By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2019, The Oklahoman
This summer, I’ve been writing about lessons learned since coming to i2E nearly six years ago — specifically lessons about technology entrepreneurship in our state.
It seems fitting as we head toward Labor Day, that I wind up this summer series with a recap of my heartfelt admiration for the individuals and teams in Oklahoma who choose entrepreneurship as a career.
I have held different jobs over my own career. I am an attorney. I have been a banker, and I was named Director of the Office of State Finance and Secretary for Finance and Revenue under Governor Brad Henry. Then I served as Oklahoma’s State Treasurer. I have worked with many dedicated, hard-working women and men who tackled very difficult issues.
After the past few years of working with entrepreneurs and their startups day in and day out, I have come to believe that creating a business from scratch (whether “scratch” is an idea on the back of a napkin or patented intellectual property) is one of the most challenging (and rewarding) career choices a person can make. Entrepreneurs deserve our respect.
Entrepreneurship is a 24/7 commitment for weeks and months and years. It means not taking a paycheck or a weekend off. It means asking friends and family to understand and to sacrifice, too. It means stumping for capital and stretching dollars until they squeal so your startup doesn’t run out of cash.
On the flip side, entrepreneurship is an unlimited opportunity to soar — solving previously “unsolvable” problems thereby achieving life-changing results. Entrepreneurship is the opportunity to create jobs that improve the daily lives of others and to bring to market medical discoveries that help make sick people well. Entrepreneurship is the constant opportunity to learn — about technology, about human nature, about managing employees and customers, and about yourself.
Entrepreneurs are different from other people. They know that starting a company is a race against the status quo. There’s a sort of rhythm to the successful ones. They know when to run the engine full bore and when to throttle down. Entrepreneurs are never patient, but the good ones realize that sometimes they need to act like they are.
Our state needs more entrepreneurs. We need predictable sources of capital at every stage of new company growth — from TBFP concept funding to growth funds that can secure multi-million syndicated rounds. We also need quality deal flow, especially patents and spinouts from Oklahoma’s universities and research institutions.
This past year, our state left 71 rigorously vetted research applications on the table due to budget constraints. As a state, we shouldn’t allow that to happen again.
Let’s be inspired by entrepreneurs and develop the collective will to create the resources in this state so that entrepreneurs and the best companies among them can have the greatest possible opportunity to succeed.
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 [email protected].