By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Our statewide mission at i2E is to invest in entrepreneurs to build successful, high-growth Oklahoma companies.
We provide advisory services and connections to capital for Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses. Our model works. Just ask the more than 650 startups and young companies we’ve helped.
With nearly $50 million of investment capital under management, we’ve expanded our focus to all phases of the business life cycle, from startups seeking their first round of capital to established business looking to expand.
In Oklahoma’s more densely populated areas, like Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the pipeline of opportunity is robust. With SeedStep Angel chapters in Ardmore and Muskogee, we are also boosting entrepreneurship in our next-sized metros.
Now we have a promising new initiative underway in the eastern half of Oklahoma that targets rural Oklahoma, including the tribal jurisdictional areas of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Muscogee (Creek) tribes. The expansion of our successful Venture Assessment Program to rural Oklahoma is funded, in part by these tribal partners, and a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
i2E’s successful Venture Assessment Program (VAP), reformulated to fit the needs of rural entrepreneurs and businesses, is the foundation of this program.
Our focus is on promoting high-impact entrepreneurship in Oklahoma’s rural and Native American communities. The primary project area will encompass 39 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. Over time, we hope to expand the program to include more of the state and more of our tribal nations.
Our goal is to help create more high-quality, sustainable jobs in rural Oklahoma. By partnering with some of our state’s largest Native American nations and REI Oklahoma, we can extend our reach and impact to areas where people are unaware of i2E and the resources we offer.
Within the metropolitan areas, we target companies with the potential to create hundreds of jobs. With this initiative, our anticipated prospects are more likely to be business opportunities that will create 10 to 25 new jobs that are every bit as important to rural communities as a 100+ employer in Oklahoma City or Tulsa. These new jobs will come out of innovative new business concepts and applications that pay salaries well above the average salary for their region.
We are working with diverse organizations in Oklahoma to leverage opportunities in rural areas of our state. Oklahoma’s Native American nations are significant economic drivers, with each having existing small business development organizations that assist member-owned businesses. We’re linked up. They are great partners and this initiative will further cement our relationships.
Business and financial services will be provided by REI Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Business Roundtable and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) are also financial partners.
This initiative is a great way for i2E to assist with entrepreneurship in rural Oklahoma. We will adapt our proven metro-focused services to create jobs in Oklahoma’s rural areas.
It is exciting to be working closely together with Native American tribes to strengthen the fabric of Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystem 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 and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org