million for four straight quarters in the first four years of the program to qualify for the job incentives.

Read the full story at NewsOK.com.

Oklahoma plays oversized role at major biotechnology convention http://i2e.org/news/oklahoma-plays-oversized-role-at-major-biotechnology-convention/ Tue, 05 Jul 2016 13:44:36 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28790 Oklahoma plays oversized role at major biotechnology convention
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

The 2016 BIO International Convention set a record for partnering meetings — 35,700 in four intense days. Numerous biotechnology entrepreneurs from Oklahoma were right in the thick of all that business-building activity.

A short refresher on BIO International — it is the global event for biotechnology. BIO 2016, held earlier this month, attracted 15,937 industry leaders from 76 countries and 48 states to San Francisco to showcase and share the very best of the biotech industry’s innovation.

BIO International is not one of those conventions where participants come to meet and greet. This is very much four days of hard and serious work. Leading pharmaceutical firms send out scouts to search for promising technologies.

“There are only a handful of states that have the BIO presence that Oklahoma does,” said Carol Curtis, i2E venture adviser. “It is an opportunity for our entrepreneurs and startups to have meaningful contact with leading companies in big pharma and big biotech. Otherwise, it would be of great expense to set up meetings with companies scattered throughout the world. These connections have the potential to lead to an exit for a startup from Tulsa or Oklahoma City or other places in our state.”


Led by the Greater Oklahoma Chamber and OKBIO, with support from i2E and others, Oklahoma hosts a large pavilion with more than 40 Oklahomans helping our biotech startups take advantage of BIO’s unique opportunity to directly interact in person with business development leaders around the world.

Partnership is all about capturing interest. BIO International has an intricate partnering system that opens up to attendees about a month before the event.

We help our client companies to complete the profile in depth with key words that connect with potential partners. Using the BIO search engine, we encourage them to request and schedule meetings.

“When an entrepreneur gets to BIO,” Curtis said, “he or she knows that they have four meetings at the OKBIO pavilion with business development managers from major companies who have interest in what they are doing.”

Relationships are born at BIO. It happens in the Oklahoma pavilion for four solid days in meetings between our entrepreneurs and development managers from firms like Pfizer, Novartis, or Johnson & Johnson.

Some of these conversations may produce deals eventually. It’s great when that happens, but deals are not the immediate goal. Innovation in biotechnology isn’t a sprint. It’s a complicated path of interconnected relationships based on years of work.

BIO meetings set the stage for ongoing give and take as international pharmaceutical companies increasingly look to small companies and universities for the R&D that fills their drug development pipeline. That’s why Oklahoma’s continued participation and presence at Bio International is so important.

Read the full story on NewsOK.com

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Innovations: Norman’s AvPro assures right recipe used to create advance composite materials http://i2e.org/news/innovations-normans-avpro-assures-right-recipe-used-to-create-advance-composite-materials/ Tue, 28 Jun 2016 14:39:31 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28811 Innovations: Norman’s AvPro assures right recipe used to create advance composite materials
By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

NORMAN — Tom Rose walked into a conference room recently at Norman’s Advanced Processing Technology Inc. (AvPro) carrying what resembled a large dorsal fin from a great white shark.

Rose actually had his arms wrapped around the vertical stabilizer for an airplane, fabricated entirely from composite materials instead of aluminum.

The founder and president of AvPro, Rose brought the aircraft piece into the conference room to demonstrate the strength and light weight that composites provide the aerospace industry.

AvPro is a service company that provides software, training and installation of sensors used in manufacture of composite materials for the aviation industry. The tools developed by AvPro measure and control the process of applying heat, pressure and time to carbon fibers and epoxy materials in an oven-like autoclave.

“An easy analogy is to think about baking a cake,” Rose said. “One of the ways you bake a cake is to set a temperature at 350 degrees, hold it for an hour and cool it down. Another way that you can assure that you have baked the cake properly is to put a straw in the cake and see if it is wet or if it’s dry.”

Tom Rose, 71, is a Minnesota native and chemist who was involved in some of the earliest projects to develop composite materials for use in aircraft. He played a role in the development of the Lear Avia Lear Fan, one of the first aircraft composed entirely of composites rather than aluminum.

By the 1980s, Rose was involved with a California company that won a contract to set up a composites laboratory at Tinker Air Force Base. Rose came to Oklahoma to work on the project, and while he was here the company went under.

Bankruptcy didn’t end the Tinker project, however.

“They said ‘we don’t care what happens to your company, we expect you to finish the job,’” Rose said with a laugh.

So, he stayed in Oklahoma to complete the work and eventually incorporated AvPro as a Norman-based company.

Fast-forward almost 30 years. Today, AvPro provides a diverse menu of services to the composites and aerospace industry. It provides hardware, software, maintenance support, thermal analysis, a statistical database and training.

