By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2019, The Oklahoman
Every Jan. 1, Pitt Island, an island in New Zealand’s Chatham Island archipelago, is the first populated location on earth to welcome the first sunrise of the new year.
Located about 430 miles east of mainland New Zealand and just west of the international date line, Pitt Island’s Kahuitara Point offers a stunning view. Imagine being one of Pitt Island’s 39 residents watching the sun come up there as the first day of the new year begins. What a very special and unique experience that would be.
But it’s not really necessary to travel 7,383 miles from Oklahoma to New Zealand to watch a sunrise over the Pacific Ocean to kick off 2019 in a special way.
Rather than seeking inspiration from beyond Oklahoma, I propose that instead each and every one of us take this moment to recognize the many special and unique aspects of this state where we live, and that we then, each according to our own talents, means and circumstances, commit to doing something specific that will make Oklahoma better in 2019 by becoming a state with more jobs and more opportunities for more people.
Opportunities start with improved education at every grade level, specifically more education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and there is nothing more inspiring that working with Oklahoma’s youth.
Prompt a son or daughter to sign up for a middle school science fair. Or donate to the Norman Advanced Robotics (NAR), an organization that helps high school students design, program and built robots to compete with teams around the world. Or send a check to Kiss Institute for Practical Robotics (KIPR) based in Norman, which makes the longterm educational benefits of robotics accessible to students. Or help with the FIRST Robotics competition in Oklahoma City March 6-9 at the Cox Center featuring 47 Oklahoma teams, 13 teams from other states, and one team from Santiago, Chili
For the business leaders in our community, become the customer of an entrepreneur. Seek out advanced technology startups with solutions that could benefit your company. Be a willing beta customer or create a joint development relationship. The innovation and creativity that comes about from startups can change your bottom line.
For those of us with early stage funding to invest, let’s be supportive of all entrepreneurs. When their ideas are validated, let’s help them get the funding, talent and support they need to succeed in Oklahoma. Let’s not force them to move to one of the coasts for capital.
And when their ideas don’t produce a sound business plan, let’s confirm that it’s OK to pivot. It’s OK to have a plan that doesn’t work out. It’s OK to fail — and then to reboot with a newer better idea.
Let’s further inspiration here in Oklahoma by embracing a new mindset — one that prioritizes improved funding for public education in our state and embraces economic diversification that capitalizes on our expertise in energy and our leading-edge research and discovery in biotechnology.
I invite you to share your inspiring ideas for 2019. Inspiration will lead to a happy new year for us all.
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 i2E_ Comments@i2E.org.