By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
It’s been almost 20 years since i2E first began providing business expertise and funding to Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses.
In that time, we’ve supported more than 675 companies. Portfolio companies have attracted $590 million in private investment from banks, venture capital funds, angels and other strategic investors. Our two most recent exits, WeGoLook at $35 million and Selexys Pharmaceuticals, acquired by Novartis for up to $665 million, earned places in the record books.
We have learned what it takes, and entrepreneurs in this region have learned that we have the know-how and focus to help them succeed. That’s why i2E sees virtually every high-growth entrepreneurial deal in the state. With more than $50 million of investment capital under management, we serve companies in all phases of the business cycle.
I want to pause on those words “under management.” In investor-speak, “under management” typically refers to the sum of capital committed across a firm’s active funds. That’s true for i2E, as well. But there’s more to it than that.
We aren’t “just” a source of capital. Our service to Oklahoma is much broader than “just” identifying and investing in the most promising startup opportunities in the state. That’s because capital alone doesn’t produce the type of advanced technology companies that create jobs and wealth for the state.
We have $50 million of funds under management because for 20 years we have helped entrepreneurs with good ideas and technologies meet the milestones that make their companies investable. We guide them on market validation. We help them find the strategic partners they need to complete a solution, to build out distribution channels, and to establish a sound and durable legal and accounting foundation.
We work with scientists from Oklahoma’s renowned research institutions, including the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, and more, to spin out and commercialize technologies.
We are committed to building and supporting a pipeline of entrepreneurial talent to meet the needs of technology startup. Through the Love’s Cup Competition, we’ve supported and influenced more than 1,700 of Oklahoma’s brightest college and university students as they get real world experience in the joy and challenges of starting up a brand-new business — whether high tech or Main Street.
Building an innovation economy is a long game. We started 20 years ago when there were no organized sources of early stage capital in Oklahoma to fiscal year 2016 where, in that one year alone, we made 24 investments in 20 companies.
Can we do more? Certainly, we can, and that’s where we’ve continually set our sights.
With the public/private partnership between the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and i2E, we have the expertise, connections, track record and reputation to continually grow new firm creation across the state.
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. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.