Working with Abaris Training in Reno, NV, AvPro created classes to educate composites personnel on the merits of a Material State Management system. Rose hopes that similar advanced materials training some day will be added to the curriculum of Oklahoma CareerTech centers.

Rose’s son, Hans, a physicist educated at the University of California-San Diego, serves as innovation lead for AvPro. The company employs seven people at headquarters near Norman’s Max Westheimer Airport. 

AvPro recently was selected for a federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 grant to explore development of sensors that can actually be embedded in composite materials as it is being heated.

Accurately recording temperatures without ruining the composite material it is measuring is critical to the process, Hans Rose said.

“If you are making tennis racquets and it breaks, people don’t care,” he said. “If a vertical stabilizer bends and breaks, people care.”

This is the third SBIR awarded to the Norman company, which established a relationship early on with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). Through a contract with OCAST, AvPro was assisted in the grant application by Oregon-based Grow Emerging Cos., which provides proposal support.

“The relationship with OCAST has been highly beneficial, primarily because the money they have provided is catalytic in terms of being able to submit proposals,” Tom Rose said. “More recently they have actually expanded the help with writing proposals by providing people who have knowledge in that area to help you with the structure of your proposal.”

The state of the composites industry has far surpassed early projections, Tom Rose said. He lists composite-based commercial aircraft currently flying: Boeing 787; Airbus A-350; and on the defense side, the F-35 and B-2.

Read the story at NewsOK.com

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Startup city http://i2e.org/news/startup-city/ Mon, 27 Jun 2016 17:15:39 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28787 Startup city
By Scott Wigton
Copyright 2016 Langdon Publishing

So, you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and are convinced your idea, concept or prototype will be the next big thing. If only you could get some expert guidance, financing and a network of like-minded advocates to help propel you to success, right? 

Well, be thankful you live in Tulsa. The city abounds with organizations geared to help would-be entrepreneurs develop their ideas and then launch the businesses of their dreams. In fact, Forbes Magazine named Tulsa its No. 1 place for young entrepreneurs. Today, there’s no excuse to toil away in your lonely silo, unaware of the many opportunities that are available in this city’s diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Here are a few of the leading organizations helping turn Tulsa into a mecca for entrepreneurs.

The Forge 

125 W. Third St., 918-560-0265, www.theforgetulsa.com

Founded: 2012

Partners/Sponsors: Tulsa Regional Chamber (with support from chamber members) plus T. D. Williamson, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences and TYPros 

If your business concept is hot enough to be hammered into the shape of a profitable business, then The Forge, an economic development initiative of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, might be a good fit for you. 

The Forge offers six qualified entrepreneurs some prime downtown office space and an intensive, mentor-driven program designed to refine and accelerate business concepts toward marketplace realization. 

While the name might sound intimidating, The Forge’s purpose is more like getting the entrepreneurial egg to hatch.

“It’s really a startup incubator that offers low-cost office space to entrepreneurs with high energy but limited resources,” says The Forge Director Jessica Flint

The Forge connects its entrepreneur hatchlings with expert mentors who guide them through the tricky process of business startup. 

Called the Bull Pen, The Forge’s mentorship program offers guidance in 15 business categories and insider knowledge and advice when it comes to planning, raising capital, logistics, distribution and valuation. 

The Forge clients are required to participate in a six-session, mentor-led mini-accelerator program (Forge Six). Additionally, clients must complete economic development impact  surveys annually for five years so company growth can be tracked. One big benefit for The Forge clients is a state income tax exemption for up to 10 years. 

It takes most people one to two years to graduate from The Forge — so far six have graduated, with six currently in the program. The application process to get one of the coveted six openings is somewhat extensive, and concepts must be innovative and scalable so growth can be accelerated. 

Graduates include Medefy, SAPIEN Brand Experience, Switchgear Recruiting, Cultural Outreach Solutions and Job Pact. Current companies include SkaterTrainer, The Audio Planet, Sitter Planet, Synercon Technologies, Leche Lounge and Exaeris Water Innovations.



meets the second Wednesday of each month at 36 Degrees North, www.cultivate918.org

Founded: 2014

Partner: Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation

Whether you’re a dreamer with the seed of a startup idea or someone whose existing business needs to branch out, Cultivate918 is probably the organization you want to plant yourself in right away. Here you will find people eager to get their ideas launched and help others along the way.

For Alex Golimbievsky, Cultivate918 was vital to the startup success of his company, Job Pact, an online hiring tool. A couple of years ago, Golimbievsky was working full time and dreaming about this business during his “coffee shop nomad phase,” but he was afraid to step out. Finally, Golimbievsky attended  Cultivate918 meetings, as well as 1 Million Cups meetings, and it made all the difference as he gained confidence to step out.

