i2E http://i2e.org Innovation to Enterprise Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:35:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Alternative energy firm reflects state’s pioneer spirit http://i2e.org/featured/alternative-energy-firm-reflects-states-pioneer-spirit/ Tue, 23 Aug 2016 14:30:36 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29111 Alternative energy firm reflects state’s pioneer spirit
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

In the words of founder Dirk Spiers, the last 12 months for Spiers New Technologies have been one crazy ride.

The young company, which provides a one-stop solution to battery life cycle management including the “4Rs” of services (repair, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and repurposing) for advanced battery packs used in hybrid and electric vehicles, is in full stretch.

Spiers New Technology is adding new customers, expanding services for existing customers, and developing new products. With more than 40 employees, jobs have more than doubled in a year.

“You can even see it in the parking lot,” said Spiers. “The north building is full. The lot around the new south building (more than 70,000 square feet) is full, and now the company is adding a third facility. It’s starting to be a campus.”

Spiers New Technology made a big bet on disruption in the energy and automotive marketplace and that bet is paying off. Yet, Spiers believes that we haven’t seen anything yet and that the real growth in the market of electrification and energy storage is yet to happen. When it does Spiers New Technology will be poised to pivot and play.

“We are at the beginning of this,” said Spiers. “The OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are making billion dollar investments in electric vehicles. GM, Mercedes, Ford, Tesla and others keep doubling down on electric cars. Mercedes just announced an electric truck in California that is amazing.”

And then there’s solar.

“Just look at what happened last year,” he said. “In some parts of the world it is the cheapest form of energy. People don’t understand yet what a disruption the world of solar is. The Saudi’s are embracing solar energy storage to have a more diversified economy; when Saudi Arabia is doing it, why shouldn’t Oklahoma?”

Spiers New Technologies isn’t betting on a particular technology; the company is betting on a direction, a trend.

“Everything risks being disrupted, including ourselves. The most important thing is balance between exploiting what you have right now and exploration of the new. The minute you start protecting your core there is stagnation. We all know what happened with the Blockbuster’s and Kodak’s of this world. Change is inevitable so better embrace it than fight it. You have to be agile and not afraid.”

Agile and not afraid. Disruption and diversification. It’s true for a company and true for a state.

Oklahoma can be a leader in the diversification and disruption of the energy industry. We are the fourth sunniest state in the nation. We have a lot of wind. There’s opportunity for us at every level. The “Sooners” and wildcatters we learned about in Oklahoma History were all about charging forward, pushing the envelope, and taking risks. Taking big risks fits within the character of our state.

We need to plug into our pioneer spirit and seize the opportunities that lie ahead in alternative energy sources.  That’s exactly what Spiers New Technologies is doing.

Did you know?
Half the 8600 GM designers and engineers working on products and controls that make GM cars and trucks move are involved with alternative and electric propulsion systems. 
SOURCE: Fortune

Read the 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. Email Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

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i2E invests in medical innovation http://i2e.org/news/i2e-invests-in-medical-innovation/ Mon, 22 Aug 2016 14:37:43 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29100 i2E invests in medical innovation
in Oklahoma Business Briefs
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

i2E Inc. recently led a $1.25 million seed round investment in Linear Health Sciences, a Norman-based innovative medical technology startup.

Founded in 2015 by Ryan Dennis, M.D., Linear Health Sciences developed a patented, nonmetallic breakaway device for medical IVs that connect hospital patients to therapeutics. The company’s technology addresses a problem involving up to 25 percent of the more than 1 billion IV connections placed in hospital patients annually when patient IV’s are accidentally disconnected.

The seed round included $515,000 invested by the i2E-managed Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund, along with $250,000 from the Oklahoma Angel Fund, a new investment vehicle created and managed by i2E. Other participants include $105,000 from the i2E-managed SeedStep Angels and other angel investment of $380,000.

“We plan to put most of this investment to work in developing manufacture grade tooling and molds for our Orchid Valve IV connection,” Dennis said.  “The remaining amount of the investment will be used to finance the FDA approval process and the consultants who are assisting us.”

