Thank you for reading this column for nearly a decade
By Scott Meacham
This is my final column for The Oklahoman. As CEO of i2E, I have had the wonderful opportunity since January 2013 to write this weekly column for the readers of this newspaper. That stacks up to more than 460 columns on all aspects of entrepreneurship and innovation in Oklahoma
I have been fortunate in my life. I am a fifth-generation Oklahoman. I was educated here. I am an attorney and a banker by trade. I served for eight years as Secretary of Finance and Revenue under my good friend and highly respected Governor Brad Henry while also serving as State Treasurer the last six years of my state service. Yet, this column has been a unique experience.
Knowing that I needed to come up with a fresh topic about entrepreneurship and innovation every week — a topic that would appeal to a cross-section of Oklahomans with widely diverse interests and experiences — and knowing that whatever I wrote would be in the paper and online — caused me to become more observant and attentive to ideas and stories that could, even in a small way, move the needle of innovation and entrepreneurship in Oklahoma.
A few of my historical favorites are Carl Magee and his parking meter; Clinton Riggs and the yield sign, and Sylvan Goldman and his grocery cart. Oklahoma’s Wiley Post invented the flight suit. The Malzahn family, of Ditch Witch fame, gave the world a whole new way to install underground utilities safely and efficiently. Edward Roberts, in 1974, invented the first personal computer that attracted Paul Allen and Bill Gates, who then wrote Altair BASIC, the first high-level coding language which became the first product of Microsoft.
Paycom, the pioneer in online payroll processing and so much more, was founded in Oklahoma City in 1998 by entrepreneur and CEO Chad Richison. Today, Paycom, which went public in 2014, provides comprehensive, cloud-based human capital management software and reported revenue of more than a billion dollars for 2021.
Tom and Judy Love founded Love’s Travel Stops with $5,000 in borrowed capital and a vision of the opportunity in retail gas. They have been a persistent force in educating Oklahoma students in entrepreneurship; Love’s is the signature sponsorship of the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup, which just completed its eighteenth year.
“Main Street” entrepreneurs Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh, businessmen who immigrated to Oklahoma as students and stayed here through boom and bust, built Home Creations, Oklahoma’s largest new home builder. The business that creates jobs for hundreds of Oklahoma workers and builds terrific new homes for Oklahoma families.
And then there are the Oklahoma innovators. Icon Dr. Stephen Prescott, the long-time leader of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), who took the organization to the next level as a nationally and globally prominent research institution. Scientific entrepreneurs including Dr. Anne Pereira, dean at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and founder of Biolytx Pharmaceuticals Corp., a company created to take her peptide discoveries that kill drug-resistant bacteria to the marketplace. Dr. Scott Rollins, serial biotech entrepreneur, who having founded Selexys, which was acquired by Novartis in a deal valued at approximately $665 million, is building yet another Oklahoma biotech.
Dirk Spiers, founded Spiers New Technologies (SNT) and a whole new industry for battery management. SNT was acquired by Cox Mobility, a division of Cox Automotive, a business unit of Cox Enterprises, a billion dollar privately held global conglomerate. Ten-Nine Technologies is a leader in battery innovation, recognized by NASA and the automotive industry, for batteries developed from non-toxic nanomaterials invented by CEO Paige Johnson.
Robin Roberson and Matt Smith founded WeGoLook an Oklahoma City based crowdsourcing solution for the insurance industry and others. Dr. Ryan Dennis, Oklahoma physician, inventor, and entrepreneur, is the co-founder and CEO of Linear Health Sciences, a medtech startup with multi-million backing that is bringing proprietary tension-based safety release valves for medical tubing to the medical industry.
CEO Saravan Kuman co-founded MaxQ, a startup that creates validated cold chain packaging systems designed to hold and transfer refrigerated biological materials, such as red blood cells, whole blood, tissue specimens, cell and gene therapy materials and transplant organs. Dana D. Stefanoff and Buddy Stefanoff founders of Crossroads LED, developed a patented high-output, multicolor LED lighting control system and then bootstrapped their way to becoming the industry leader in LED lighting.
It is doubtful that we would be reading about these Oklahoma entrepreneurs today if it were not for the vision more than three decades ago of the private and public sector leaders who made the Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST) a force in our state’s economy.For thirty-three years, OCAST has delivered on its mandate — to grow and diversify our state’s economy by developing new products, new processes, and whole new industries in Oklahoma — and i2E has proudly served as its early-stage commercialization partner for the last 23 years.
Thank you for reading for nearly a decade about Oklahoma’s innovators and entrepreneurs. They create jobs. They improve lives. They research and develop therapies that cure diseases. They deserve our attention and our support.
Scott Meacham 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.