 “I had that deer-in-the-headlights look, but through Cultivate918 I was able to connect with people who could help me, and I could learn from others’ journeys,” he says. “I don’t know if we would have made it otherwise.” Golimbievsky names Michael Tateand Matt Villarreal of Infinite Composites as valuable mentors who offered great advice on fundraising and more, as well as folks at Medefy, a health care cost transparency app, who helped him figure out the who’s who of the scene and get connected. 

Casual meetings provide for plenty of mixing and networking, but program elements often incorporate actual business pitches and sharing about successes and failures.

Through the meetings, Golimbievsky was introduced to other opportunities that culminated in acceptance into The Forge business incubator. Job Pact has since graduated from that program and is now running full time.

 “All you have to do is show up, and you will get connected to the right people,” says Golimbievsky, who now serves on Cultivate918’s steering committee. “It is a community of people who are there to help each other.”


36 Degrees North

36 E. Cameron St., www.36degreesnorth.co, www.fb.com/36degreesn

Founded: 2016

Partners: George Kaiser Family Foundation, Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa Technology Center, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma

As a would-be entrepreneur, sooner or later you’ll probably realize the limitations of a cramped home office or cluttered corner in the garage. It might not be the space so much as the isolation from people and resources to help you. 

Being a startup entrepreneur, especially for the first time, can be a lonely, frustrating exercise. But it doesn’t have to be. 36 Degrees North is the place where you can plug in to give your embryonic business a much-needed boost toward realization.

“Basically, it’s a gathering place, a front door for Tulsa’s entrepreneurial community,” says Executive Director Dustin Curzon. “It’s a point of entry for anybody with an idea who doesn’t know what to do next. They can come here and get pointed in the right direction.”

Located in the heart of the Brady Arts District downtown, 36°N offers 11,500 square feet of space for entrepreneurs to office, mix, mingle, exchange ideas and collaborate. Since opening in January, 36°N has more than 100 members representing 37 industries from nonprofits to food, retail, public relations, IT/software and finance, among others. Memberships are available through an application process, but there is a waiting list for those wanting both offices and desks. 

36°N averages over 1,000 visitors a month at programs that include meet-ups for software developers, women’s coworking days with supervised child care, presentations and meetings from groups like Cultivate918 and 1 Million Cups, for example. Members meet with successful entrepreneurs, investors and executives who commit to spending one-on-one time with members. Don’t think you’re too young or too old to participate. Members range from middle school to retirement age. 

“It’s all about making it easier to start a business,” Curzon adds. “The most valuable asset is just being here. You will meet people who can help you. My advice is don’t wait. Take that step.”


1 Million Cups

meets 9 a.m. each Wednesday, at 36 Degrees North, www.1millioncups.com/tulsa

Tulsa chapter founded: 2013 

Partners/Sponsors: Kauffman Foundation/Kauffman Founders School, 36°N, Topeca Coffee, Chimera Café, Arcadia Printing and Novsun

Starting a business takes a lot of grit and probably for most people, a lot of caffeine, too. 1 Million Cups is a weekly morning meeting that brings entrepreneurs together with peers, mentors and, potentially, funders. 

“It’s free, and it’s an opportunity to network and meet other entrepreneurs,” saysCecilia Wessinger, a volunteer organizer for 1MC’s Tulsa chapter. “It’s a place to go and bounce ideas off people.”

Started by the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, 1 Million Cups has 90 chapters nationwide and is dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship by creating a community of people to evaluate startup concepts and connect entrepreneurs with resources and funding. 

In addition to offering networking opportunities, each hour-long meeting is formatted to give two startup entrepreneurs the chance to demonstrate their concept in a six-minute pitch, followed by a 20-minute Q&A with attendees. 

“This is a good way for people to learn because you get asked really important questions like, ‘How do you monetize your concept?’ or, ‘Which marketing approach is best?’” Wessinger says, adding that it’s also a good way to practice and perfect a pitch. “There’s a healthy skepticism and encouragement that helps you to think outside the box you might be in.”

Presenters can consult the 1 Million Cups website for tips on how to make compelling presentations to potential backers. A year after making a presentation, companies are invited back for a “refill.”

“That’s when they tell what has happened, things to avoid, and what they and others can learn from their mistakes,” Wessinger says. 

If you don’t know where to begin your entrepreneurial journey, attending 1 Million Cups is probably a good place to get your project percolating. 


i2E (Innovation to Enterprise)

618 E. Third St., Suite 1, 918-582-5592, www.i2e.org

Founded: 1999

Partners/funders: Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, U.S. Economic Development Administration, Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Oklahoma Business Roundtable, Presbyterian Health Foundation and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation

Without access to capital, your plans for growth could be slow and flat, or easily die on the vine, even if you have a solid idea, prototype or promising business model. 

That’s where i2E comes in, providing the timely financial investment and other services that tech and biotech companies need. 

