In the venture capital industry, “unicorn” is a term used to describe a privately held startup company with a company valuation of over $1 billion. The idea being, that unicorns are a rare mythical breed, more likely imagined than seen—but in the venture capital business, they do sometimes appear and, when they do, it is a very special occurrence.
As a venture firm, when you get your first billion dollar startup, you need to be talking about it—celebrating and giving thanks.
For i2E, this crazy year of 2020 marks the year of our first potential unicorn. Alkami Technology was founded (as iThryv) by serial entrepreneur Gary Nelson more than 10 years ago in Oklahoma City. i2E made a concept investment through the OCAST Technology Business Finance Program (which iThryv repaid) early in the company’s life, and then in June of 2009, we invested again from the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund (OSCF).
Alkami, which provides cloud-based digital banking solutions for banks and credit unions, raised subsequent rounds of growth capital. Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund (OSCF) received a request from one of the largest venture funds in the world to buy all or part of our position in Alkami. We decided to sell a portion of our investment and keep the rest as we felt even bigger things might lie ahead for Alkami. (With COVID, the entire transaction was conducted virtually and flawlessly.) As of August of 2020, Crunchbase estimated the valuation of Alkami to be between $500,000 and $1 billion.
In late September Alkami announced a $140 million funding round led by D1 Capital, Fidelity, Franklin Templeton and Stockbridge. At that point, the company that Gary Nelson started in Oklahoma had grown to 600 employees, almost 10 million users and $130 million in annually recurring revenue. Since 2009, the company has raised over $421 million from the “big boys” listed above as well as General Atlantic, S3 Ventures and others, but i2E and its TBFP and Seed investments started it all.
Without TBFP and the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund, none of this would have been possible. For Gary Nelson and the management team at Alkami it means that elusive entrepreneurial success that so many dream of and so few realize. For i2E, it means we have our sights on our first unicorn. That’s something very few venture funds can say.
And so we are grateful. Grateful for the state’s support of OSCF and TBFP funds that enables early stage investment in companies like Alkami, which in turn attracted later stage investors (and a liquidity event for the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund) as Alkami reshapes the digital landscape for banking. Now major names in venture capital are involved. We are benefiting from a potential unicorn with wings.
In this year like no other, please accept my sincere and heartfelt wishes for health, safety, and peace.
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.