More women are urged to follow entrepreneurial path via STEM education
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2015, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Last week I wrote about girls and women pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Today, I turn my attention to women with STEM education becoming entrepreneurs. While the number of women pursuing STEM degrees in college is alarmingly low, those who then go on to become entrepreneurs can be counted on one hand — at least in Oklahoma.
Kelly Tran is one of the few women who decided to turn her STEM degree in computer science into a career as an entrepreneur in Oklahoma.
Her latest venture, Appable, is a company Kelly founded to be an application development company. It didn’t take her long to expand her vision. Today, Appable’s business model includes plug-and-play development services, spinout technologies and the Startup Factory, a for-profit business accelerator. Appable is a company that builds other companies, creating jobs and bringing revenue from across the world into our state.
The daughter of entrepreneurs who were denied the opportunity in Vietnam to attend college, Kelly learned to code when she was in the second grade. Vietnam, she says, is a place where people talk about engineering and science as “the only way to make it” for boys and girls.
“My parents had a work ethic and a passion for what they do,” she said. “All of that was built into me when I was really young.”
At age 18, Kelly left Ho Chi Minh City alone to come to study in the United States. Her host family was in Oklahoma. Kelly stuck with computer science, attended OU, and graduated with a computer science major.
“I would not be where I am today without my Oklahoma journey,” she said. “I had people who believed in me here. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Just like me making bets on technology, they made bets on me.”
With no cash, no line of credit, and no investors — “just” the grit, technical know-how and problem-solving skills that she developed through her STEM education — Kelly set about building an advanced technology company with a culture that inspires creativity and innovation, with discipline.
“Our core team is 100 percent Oklahoma educated. We all went to OU. People can get lost in the Silicon Valley story,” Kelly said.
“When we say we are an Oklahoma company, no one can believe it.”
From the time Kelly was very young, her culture and her family taught her that technical subjects are the path to her success. She found one she liked (computer science) and stuck with it.
“I am very ambitious,” Kelly said. “I am an innovator. Because of the support I got from Oklahoma, I wouldn’t start a company anywhere but here.”
Kelly, who is quickly becoming a serial entrepreneur, is an inspiration for other girls and women who want to excel in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), and frankly for everyone else, including those of us who have been on the startup scene for a while.
Her story is a reflection of what’s possible for female entrepreneurs in Oklahoma who are trained in a STEM field. The opportunities are clearly here. We just need more young women to follow the entrepreneurial path.
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.