Read the story at NewsOK.com.

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Oklahoma City’s WeGoLook is an innovative business success story http://i2e.org/news/oklahoma-citys-wegolook-is-an-innovative-business-success-story/ Tue, 16 Aug 2016 13:58:25 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29091 Oklahoma City’s WeGoLook is an innovative business success story
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

It’s exciting when a young Oklahoma company signs up Fortune 500 companies as customers — Hyundai Motor Co., Ritchie Bros., the world’s largest industrial auctioneer, eBay Motors and JPMorgan Chase.

It’s even more exciting when that young Oklahoma company is at the leading edge of a monumental shift in the way the world works. That’s the story of WeGoLook, a company that started in 2009 and in June hired its 100th employee.

WeGoLook is a sharing economy platform that dispatches thousands of “lookers” to physically go to a particular location to inspect a used car that’s for sale, a homeowner’s insurance claim, a building that’s up for purchase, or a giant piece of road-leveling equipment, just to name a few. Lookers — there are more than 26,000 of them now — earn an average of $25 to $40 per job, with some reaching $200 or more per look.

“As the sharing economy business model trends upward, we are light years ahead,” said co-founder Robin Smith. “We are on a new frontier. WeGoLook is able to add any kind of workforce or skill set into our community. We are adding licensed drone operators. We have bilingual lookers. If one of our clients needs someone who speaks Mandarin to do a task or capture data, we have a person we can send on demand.”

Enterprise companies are utilizing on-demand workers to augment and supplement their own labor force. While WeGoLook’s first customers were folks who wanted to verify that the items that they were buying on eBay or Craigslist were as advertised, the company has evolved into a mobile technology business and moved solidly into the enterprise space, with the well-earned attention of Inc., Forbes, and others.

Companies use WeGoLook’s technology to create customized requests for information and then engage WeGoLook’s vetted and expert lookers to go out and capture the data.

“Say you are a company that needs a national footprint to go out and look at cellphone towers or residential sites. We can put those data fields into our platform tonight, and tomorrow our lookers have the app and go out and capture that data anywhere,” Smith said. “Our customers are amazed. I’ve had executives tell me that it can take six weeks just to get a meeting to talk about changing a mobile app.”

WeGoLook is staying ahead of the curve, adding mobile target technology and more. Part of the “more” is going global, and another aspect is the company’s human side. The looker roster includes many veterans and military families — and these lookers receive first notification of a new look opportunity.

This is what innovation is all about. With a better idea, a better technology that offers better service to the consumer, and Oklahoma values, WeGoLook is disrupting the inspection marketplace — and becoming a leader in the sharing economy.

Did you know?
The sharing economy is expected to add more than $330 billion to the global economy over the next decade.
SOURCE: pwc.com/CISsharing

Read the 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.

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Ada company develops lead-free fuel to power general aviation industry http://i2e.org/news/ada-company-develops-lead-free-fuel-to-power-general-aviation-industry/ Fri, 12 Aug 2016 14:10:45 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29078 Ada company develops lead-free fuel to power general aviation industry
By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

ADA — A new fuel that might power the future of the world’s general aviation industry filled a small jar in a hangar at Ada Municipal Airport, looking as if it could have been a mug of amber ale.

Tim Roehl, co-founder and president of General Aviation Modifications Inc. (GAMI) placed the jar of newly developed fuel on a table next to a jar of current aviation fuel. The current fuel was tinted blue to indicate it contains lead.

The new fuel was developed solely by Ada’s GAMI and is called G100UL for GAMI’s 100 Motor Octane Unleaded. It is awaiting certification by the Federal Aviation Administration and is lead-free.

The general aviation world is the final transportation industry holdout still using leaded gasoline, called 100 Low-Lead, as its primary fuel for piston-engine aircraft.

However, the exemption for the use of a leaded fuel allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for general aviation aircraft is expiring. That deadline prompted an industrywide consortium to begin working on development of an alternative fuel about a decade ago.

