Entrepreneurial passion is highly contagious, and it benefits Oklahoma
By Scott Meacham
C0opyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
The more entrepreneurs we have in Oklahoma, the more startups we will have and the more our economy will benefit.
Since we introduced the Donald W. Reynold’s Governor’s Cup collegiate business plan competition 12 years ago, more than 1,700 college students have taken the Gov Cup challenge. This year, 55 teams entered business plans. This competition involves college students across the state, with divisions for two-year and regional colleges, for research universities, and for graduate students.
Gov Cup students have gone on to earn degrees in entrepreneurship and many other fields. Some have become interns and then employees in startups and at i2E Inc. Gov Cup students have been selected as Venture for America fellows. And they start companies — more than 35 businesses have come out of the Gov Cup.
TeleVet is an example. The concept started in the Gov Cup as Horse Facts which offered a Carfax-like report for horses’ medical history that potential buyers could review.
“We came in third in the 2013 competition,” TeleVet Co-founder Price Fallin said.
“We applied for a venture accelerator and started some market validation. After a few weeks of trying to make it work straight out of college, we ultimately decided not to pursue it; the timing was all wrong. I ended up taking a corporate job. After about four months of corporate life, I reconnected with one of my Gov Cup partners. We knew we wanted to be entrepreneurs. Last April, I quit my day job to once again work on starting this company.”
Fallin and his partner went through an accelerator program and, based on market feedback, pivoted their concept to a remote care solution for all types of pets.
TeleVet secured angel funding for a minimum viable product and launched their beta in February. Just three years out of the Gov Cup, TeleVet is catching hold, signing up veterinary clinics that want to bring virtual veterinarian visits to their clients.
There’s a lot about the TeleVet story that is compelling. But to me the magic is in Price’s words: “We knew we wanted to be entrepreneurs.”
Across the nation, 75 percent of new entrepreneurs are age 35 or older. Imagine the impact if more people in the first decade of their careers gained the confidence to give entrepreneurship a try.
The Governor’s Cup competition has awarded more than $1.6 million in cash, $95,000 in scholarships, and $231,000 in fellowships to help want-to-be entrepreneurs succeed.
More than 60 judges from across the state devote their time and expertise. AT&T, the Greater OKC Chamber, Oklahoma Gas and Electric, the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, i2E, and IBM are among the more than a dozen companies that support the competition.
The winners of the 2016 Governor’s Cup will be announced at the gala awards dinner on April 14. The passion will be contagious. I encourage you to come meet Oklahoma’s next generation of 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 i2E_Comments@i2E.org.