“We have capital specifically earmarked for investment in early-stage companies” that are scalable and growth-oriented, says i2E Senior Vice President of Client Services Mark Lauinger. “We serve the $50,000-$2 million space and are the only organized capital source that early with equity investment.” 

i2E is one of a few capital sources that has a charter to consistently commit capital to Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial space. Also, investments primarily take the form of preferred equity or convertible notes, and i2E never owns more than 50 percent of a company. 

With headquarters in Oklahoma City and offices in Tulsa, i2E has $50 million under management with companies accepted into its portfolio and approximately $18 million available for investment.

“Of course, a company must be investment worthy,” Lauinger notes. “We try to get inside the heads of entrepreneurs and help grow their businesses.”

When evaluating a company for investment, i2E looks at a few factors, including risk-weighted return, co-investment from the private sector, high growth potential and scalability. 

Most businesses fitting the profile fall into IT, life sciences, bio-tech, software and manufacturing ventures, but there are other industries that meet those paramaters, as well.

Additionally, i2E is looking for companies that have a potential for attractive risk-adjusted return but have some barrier to market entry, such as a difficult-to-replicate product or protection through intellectual property laws. 

Most candidates for i2E funding are well beyond the concept phase, though they have a specific fund for proving the potential stability of ideas.

“This is not about ‘Hey, I’ve got a good idea,’” Lauinger says. “That’s not a company.”

Companies agree to pay i2E an initial engagement fee of $2,000 for one year of services. At the end of the initial engagement period, the company and i2E may mutually agree to extend the term of the engagement for additional six-month periods for a fee of $1,000 per six-month extension period. Becoming a client and paying the engagement fee is not a guarantee of funding but provides the opportunity for i2E to furnish its services to the company, including possible investment due diligence.


Oklahoma Innovation Institute

100 S. Cincinnati Ave., Suite 1405, 918-863-8700, www.oklahomainnovationinstitute.org

Founded: 2007

Partners/members: University of Tulsa, OSU-Tulsa, OU-Tulsa, Tulsa Community College, Oral Roberts University, Northeastern State University

If you have a high-tech concept involving IT, software, aerospace or manufacturing applications, then the Oklahoma Innovation Institute (OII) could clear your pathway to profitability.

 “We pride ourselves on being a neutral facilitator and convener for entrepreneurs in the community and helping leverage resources,” says OII Executive Director David Greer. “It’s about creating an intentional collision of opportunity versus hoping for an accidental one.”

The nonprofit offers three initiatives to support qualified entrepreneurs. 

First is the Tandy Supercomputing Center that offers access to immense computing power.

“It’s for those who need that kind of computational power for research, product development and a chance to get ahead of the competition,” Greer says.

The second initiative, BetaBlox-Tulsa, is a business accelerator and incubator program designed for companies in early-stage development. A six-month business bootcamp, it involves training, mentorship and investor access that focuses on increasing a startup’s likelihood of success.

In exchange for these free benefits, BetaBlox gets 5 percent equity in the entrepreneur’s startup. 

Third is the Community Technology Commercialization Concentrator (CTCC), a web portal that is designed to help move technologies, prototypes and products from the research lab into the marketplace.

Tulsa StartUp Series

meets at 36 Degrees North, www.tulsastartupseries.com

Founded: 2007 as the Mayor’s Entrepreneurial Award, then called the Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, then the TCC StartUp Cup and now the Tulsa StartUp Series.

Partners: Tulsa Community College and Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation

Think you’ve got a pretty strong business concept? Well, maybe it’s time to put it to the test. That’s what Tulsa StartUp Series is about — it’s a live and local “Shark Tank”-esque competition among entrepreneurs vying for financial support and expert mentoring for their fledgling ideas. 

Begun in 2007, the competition was recently rebranded and reformatted and now features competition in five categories: tech/apps; K-12 students; physical products; food/retail; and “wild card,” for any idea or business. 

To apply, make a 60-second video pitch (yes, you can use your smartphone) and upload it to www.tulsastartupseries.com. If you are selected as a finalist, you will then make a live, five-minute pitch to a panel of judges. 

Pitch winners earn $2,500, a three-month membership to 36°N, a three-month mentorship and a spot in the Venture Assessment Program at i2E. Winners also get to compete for $15,000 on Demo Day, Nov. 16, during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Anyone can compete in the StartUp Series. In fact, a third grader won this year’s K-12 competition with a Lego vacuum concept. 

Since 2007, the series has inspired 2,300 full-time, part-time and contract jobs, $11 million in follow-up investments and $57.7 million in economic impact for Tulsa, according to an economic impact analysis report sponsored by Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation. Participation has been strong, with an average of 20 video pitch applicants per series cycle. 

“This is one of the most exciting opportunities in Tulsa’s entrepreneurial landscape and is another way to get an idea off the ground, get resources and help people plug into the entrepreneurial community,” says Autumn Worten, chairwoman of Tulsa StartUp Series.