“We became very frustrated with where we saw the industry going in terms of the inability to come up with a successful solution,” Roehl said. “So we began to try to formulate a successful replacement fuel on our own. And after only about six months, we seized upon a formulation and some chemistries that looked to us to be a viable replacement for the 100 Low Lead.”

GAMI patented the formulation and began working on the process to gain FAA certification — called a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) — for the fuel. Roehl expects to gain initial certification within six months. “And that will be big news,” he said.

So how did a tiny general aviation company located at a municipal airport in this southeastern Oklahoma community of 17,000 people become a leader in development of aviation fuel?

GAMI’s footprint across the general aviation world is much larger than the three hangars and 45 employees it maintains at Ada Municipal Airport. Over the past 20 years, it has developed some of the industry’s most innovative engine power management technologies.

Founded in 1996 by Roehl and business partner George Braly, the company quickly made an impact with development of its patented GAMIjector fuel injectors, which are replacement fuel injectors for piston engine aircraft.

The GAMIjectors allow pilots to fine tune the performance of their engines to run “lean of peak,” which means engines run cooler and use less fuel.

“We have continued to enjoy good sales with the GAMIjectors, with our 25,000th set recently sold,” Roehl said. “We sell them all over the world. We invented it, we patented it and basically wrote the book on it.”

Roehl is a longtime pilot and Oklahoma native who opened an Ada-based aviation manufacturing business called Dynamic Flight Structures in the late 1980s before selling the company.

Braly is an Ada native and is GAMI’s chief engineer who has been a certified flight instructor since he was 19 years old. He earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Brown University in 1970, just as NASA was winding down the Apollo space program and laying off hundreds of engineers.

Braly returned to Oklahoma, earned a law degree and began practicing law while continuing to fly. Braly and Roehl connected in the early-1990s and decided to partner in the venture that became GAMI.

“The fuel injector project turned into a springboard and got us going,” Braly said. “We kept expanding the business. Tim kept reaching out and finding things to bring in.”

The aviation business partners eventually opened a second successful Ada business in 1998 called Tornado Alley Turbo that builds and installs advanced turbonormalizing systems for piston engine aircraft.

A third company called Advanced Pilot Seminar, brings pilots from all over the world to Ada for three days of classes to learn how to operate aircraft engines in the safest manner and protect them from adverse operating conditions.

“We are well recognized in the pilot community for unique things we do,” Roehl said.

If and when GAMI’s unleaded fuel is certified by the FAA for fleet use, Roehl anticipates licensing the formulation to major fuel producers such as Phillips, Shell and Exxon. “We are quite confident that our fuel has all the characteristics that are key to becoming a successful fuel,” he said.

Read the full 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).

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Oklahoma City software company helps customers meet goals http://i2e.org/news/oklahoma-city-software-company-helps-customers-meet-goals/ Tue, 09 Aug 2016 14:12:32 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28979 Oklahoma City software company helps customers meet goals
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Altimeter Software has a very straightforward elevator pitch: “Helping Your People Achieve Their Goals.”

The startup’s mobile application software was developed by the information technology group at Oklahoma Christian University to help OC students keep track of their spiritual development goals.

Using beacon-supported technology, students find and check into and out of events and monitor their progress against their goals. The app includes a comprehensive dashboard and tools for school administration to view progress and provide help and encouragement where it is needed. 

The application worked so well that, with the guidance of Russ McGuire, OC’s entrepreneur-in-residence, OC formed its first Governor’s Cup team to create a business plan for Altimeter.

“I’ve always had a spirit for entrepreneurship from creating things to building things to selling things,” said Austin McRay, one member of the Governor’s Cup team and now Altimeter’s business development manager.

“I set up lemonade stands all day long,” he said, “and created duct tape wallets to sell to my friends. My sophomore year in college, I was a salesman for a roofing company. I fell in love with being on my own. My junior year, I created an online apparel business. I learned the process of forming a business, but there were a lot of bumps and it didn’t go as planned.”

Austin shut down the online apparel site and turned his passion to Altimeter. The team placed in the top six of the Governor’s Cup Small Business Division and Austin won the IBM Small Business Division pitch award.

