Prior to Spur Capital, Kevin was the Director of Angel Investments and Venture Advisor at i2E. Kevin started and operated our first privately-funded venture fund, managed our outside angel investment group, SeedStep Angels, and worked closely advising early-stage technology companies.
Prior to i2E, Kevin was a Bank Examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and an Investment Advisor for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Northwestern Mutual. In these positions, Kevin was responsible for constructing investment portfolios, analyzing financials, structuring capital raises, and assessing regulatory standards.
Kevin holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Oklahoma State University and an MBA from the University of Central Oklahoma. Kevin recently completed a four-year term as a Governor appointed, Board of Trustees member of the Oklahoma Teacher’s Retirement System Pension Fund, a $16+ billion fund. As a member of the Investment Committee, Kevin assisted with setting investment policy, asset allocation, and selecting investment managers.
Kevin lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Rachel, and two kids, Isaac and Taylor.
Tell us a bit about your work in the OK Startup ecosystem.
I’m currently working with a group of professionals in the PE/VC industry in Oklahoma to create an organization that promotes, advocates on behalf of, and raises investor awareness for Oklahoma-based startups. Our group has been meeting and making plans for almost a year now and we’re close to formalization. It’s exciting and I’m confident it will be a great value add to the OK Startup ecosystem. Outside of this group, I regularly mentor entrepreneurs, work with investor groups to coordinate resources, and act as a sounding board for business leaders in the community.
What is Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystem’s biggest strength and what could we work on?
The biggest strength of Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is the density and accessibility of the Oklahoma investor network. While the investor base in Oklahoma isn’t enormous, the investors who are here are readily accessible and willing to take meetings, offer advice, or make investments. From a different perspective, the density of Oklahoma’s investor network can also work against it. Investors groups and entrepreneurs in our state could benefit from expanding the geographic footprint to include mentors and investors throughout the country. There’s a general stereotype that investors in other parts of the country consider Oklahoma a fly-over state. That’s no longer true. As competition for good deals has universally increased across the country, more and more professional investor groups are looking to the center of the country for new, innovative, and more reasonably-priced opportunities. As such, the time is ripe for Oklahoma-based companies to take advantage of this.
What’s an Oklahoma startup you feel everyone should be watching?
One company to watch is Focal. Focal is a software company that makes it easier for e-commerce sellers to manage multiples sales platforms with ease. The company is in quasi-stealth mode, but the timeliness of its technology couldn’t be better. Traditional retail stores in America are struggling because more and more purchases are moving online. With the rapid growth of online platforms like Amazon, Etsy, E-bay, and others, the growing number of independent, online sellers has been exponential. To put it another way, e-commerce accounts for just 11.5% of not-adjusted total retail sales, which implies there is tremendous room for growth. Focal is well-positioned to capture more and more of this growing market of online sellers.
What can Oklahoma do to support and grow minority founders?
I appreciate the nature of this question. However, the question implies that there aren’t already minorities founders in Oklahoma. There are plenty of them. The biggest barrier that minority founders face is access to capital. When an entrepreneur is raising money, it’s hard, no matter who they are. But for minority entrepreneurs it’s even harder because they are often unable to raise money from friends and family, more likely to face discrimination or prejudice from investor groups, and generally have less access to mentors and others who can help them progress. When we begin to recognize and accept that these barriers do indeed exist for minority founders, then and only then can we begin to develop strategies, initiatives, and financing programs that help to level the playing field.
What quote motivates you?
When I was a kid, my father would always say to us, “Do the best with what you have.” All throughout my life and career these words have remained etched on my mind and have motivated me to push through challenges and obstacles. I’m not sure if I’ve said anything to my kids yet like this that they’ll remember, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something. 🙂