New year is a time to seize momentum on diversifying Oklahoma’s economy
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2015, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
It’s that time of the year again — a time for facing forward while looking back at what has occurred over the past year.
In the world of startups, there’s no time to waste waiting for the last chorus of Auld Lang Syne, so at i2E we are briefly pausing to reflect on 2015’s accomplishments as we are already preparing for a successful 2016.
That’s the thing about entrepreneurship. It’s a continuum. A state can’t be successful if the commitment to new business creation is on-again, off-again. Legislatures, corporations, research institutions, and investors have to be in it for the long haul. The eventual payout will come through new, high paying jobs and the creation of wealth.
i2E has been the primary source of early stage and angel capital for Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses for nearly two decades.
In fiscal year 2015, we provided assistance to 76 entrepreneurial companies, positioning 34 of those for funding, with 31 client companies obtaining more than $49MM in private equity capital. In the last year, we’ve invested in more companies with greater potential for growth than ever before.
It looks like our years of efforts in building a strong community of entrepreneurs and startups across the state is finally starting to pay big dividends. Publication after publication keep recognizing Oklahoma as being as a top place to start and grow a business.
Our portfolio companies create jobs (887 full-time equivalents in fiscal year 2015). They pay wages that average more than 150 percent of the state average wage. Their products pull in 80 percent of their revenue from sales outside Oklahoma.
And most importantly, from the standpoint of Oklahoma’s long-term economic health, our company portfolio is very diverse.
ICEdot delivers a crash sensor that attaches to the safety helmet of cyclists, skiers, snowboarders, and others in action sports. Exaptive is a leader in big data information systems.
WeGoLook uses crowdsourcing (20,000 “lookers”) to provide verification for buyers of online products as well as inspections or document delivery services nationwide.
A recent $3 million+ Series A round is funding the company’s rapid expansion into the mobile technology space. WeGoLook grew 400 percent this year and has created more than 70 jobs.
Nearly one-fourth of our companies and 40 percent of our investments are in life science. Moleculera Labs has developed a diagnostic test that can identify a treatable neurologic disorder to dramatically improve children’s lives. Biolytx Pharmaceuticals is developing a new drug to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
This weekend, we’ll turn the corner on 2015 as we face yet another state budget crisis in 2016.
Once again, structural budget issues and overdependence on oil and gas threaten the budget for innovation.
Yet, this is an opportunity for Oklahoma to seize the momentum that we’ve established in becoming “the place” for entrepreneurs to innovate and start companies while diversifying our economy.
Or we can continue business as usual and continue to ride the roller coaster tied to the price of oil and gas.
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.