By Scott Meacham
Copyright © (2018), The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Through the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup Business Competition, we meet 250 to 300 college, university, and graduate students every year. While they all won’t go on to start companies, almost every student we talk to during the Love’s Cup, views entrepreneurship as a viable career option.
It’s not a great distance, we’ve learned, for an Oklahoma student to travel from the Love’s Cup to becoming part of a startup company. Many of them take a job along the way; we’re pleased when that job is with i2E.
“I can’t imagine doing this from scratch,” said Stacey Brandhorst, a business plan competition alum who went from i2E to become COO of iRecommend, a Tulsa-based technology company. “With i2E, you have a machine to help Oklahoma-based startups hit the ground running, rather than getting exhausted in the pitfalls of startup 101.”
iRecommend is developing a recommendation engine, built on artificial intelligence and proprietary algorithms that analyze vast data sets. i2E is an investor in iRecommend. The company identifies revenue opportunities and solves problems for major companies in the retail, real estate, and recruiting industries, just to name a few. iRecommend provides software that helps businesses serve their customers in a hyper-personalized way.
“There is such a ruggedness associated with the word entrepreneur,” Brandhorst said. “Working at a startup is like sand in an hour glass. You’re racing against ever-depleting money to start something fast. But, you don’t have to do it all yourself or by yourself. There is always something to learn from others who have done this before to shorten our own learning curve.”
Brandhorst says it’s an especially exciting time at iRecommend.
“It’s all about scaling and selling for us now. We’re moving into the execution phase, fully integrating our product, and signing up customers. Every little thing matters. It’s like a ripple in a pond. Every action leads to the ripple of 60 more actions, challenges or opportunities.”
Brandhorst, who has been a judge in the Love’s Cup for the last few years, says that people are learning things earlier and using the word entrepreneur more liberally.
“People used to be hesitant. They called themselves small business owners or said, ‘I work for myself,’” she said. “Now we’re saying that if you own the corner bakery, you are an entrepreneur. If you are starting a software company, you are also an entrepreneur.”
Like ripples in a pond — there’s a compelling circle of entrepreneurship that’s developing in Oklahoma. Entrepreneurship is on the radar of students in our colleges and universities like never before.
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.