Kitchen 66

907 S. Detroit Ave., www.kitchen66tulsa.com, kitchen66tulsa@gmail.com

Founded: 2016

Partner: A program of Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation

So, you’re a big hit at family gatherings and friends rave about your mad culinary skills. “You should open a restaurant!” they exclaim.

You smile politely, and then the thought occurs to you, “Yeah, I should.”

But how?

Kitchen 66 is the answer to this question. It is designed to turn delicious recipes into profitable realities for would-be restaurateurs and food product developers. 

Applicants should be prepared to not only hone their cooking skills, but also their business acumen through an intensive six-month curriculum. Kitchen 66’s Launch Program teaches everything from sales and marketing strategies to financial forecasting and even pitching your ideas to potential investors. 

With guidance from industry mentors and experts, by the end of the six months, you should have what you need to get your business going, including a brand identity, a tested and validated product concept, a sustainable business model and steps for growing your business. 

Kitchen 66 also has a 9,000-square-foot commercial grade kitchen and café for foodie entrepreneurs and dreamers to test and refine their concepts. Topeca Coffee operates Kitchen 66’s breakfast and lunch services Monday-Friday. Members can host a pop-up dinner or other events in the café space to test a concept. Interested prospects can visit Kitchen 66’s website to fill out an application. 

Native New Yorker Cecilia Wessinger is impressed with Tulsa’s entrepreneurial scene. She hopes to open a healthy, fast and franchisable Asian noodle bar with a charitable element next year after she completes her training with Kitchen 66. 

“What’s happening here in Tulsa, you can’t do in New York City or Chicago  not easily anyway,” she says. “Here, I have a tribe of people  industry experts  helping me make my project a success.”

Read the story at Tulsa People

Valve System’s International: Problem-Driven Innovation http://i2e.org/news/valve-systems-international-problem-driven-innovation/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:49:40 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28783 Valve System’s International: Problem-Driven Innovation
By Mark Lobo
Valve Magazine is published by the Valve Manufacturers Association of America. ©2015

Developing Alternative Technology to Improve Product Performance

Industrial product engineering teaches us to understand the difference between problems and conditions. Control valve engineering in particular presents a variety of problems that interplay to reduce reliability.

Regardless of how the metering plug or the flow path is shaped, the fluid must make several turns to pass through a sliding stem, plug-in-seat globe control valve. Due to that design condition, damage from extended operation at high pressure drop is a problem. However, a solution to the problem is constrained by the condition, and the dominance of the condition stifles innovation in a mature product line.


The globe body sliding stem design dominates control valve applications. A valve problem could be related to erosion from high-velocity fluid, mechanical vibration-induced damage, seal failure or corrosion. When fluid velocities cause static pressure to drop below the vapor pressure of the liquid, liquid changes to a vapor, and can erode surfaces via kinetic energy. Worse, when the vapor changes back to a liquid due to a sudden localized static pressure increase while turning corners, the flow path surfaces suffer damage from tiny implosions of vapor bubbles, a process known as cavitation.

If the valve problem is due to corrosion, the solution can be as simple as changing material. If the control response is unacceptable, the actuator can be replaced with a better one. Employing harder materials, cage-guided or labyrinth-type trims could be the solution to combat occasional flashing or cavitation damage.

Control valves that continually operate in the choked flow regime, where reduced downstream pressure does not increase flow, get no relief from destructive forces. Every one of these valves is essentially on a suicide mission, with performance degraded in a few months, weeks, or even days in service. Control and shut-off problems due to erosion and mechanical damage are addressed by designing for ease of service, particularly trim replacement. The torturous flow path is simply a condition, excessive cavitation damage the resulting problem, and cavitation resistant materials and serviceability the solutions.

In a globe control valve, the fluid must change direction 180 degrees to pass through an annular restriction, and then turn another 180 degrees to exit. Regardless of trim design, the multiple direction changes before and after the variable restriction is a condition of the globe valve flow path. Only after the flow path is re-classified as a problem can the innovation begin.


Straightening the flow path with minimal disruptions, like a venturi tube, becomes the objective to solve the globe body flow path problem. The ideal valve design therefore would be a variable-restriction venturi tube, focusing the highest velocity fluid components to the center axis from intake to discharge throughout the range of control. The valve design problem then matures from resisting erosion damage to minimizing it with a least disruptive flow path. That problem immediately spins off another problem after the flow path is designed: How do you actuate it?

The flow path boundary moves like a piston, changing the valve resistance as a hole in the piston moves in line with a characterized plug suspended in the flow axis. By mashing together linear and rotary actuated valve design features a rotary–to-linear internal actuation system was developed and patented. Thus the innovation occurred during the search for a solution to a problem that had been a condition: Problem-Driven Innovation

Engineers and scientists view their worlds as a continuous flow of problems to be solved. While scientists and pure researchers do their work constrained mostly by the laws of physics and chemistry, engineers are often given conditions that are still constrained by corporate familiarity with particular technology. In the culture of “thinking outside the box” engineers usually find themselves simply in a bigger box. When conditions are treated as problems the constraints of the box are reduced, and the problems incubate innovation.

