By Scott Meacham
ACT Tulsa is a one-of-a-kind accelerator program.
There is considerable conversation and churn these days around the need for talent across the economy.
Many industries are challenged with identifying and attracting candidates with the right skills and experience. Others are having a hard time finding applicants at all. Anyone who operates any kind of an enterprise, from a two-person startup to Paycom, knows that success depends on talent and execution first and then innovation and technology.
And when you launch an initiative as ambitious and important as ACT Tulsa, it is more critical than ever to build the right team. ACT House is attracting not only a top-flight leadership team, our first cohort of participants come from more than 50 eager entrepreneurs.
One of a kind
ACT Tulsa is a joint venture between i2E and ACT House. This one-of-a-kind accelerator program is laser-focused on cultivating underestimated founders located in Tulsa and beyond. The initiative is supported by Biolchini Family Foundation, Black Tech Street, Build In Tulsa, Coretz Family Foundation, Schusterman Family Philanthropies and Vast Bank.
ACT stands for architects, creatives, and techies — the three talents that must be part of every entrepreneurial team — talent is at the heart of everything we accomplish.
Taleya Mayberry is the program manager for ACT Tulsa. Before she joined this team, she was coaching women’s basketball at the University of Tulsa (TU). Taleya went through TU undergrad with Malachi Blankenship, the i2E venture advisor who has carried the torch for getting ACT Tulsa implemented. (After Taleya graduated in business from TU, she also played professional basketball in China, Germany, and Iceland and earned her MBA from Oral Roberts University)
“With my academic background in business,” she said, “I was looking to transition from basketball and coaching, specifically into the startup and entrepreneurial world. Malachi was working through getting ACT Tulsa started. I did some research on my own and learned how female and minority founders are severely underfunded. Four months later I was in this role. I went from coaching basketball to coaching founders. ”
ACT Tulsa introduced its first cohort in July. “We have literally just started,” Taleya said. “We screened 55 applicants and accepted nine companies. Every company is different. Most of them are from right here in Tulsa. This program is brand new. No one had heard of ACT. We got out into the Black and Brown community to be as visible as we could, to be sure we were connecting with people in the underestimated ecosystem.”
Some of the nine founders in the first cohort hesitated to apply.
“After they were selected, I asked them why they almost didn’t apply,” Taleya said. “They told me it sounded too good to be true.”
ACT Tulsa is not too good to be true. Each company works from space at 36 Degrees North Incubator. The programming is proven and rigorous. The first three months are incubation, including market validation, competitive analysis, customer profiles — all the diligence that a startup needs to conduct to build a business that will scale. The second three months is implementation, including building investor pitch decks and developing mental and advisor relationships. Each company receives $70,000 in non-dilutive capital.
“What has been really unique for me, being a Tulsa native, is seeing a program like this in a place that I know,” Taleya said. “There aren’t very many resources like this. The funding and programming is huge. I am a big believer that if you want to have something successful, you need the right team.”
Talent and team. That’s the ACT Tulsa strategy, and it makes sense. We are leveraging proven models, strong partners, and early stage capital so that underestimated and overlooked founders who are extremely talented can build companies that create jobs and wealth. Watch this space.
ACT Tulsa is a one-of-a-kind accelerator.
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.