By Scott Meacham
When I set out last week to write about Aevus Precision Diagnostics, it was because this early stage startup has a compelling concept for tackling type 2 diabetes (T2D).
As I heard more about Aevus co-founders — Puneet Chadha and Yash Sagar Santani — I recognized that their story is also a uniquely Oklahoma story, a story every Oklahoman should hear and repeat.
Puneet and Yash immigrated to the United States from India. Both achieved master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Yash in finance, and Puneet in health/healthcare administration. Yash speaks five languages; Puneet is fluent in four.
After graduation, both accepted jobs in New York City — Yash in private equity and Puneet in healthcare consulting. They carried with them the idea for a diabetes drug therapy that they had researched and honed for business plan competitions while in school.
“Healthcare and life science require disruption,” said Yash, “something that creates better treatment practices, or something that makes the costs go down.”
He and Puneet did more research on diabetes and on what it would take to start Aevus—a company developing a prescription management tool to make determining the appropriate drug therapy for Type 2 diabetes easier for doctors and diabetics both.
“We decided that we would be a factor in helping improve the quality of patient’s lives,” Puneet said. “We saved our money and decided to take the plunge.”
And then they picked Oklahoma City over New York.
“It was a leap of faith backed by the fact that we are passionate young entrepreneurs who want to see the world changed for good,” Puneet said. “When we made the decision to move to Oklahoma, we did see shock and despair on some people’s faces. But we decided there was no better time or place to make this move.”
Yash and Puneet didn’t know anyone in Oklahoma, not one. All they knew was that our state invests in and supports entrepreneurs through i2E in partnership with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), we are business-friendly, our cost of living is low, and that approximately one in six people in Oklahoma have type2 diabetes.
After six months here, the entrepreneurs say they have not been disappointed in their Oklahoma decision, not once.
“We soon realized that Oklahoma deserves its good reputation for being a community. The Chamber, the Innovation District, people who knew people made it easy for us to network,” Puneet said. “Every person has helped us. Everyone has been kind and welcoming and open about referring us to others who might help. There are so many people who have helped us push the ball forward. In just a few months, the number of connections have been amazing.”
The story of Yash, Puneet, and Oklahoma reminds me of another modern day story of immigrant entrepreneurs — Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh, the co-founders of Home Creations. The Farzaneh brothers came to Oklahoma at the suggestion of a friend and have since built Home Creations, building more than 12,000 homes in our state as well as creating hundreds of jobs.
“Oklahomans are the nicest people you can find anywhere on the face of the earth,” Jalal told me last year. “We are so blessed that we stayed in Oklahoma. If two guys during the Iran Revolution can come to the U.S. and build a business here, there is nothing to stop anyone in Oklahoma from being the most successful person on the face of the world.”
Oklahoma is a great place to start a business. We are welcoming. We have world-class venture support services. We are working to constantly expand our sources of capital. We have a vibrant concentration of innovators in information technology and bioscience.
But most of all, Oklahoma is a great place to start a business because of Oklahomans. Oklahomans that welcome entrepreneurs from other countries and states. Oklahomans who share business-building experience and make connections without expecting anything in return.
Oklahomans who are, well, simply Oklahomans.
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.