Read the story at Valve Magazine

Forbes: WeGoLook 1 of 15 Technologies Bringing Innovation To The Enterprise http://i2e.org/news/frobes-wegolook-1-of-15-technologies-bringing-innovation-to-the-enterprise/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:23:58 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28780 Oklahoma City startup tech company grows rapidly, hires 100th employee http://i2e.org/news/oklahoma-city-startup-tech-company-grows-rapidly-hires-100th-employee/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 16:25:31 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28778 Oklahoma City startup tech company grows rapidly, hires 100th employee
By Brianna Bailey
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

After a year of rapid growth, desks have been crammed into nearly every usable corner of the startup company WeGoLook’s downtown Oklahoma City office. 

The company, which specializes in on-site inspections and other field services, just hired its 100th employee and plans to hire about 30 more in the next 12 months. WeGoLook has nearly outgrown its office and is planning on expanding in the basement of the beige brick building it occupies just off Interstate 235.  

“More and more transactions do happen and occur online. We are saving people travel expense,” said Robin Smith, WeGoLook CEO and co-founder.

The company uses about 26,000 “Lookers” nationwide for services ranging from vehicle inspections services to collecting field data for insurance companies.  

“It’s a variety of people across the country — it’s crowd sourcing just like Uber,” said Shauna Schroder, project manager for WeGoLook. 

“It’s all kinds of people from college students to retirees,” Schroder said. “It’s not really meant to be a full-time job, its supplemental income.” 

Apart from being the official inspection service for eBay Motors, WeGoLook is expanding its services into things like offering notary service and collecting data for insurance claims.

“If you need to have something notarized or need a vehicle inspected so you can fund a loan, we can help you with that,” Smith said. 

The company also is recruiting Lookers who are licensed drone operators, for clients that require aerial photographs or video. 

“We are really an on-demand field-services company,” Smith said. 

Smith and her husband, Mat Smith, got the idea for WeGoLook in 2009 after a friend was considering purchasing a high-end projector on eBay, but had trouble verifying the seller’s claims about the item.

The Oklahoma tech investment fund i2E Inc. closed on a $1.75 million Series A equity investment with WeGoLook in 2014, giving the company its first big boost.

WeGoLook has hired about 65 staff members for its Oklahoma City office and shows no signs of slowing down.

Kenneth Knoll, chief operating officer of WeGoLook, said Oklahoma actually has a pretty good pool of tech talent to help grow the company, and less competition to hire that talent. 

“It’s good. We have a great talent pool here and we are not fighting with 100 other companies to hire people,” Knoll said. 

Smith said she is proud to be growing the tech company in Oklahoma. Hanging in Smith’s office is the WeGoLook logo, painted onto a large piece of reclaimed wood shaped like the state of Oklahoma. 

“We started here and we are going to stay here,” she said.

Innovators & Entrepreneurs: Tulsa startup provides potential solution to medical records access http://i2e.org/news/innovators-entrpreneurs-tulsa-startup-provides-potential-solution-to-medical-records-access/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 14:14:50 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28776 Innovators & Entrpreneurs: Tulsa startup provides potential solution to medical records access
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

One of the most pressing challenges to improving health care today is that patient data is so fragmented and siloed.

Even though electronic health records (EHR) are increasingly the norm, the systems that are used in hospitals, clinics, physicians’ practices, long-term care facilities, pharmacies and by first responders don’t really talk to each other. That leaves patients to advocate for themselves from provider to provider, and between providers and insurance companies and other payers, such as Medicare or Medicaid.

Verinovum, a Tulsa-based company, is tackling the challenge of interoperability across the health care industry, providing a solution that accepts diverse and comprehensive data, providing a portal into a patient’s entire medical record from a single point of care.

Verinovum CEO Ryan Campbell brings sixteen-plus years of operations and technology experience in the trust and investments industry where data integrity is paramount. He says it is a much different situation in health care.

“We’ve found that up to 45 percent of the data can disappear as records are transported from one silo system to the next,” Campbell said. “Lots of data is getting dropped, generally from faulty technology and care providers and payers not fully understanding the lack of data integrity from point A to point B.”

In founding Verinovum, Campbell built a team he describes as “near-wizards — really smart technicians I knew in my prior life.” The company started two years ago with four employees; now there are 19. “We are growing fast,” Campbell said. “If you look at our sales pipeline, we could double over the next 18 months.”

Verinovum’s flagship customer is Oklahoma’s MyHealth, a leading health information exchange (HEI) which links more than 4,000 providers and their patients in a communitywide health information system.

The firm recently entered an agreement with The Health Collaborative in Cincinnati to power the collective’s health information exchange.