“I was the one who was going to be an ongoing part of the business after graduation,” he said. “Practicing over and over refined my understanding of the business and prepared me for my current job, talking to customers, business professionals and investors.”

Early adopter program

Altimeter signed its first customer in March and has an early adopter program. The company is marketing the software primarily to deans of students at public and private universities and to principals and department heads in target high schools. Applications include community service, spiritual development, and sports loyalty programs.

Austin says the real world is different from the Governor’s Cup.

“I thought this was going to be easy,” he said. “I know there are so many schools and churches that could use our software, but the sales cycle isn’t that I just call on someone, and they say yes. Even when a startup has a great product, it requires a lot of work. But companies like ours that figure out how to make it past the hump, gain momentum. Being here in the OC incubator allows me to drown, but still breath.”

When Oklahoma promotes a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, great ideas and solutions can come from unexpected places. The Governor’s Cup is a catalyst for matching great ideas and passionate young entrepreneurs. This is how it’s supposed to work.

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.

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WeGoLook Will Check Out That Sketchy Craigslist Car For You http://i2e.org/news/wegolook-will-check-out-that-sketchy-craigslist-car-for-you/ Mon, 08 Aug 2016 15:30:16 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28972 Arthrokinex Joint Health http://i2e.org/news/arthrokinex-joint-health/ Mon, 08 Aug 2016 14:40:15 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28970 Even great entrepreneurs need help, and the willingness to keep at it http://i2e.org/news/even-great-entrepreneurs-need-help-and-the-willingness-to-keep-at-it/ Fri, 05 Aug 2016 14:31:50 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28924 Even great entrepreneurs need help, and the willingness to keep at it
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

When Johnny Carson hosted “The Tonight Show,” he had a running gag called Carnac the Magnificent. Carson played a mystic in a feathered turban and cape who could divine the answer to the question contained in a sealed envelope. 

The segment (based on puns and wordplay) drew plenty of audience participation and lots of laughs as Carson held the sealed envelope up to his forehead, closed his eyes and gave the answer to a question he hadn’t seen.

I was thinking about Carnac recently during a business plan presentation by a passionate and very enthusiastic entrepreneur.

This particular entrepreneur had a ready answer to everything, even before the potential investors in the room had a chance to ask their questions.

And that brings me to the capstone of my series of columns on beliefs and behaviors that can and do lead startups and entrepreneurs to failure. The Achilles heel of entrepreneurship is thinking you know all the answers.

Everyone agrees that it takes phenomenal confidence and courage to start any business from scratch. But when confidence and courage become certitude and cockiness, it leads to disaster.

As most of us in the investment industry can tell you, we see too many entrepreneurs who believe that they have figured everything out.

They’ve read a book, taken a class, or even completed a college degree in entrepreneurship from a great business school.

Or maybe they are a terrific engineer with patents, a physician with a national reputation, or a scientist who has been awarded millions of dollars in federal grants.

Not only are they sure of their own knowledge, they reinforce their belief by surrounding themselves more with “yes” people.

They seek applause instead of people who question, poke at assumptions, challenge value propositions, or demand proof that there’s a market with real customers who will pay for the entrepreneur’s great new product or idea.

Investors look for entrepreneurs who are willing to say, “I have the answer, but here are the things I’m going to do to make sure — the experts I’m scheduled to call, the market survey that goes out next week, or the customer beta that’s underway.

For every know-it-all entrepreneur I’ve met, I’ve also worked with the opposite, entrepreneurs who want to accelerate their startups by learning from others’ experience and mistakes — entrepreneurs who leverage i2E’s venture advisory services to gain access to industry and technology experts who provide thousands of dollars of pro bono consulting because they want to help a scrappy entrepreneur succeed.

You don’t have to be a Carnac to know what’s inside that envelope — it’s a recipe for success.

Did You Know?
According to a 2014 survey, 70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years — double the survival rate of nonmentored businesses.
SOURCE: www.sba.gov

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.

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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)

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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/news/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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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

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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.

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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.”

Relationships

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.

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