By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Economist David Birch coined the term “gazelles” for new companies whose sales doubled every four years — companies remarkable not for their size, but for their growth trajectory.
Gazelles are rare but mighty. They account for only 4 percent of all new companies but create 70 percent of new jobs.
There’s no way to predict with certainty which startups are going to be gazelles any more than we can predict the next NCAA Sweet Sixteen, but experience says that firms with groundbreaking technologies that solve well identified problems for huge markets have a fighting chance.
Associated Material Processing (AMP) of Stillwater fits that description.
AMP provides a unique iron polymer that economically removes arsenic from fluids. AMP CEO Joe Ragosta says that the firm’s product is up to 10 times more effective than other available technologies.
Arsenic is a common, naturally occurring material. It is also released into the environment from some industrial and agricultural processes. Arsenic causes illnesses, cancer and death.
Many juices and natural foods like rice have been found to contain elevated arsenic levels. Studies report that globally 137 million people in more than 70 countries have drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization standards for arsenic.
“The world is facing severe shortages of water,” Ragosta said. “In southwest Oklahoma, cities are buying clean water from other cities to blend it in wells with arsenic to meet acceptable standards. What happens when cities don’t have water to sell? If AMP can make the water out there more usable, we’ve done our part.”
AMP’s material is not only high capacity, but once it latches onto arsenic, it doesn’t let go. Other arsenic-capturing technologies produce a hazardous sludge. AMP treated waste is nonhazardous and may be disposed of routinely, like other nontoxic materials.
AMP is a terrific example of individuals and organizations working together to launch an Oklahoma company that could be a gazelle.
Dr. Allen Apblett, AMP’s chief technology officer, discovered the technology at Oklahoma State University. Cowboy Technologies provided incubation services; i2E provided venture advisory services. Both organizations invested startup funding.
“The chances of AMP being able to start up and ship product in less than two years would be so much less without the support of OSU, Cowboy Technologies and i2E,” Ragosta said. “Their expertise, contacts, and all the different services make such a difference for Oklahoma entrepreneurs.”
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. Contact Meacham at [email protected].
DID YOU KNOW? Two-thirds of i2E companies are still in business after four years. The national average for startups is 50 percent.