By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2019, The Oklahoman
After six years of working directly with Oklahoma’s entrepreneurs and startups, I fully understand just how much of a race starting up a company really is — a race against time, against competitors and, most of all, a race against the status quo.
The need for speed is something most entrepreneurs understand inherently. Most of them are wired to be impatient and driven; if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have become entrepreneurs. They know that once they gain an investor’s attention, they had better deliver before another more promising investment opportunity comes along. Their challenge, typically, does not relate to their understanding that founding a business is a game of beat the clock.
Rather, the challenge for many very capable entrepreneurs is to recognize the points where they need to dial down the pace. That’s why, for as much as we counsel entrepreneurs to go fast, we also counsel them to slow down.
While investment capital is the lynch pin of an innovation economy, it is critical to entrepreneurial success (and future capital investment) that we provide venture services along with capital to Oklahoma’s entrepreneurs. We and most other seasoned investors look for coachable entrepreneurs — company founders who seek out advice and who can accept input that may well run counter to their instincts as entrepreneurs.
i2E’s advisory services have been developed and tuned to the particulars of Oklahoma’s environment over the past 20 years. These services help entrepreneurs recognize when they need to press the accelerator and when they need to stomp the brake.
Whether it is launching a product that isn’t ready to go or clinging stubbornly to a solution that the market doesn’t want to buy, our advisors are there to help the entrepreneur understand their market, help the entrepreneur better address their targeted market and help mentor and advise the entrepreneur during every twist and turn of their path. The process works with entrepreneurs who are willing to take a breath and listen; we find that most of them are.
i2E isn’t the only source of mentoring and advice for Oklahoma’s entrepreneurs. From corporate leaders to serial entrepreneurs to technical experts in our universities and research institutions, there are many individuals and organizations eager to actively help entrepreneurs succeed. Serving on an advisory board, reviewing a technical roadmap, or opening doors for a startup sales team into a strategic customer relationship are all ways individuals and organizations can and should support entrepreneurs.
Savvy entrepreneurs make use of these resources to brainstorm before they burn through cash on an idea that has already been proven not to work or to ask questions before they make a job offer to the wrong critical hire.
In the race of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs can’t be tortoises; they must be hares. Listening to and factoring in what others have to say and then making their own decisions with confidence is the strategic way to run and win the fast race. However, every once in a while, they are better served to stop, catch their breath and figure out where to go next.
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.