By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Claire Trump, i2E Fellow and college junior, is one of the lucky ones. Trump, a Tulsa native, has always been interested in numbers and math.
As a finance major in college, Trump is pursuing a degree that is in high demand. The Department of Labor expects financial analyst positions, for example, to grow by 23 percent to 2020.
But it isn’t luck that made Claire Trump such an asset to Oklahoma entrepreneurs for the last 10 weeks.
It is her ability to find a different path when the solution she had learned in class didn’t work, her tenacity, and her willingness to ask for help and put the suggestions she receives to work for startup companies.
Were we surprised by the level of Trump’s contribution? After all, she’s only two short years out of high school and was tasked with research, deal meetings, and even with sections of due diligence that informed investment decisions.
No, we weren’t surprised.
We are in our sixth year of the paid Fellows program, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that our state’s college students who become Fellows hit the ground running; they are consistently creative and can-do assets to entrepreneurs starting companies.
“The summer exceeded my expectations,” Trump said. “Every single day I had something different to do. It’s different seeing the questions investors really ask. It’s a whole different environment at i2E compared to the classroom experience. When it doesn’t work exactly like you expected, you have to think on your feet.”
That’s the whole idea of the Fellows program — creating opportunities with entrepreneurial companies for Oklahoma’s young people to apply and amplify what they learned from textbooks and in class.
When Trump graduates from college she hopes to return to Oklahoma. That depends, of course, on what kind of opportunities she can find. It’s our job to drive and support the startup deal flow that attracts future graduates like Trump back to our state.
“I would love to work for a startup company,” Trump told us at the end of her fellowship. “It would be great to team up with an entrepreneur who is really creative and to guide them on the financial side.”
We need innovators and entrepreneurs, but we also need to surround those visionaries and scientists with strong founding teams — co-partners who have the entrepreneurial spirit and the functional know-how to manage the finances and operations of these early stage firms.
And, lucky for Oklahoma, there’s where the Claire Trumps of the world want 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 at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.