By Scott Meacham,
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
I remember several years ago Oklahoma ran a series of ads that promoted “Oklahoma Cool.” Those ads featured our state’s great natural features and the urban centers of Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
In the entrepreneurial space, “cool” really has nothing to do with physical features. It is more of a state of mind and community. Think Austin, Texas, or Portland, Ore., or San Francisco.
Nationally, Oklahoma is starting to get recognition with and sometimes ahead of these “cool” places in terms of entrepreneurship and as being one of the best places in the country to start a business.
Obviously, we must be do something right. Or, perhaps “cool” happens when you aren’t trying too hard. As a friend of mine recently opined, “when you start trying to be cool, that’s when you know for sure that you are no longer cool.”
It seems that Oklahoma’s current “cool” has a lot to do with the software industry. Over just the last few years, at i2E we have seen explosive growth in the number of software/IT companies that are coming through our doors seeking assistance and/or funding.
These companies are led by bright and energetic young entrepreneurs with great ideas and a passion to capitalize on a need they see in the marketplace.
The companies have names like WeGoLook, Sivi, Monscierge, Tailwind, ReTenant, Whiteboard, Ramblen, Campstake and Medefy. The products range from apps to social media tools and other software products. The industries range from energy to health to hospitality and beyond.
The common factors with these companies is they are led by young entrepreneurs who see an opportunity in the market and have developed a new technology to address that need. Many fail but, importantly, some will make it and make it big.
Why are they here? All of their stories differ to a certain extent, but it seems that a common thread is they like it here and find that all of the necessary ingredients for their success exist here — programming talent, capital and support systems that are designed to help them be successful.
With a software startup, it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to see if you have a product that will find a successful niche in the market.
I recently visited with one of these entrepreneurs, Ashok Kamal, one of the co-founders of Sivi, a company that has developed entrepreneurial training software using gamification. Ashok initially came to Oklahoma from New York to hone his business concept in the Venture Spur Accelerator. However, after the multi-week accelerator program was complete, he decided to stay in Oklahoma and start his company here.
When asked why, Ashok said, “I came to Oklahoma for Venture Spur, but I stayed because of the services and funding offered by i2E.”
To me, that is “cool.”
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.