More than a quarter of i2E’s portfolio companies are engaged in health sciences — including biotechnology, medical devices and health-related information technology. Leveraging Oklahoma innovation in multiple related sectors of the medical industry is a great way to diversify the state’s energy-centric economy.

With biotech startups like Biolytx Pharmaceuticals, founded by Anne Pereira based on her research at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center to develop an antimicrobial peptide to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria, medical device innovations like the breakaway IV from Linear Health Sciences, and informatics and health information technology from groundbreakers like Verinovum, Oklahoma is gaining both results and reputation.

“Oklahoma has so much talent; we don’t always get our due nationally,” Campbell said. “Verinovum is engaged in activity in more than 15 other states. We continue to work to make Oklahoma shine.”

Read the story at NewsOK.com

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Students navigate the reality of startups: Through Career Paths in Entrepreneurship course http://i2e.org/news/students-navigate-the-reality-of-startups-through-career-paths-in-entrepreneurship-course/ Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:35:56 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28774 Students navigate the reality of startups: Through Career Paths in Entrepreneurship course
An interview with Darcy Wilborn, Client Engagement Director, i2E
University of Oklahoma Price College of Business

In fall 2014, Price College expanded the Career Paths in Entrepreneurship honors course, taught by Dean Daniel Pullin to facilitate a collaboration with Innovation to Enterprise (i2E), a private nonprofit corporation that invests in entrepreneurs to build successful high-growth companies in Oklahoma. Through the course, students are paired with local ventures to serve as interns, which creates opportunities for the students and ventures alike. Price Magazine interviewed Darcy Wilborn for her insight on this innovative program.

What is your role at i2E?
I am the client engagement director at i2E. My most important responsibility is meeting with entrepreneurs who are interested in advisory services and funding for their startup companies. I learn about their business and refer them to resources, both internal and external to i2E. My other functions at i2E include coordinating the i2E Venture Assessment Program and managing the i2E Summer Fellows program, in addition to the OU Career Paths internship we are discussing today.

How did i2E become involved in the Career Paths in Entrepreneurship course?
Dean Pullin and Scott Meacham, president and CEO of i2E, brainstormed the concept of an internship collaboration between the OU Price College of Business and i2E in spring 2014. When I came on board that summer, we put a plan together and started matching students with startup companies for the first internships to begin in September of 2014.

How many companies are involved in the program each semester?
We had eight companies participate in fall 2014 and seven companies participate in fall 2015. Some of those companies participated both semesters, so we have had a total of 12 companies participate in the program to date. The companies are all high-tech focused, ranging from sophisticated software solutions to biotech companies delivering treatment to patients in new ways.

How many students are usually paired up with each company?
We found that two-student teams are ideal for pairing with each company. Teams of two students are easier to manage, as students can collaborate and ask questions of each other before presenting their work to the company. While one student working by his or herself can be isolating, three or more students can be overwhelming to the startup company due to the scope of the project required to keep them busy.

What is the feedback you receive from participating companies?
The vast majority of the feedback we’ve received is positive. I was delighted when so many of the companies from fall 2014 wanted to participate again in fall 2015. Of course, as with any new program, we are constantly making adjustments and improving based on feedback. I have learned a lot about running a startup along the way and that has helped me make adjustments. The company founders/entrepreneurs are highly involved in each aspect of running the business, as they prepare the students to wear multiple hats on the road to success.

Is there a particular instance you can recall that exemplifies the win-win aspect of the program?
Yes, I have received feedback from both the companies and students that demonstrates how beneficial the program has been. One example is WeGoLook, a startup in Oklahoma City that does asset verification by employing an international team of “lookers.” WeGoLook utilized the students’ knowledge and enthusiasm for marketing to quickly implement a strategy that would otherwise have taken WeGoLook extra time and resources to roll out. The implementation was a success for WeGoLook. Haley Ennis, an OU entrepreneurship and marketing student who interned at WeGoLook, said “interning at WeGoLook was one of the best experiences I’ve had as an OU student.” I value the fact that the program is beneficial for both parties, with the companies receiving meaningful work from the students and the students receiving pay and valuable experience for their efforts.

Have any students continued working with a company after the course is over?
There have been three students working for two different companies who have continued the internship past the end of the Career Paths in Entrepreneurship course. I consider this a sign that the program is accomplishing what we set out to accomplish: the companies and students are both receiving benefit from the program. The continuation of the internships indicates that the companies invite the students to continue working (and pay them) after the semester ends and the students are learning and contributing enough to accept the additional work and responsibility. I’m excited to learn how these continued internships might progress into more substantial positions in the future.

Does i2E do anything similar with other colleges/universities?
At this time, this program is unique to OU. The logistics of coordinating the program are similar to the i2E Summer Fellows program, a full-time summer internship open to students across the state to work at an i2E client startup for 10 weeks over the summer. That application process is competitive with rounds of interviews and only a few students selected each summer. The part that makes the Career Paths in ENT internship experience so special is everyone in the class participates, and each team has a very different experience that they share with the rest of the class.

