By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
In the 13-year history of Oklahoma’s collegiate business plan competition, now known as the Entrepreneur’s Cup, more than 35 student business plans have gone on to become clients of i2E.
The journey from building a business plan in business school to creating a company that collects revenue from real customers is packed with starts and stops, twists and turns, bumps and canyons.
TeleVet, an online platform that connects veterinary clinics to their existing clients to help diagnose and treat pets outside the clinic walls, has been navigating those challenges since 2013.
Telemedicine for pets wasn’t the starting concept. Co-founders Price Fallin and Steven Carter had called 50 vets to validate their original venture concept — readily accessible medical records for horses. The company was accepted into a startup accelerator. Carter and Fallin found two developers to help build out the system, and went to work.
“Then we started to realize that even though vets said they liked the information we would provide, our idea would mean changing the way the equine vet industry works, which would prove to be too big of an idea to sell,” Fallin said. “We narrowed our focus to a subset of our original plan.”
Their developers quit on them, and Fallin decided to learn to code himself. He did research, took online courses, and built a prototype from scratch.
TeleVet launched a beta pilot and had some early customer success. An international veterinary organization expressed interest in buying the fledgling company with Carter and Fallin staying on to run it. When that fell through, the two entrepreneurs kept going. They signed up some vet clinics, qualified for proof of concept funding through i2E, and focused on building strategic partnerships.
Then, just when their trickle of funding was about gone, TeleVet re-connected with Ken Parker, CEO of NextThought in Norman, and co-founder of RiskMetrics Group, which was acquired for more than $1.5 billion in 2010.
“I was impressed with what they were doing and how far they had come,” said Parker, who had met the team previously. “They were determined to figure this thing out and do what it takes. They weren’t going to play video games and watch ‘Game of Thrones.’ They met the criteria for a minimum viable product. Their ideas were solid. They are humble and hardworking, doing smart things, but just ran out of money.”
Parker helped TeleVet make a showing and connections at industry conferences. He became an investor in TeleVet and a member of the company’s board.
“Something like this is going to happen,” Parker said. “Why not here? Why not these guys? Why not now?”
And that’s the point. I can’t think of any reason why not — for TeleVet and for many other tenacious Oklahoma entrepreneurs. Can you?
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 support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at [email protected].