By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
We’ve just completed the 10th annual Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup collegiate business plan competition. Since inception, more than 1,350 students have taken the GovCup challenge.
The Governor’s Cup has awarded more than $1.4 million in cash and $65,000 in scholarships. Students produced more than 450 innovative ideas along with business plans to commercialize those ideas, and 20 emerging Oklahoma small businesses have started up.
But the Governor’s Cup isn’t really about how many companies get started. It’s about applied education.
Claire Cornell, assistant director of entrepreneurship at the University of Tulsa, has been a faculty adviser with the Governor’s Cup since 2005. Claire teaches a class in entrepreneurship built around the Governor’s Cup.
“This class and the Governor’s Cup can be a life-changing event for students,” she said. “They gain so much confidence in their own abilities. They take all the excellent education that they’ve received in their other classes and apply it to a real life business. It’s exciting for students to apply all those years of study to produce a tangible business plan.”
Instilling the entrepreneurial spirit in students has always been at the heart of what i2E has tried to achieve with the Governor’s Cup.
It takes a strong pipeline of human beings with entrepreneurial spirit to build an innovation economy, and our students will be the future architects of that economy.
No matter what position GovCup students take after graduation — whether they become entrepreneurs (and we hope a lot of them will) or whether they join a large corporation, the Governor’s Cup teaches our young people about recognizing opportunities and how business works.
Since day one of the Governor’s Cup, we’ve received funding from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Without it, we never could have gotten the Governor’s Cup off the ground nor created such a unique educational experience for hundreds of Oklahoma students.
For the past several years, the Reynolds Foundation contribution was $154,000 per year for the cash awards. The Reynolds funding has been a catalyst to attract more than two dozen local sponsors who joined in over the years to provide base funding to cover expenses (nearly $250,000 in 2014) locally.
The Reynolds Foundation’s contribution will soon be ending, however, with the coming liquidation of the Foundation. That means the prize funding for the Governor’s Cup ends next year.
We are immensely grateful for the past decade of support and sponsorship from the Reynolds Foundation.
Now the challenge is to find a new prize sponsor for this statewide collegiate business plan competition.
The Governor’s Cup lights Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial spark. We need to fan that flame, not allow it to go out.
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.