What is your favorite aspect of the Career Paths in Entrepreneurship collaboration?
My favorite part is the hands-on learning that the students experience during the internship. Learning in the classroom is excellent, because it provides an overview of how to solve problems and move from point A to point B, which prepare students for the internship. But learning in an internship is completely different. It’s about how to build business relationships with coworkers, bosses and stakeholders in the company to achieve a goal that may make a difference tomorrow, or next year or not at all. Students learn the most when they fail, and pairing honors students with startup companies gives them the chance to see how often startup companies will try something new and fail before they find success. I hope it empowers the students to take risks and fail when they start their own businesses.

Read the story in Price Magazine, beginning on page 12.

Business of Health: A role for state government in science and technology http://i2e.org/news/business-of-health-a-role-for-state-government-in-science-and-technology/ Thu, 16 Jun 2016 19:32:13 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28769 Business of Health: A role for state government in science and technology
By Stephen Prescott

Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

At a mere 109 years old, Oklahoma is a relative babe in arms when it comes to statehood. And while we may lack the history and pedigree of some of our older counterparts, our state — like many a youth — more than compensates with innovation and energy.

Take, as one example, the role that our state’s government has played in stimulating the growth of science and technology.

In many places, the emergence of this sector of the economy happened spontaneously. Take, for example, Silicon Valley, where the computer industry took root. Or the growth of biotechnology businesses in the greater Boston area.

In each of these cases, research at local academic institutions planted the initial seeds. Spinoff companies formed around the ideas that emerged from labs at Stanford, Harvard, Tufts and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The success of early spinoff companies generated resources, stimulated ideas and drew talent that, in turn, fertilized the growth of new research projects and complementary businesses.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma — and just about every other state in the union not named California or Massachusetts — this model is now pretty much impossible to duplicate. As this sector of the economy matured, it rapidly became clear that companies like Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Biogen and Genzyme (now Sanofi) would no longer simply sprout unwatered and untended from the groves of academe.

Nevertheless, our state’s leaders understood that this sector was too important to Oklahoma’s long-term economic health (and the health of our population) to ignore. So they took some farsighted steps to try to catalyze the development of science and technology in Oklahoma.

First, led by Stanton Young, they mapped out the Oklahoma Health Center, which, in the mold of the Texas Medical Center, clustered the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the VA Medical Center and many other health- and research-focused entities. The idea was to build a critical mass of like-minded scientists and health professionals, which would stimulate the cross-pollination of ideas and collaborative research projects.

Then, in the late 1980s, legislators created the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Recognizing the key role that seed funding could play in the growth of technology-based economic development, OCAST used state funds — awarded in the form of relatively small grants — to support early-stage research projects. Using peer review, OCAST identified projects that, with support, were likely to mature into larger initiatives.

The model, one of the first of its kind and now widely imitated, has produced countless successes. OCAST’s applied research grants have, in turn, spawned hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants for state researchers. Meanwhile, its more business- and entrepreneur-focused grants have given birth to a host of successful research and technology companies across the state.

Our state’s science and technology landscape has grown significantly since OCAST’s founding in 1987, and that growth has created additional needs beyond early-stage research funding. When it became clear that Oklahoma entrepreneurs needed expertise and funding to help navigate the treacherous water of growing a young business, OCAST created i2E, which since 1999 has helped more than 650 young companies with financial and strategic support.

More recently, with funding from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the state created the Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research, which uses targeted granting to accelerate projects in this emerging field. Again, this model of state-funded incubation is essential to help grow infrastructure in a highly competitive field where Oklahoma historically lacks the foundation that some other states enjoy.

Around these state-funded programs, vital sources of private support have also emerged. Lead among these is the Presbyterian Health Foundation, which has refocused its resources on scientific granting to support basic and applied research. And working with OMRF, PHF also created Accele BioPharma, an incubator company that is helping to grow young biotechnology startups into mature, successful businesses.

Of course, Oklahoma is not alone in constructing a matrix of state and private support to grow and sustain its science and technology. Indeed, even California and Massachusetts now invest substantial sums through state initiatives to sustain the momentum created more serendipitously in an earlier, simpler time.

The legislative session that ended last month was a challenging one. Faced with difficult funding choices, lawmakers reaffirmed the state’s continued investments in OCAST, i2E and the science and the technology infrastructure they support. This decision was crucial to keeping Oklahoma on a level playing field with other states.

Almost 30 years ago, Oklahoma took a bold step by creating OCAST. The manifold rewards we have reaped show the wisdom of that decision — and of continued state investment in science and technology.

Read the story at NewsOK.com.

A physician and medical researcher, Prescott is president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and can be reached at omrf-president@omrf.org.