By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Oklahoma’s innovation economy is a complex system with many moving parts. Our state’s innovation engine is driven by motivated and coachable entrepreneurs with ideas and technologies that disrupt.
To be successful, Oklahoma’s entrepreneurs need investment capital from angels, venture capitalists and banks. They need world-class research institutions to spin out and license intellectual property for them to turn into successful businesses. They need mentors, engineers, software experts and management teams that are able and willing to perform near-miracles in the demanding and sometimes frenetic startup world.
And wrapped around it all, entrepreneurs especially need a transparent, well-known and predictable capital funding process. They need to understand where to start, who can help and which milestones they must complete to raise capital.
In Oklahoma, we have a very well-defined process for entrepreneurs. I doubt if there’s a serious entrepreneur in the state who doesn’t have some knowledge of the multiple places to have that first direction-setting conversation about starting an advanced technology business.
The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) is our state’s cornerstone. In addition, there are business schools and departments of entrepreneurship at OU, OSU, OCU and our other institutions of higher learning, as well as the Chambers of Commerce in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the technology transfer offices at OMRF, OSU and OU, SeedStep Angels, incubators, accelerators, and i2E.
Last year i2E made 32 investments in 21 companies. If we reported results to PitchBook, that would put us among the top 24 most active nonprofit investment funds in North America. That level of investment would not be possible without consistent, quality deal flow, a reputation of fair dealing and a due diligence process that has attracted entrepreneurs across Oklahoma to come to us looking for capital and support and that has attracted institutional and accredited investors from Oklahoma and across the nation to co-invest in our deals.
Any entrepreneur who talks with us about starting a new company will receive the same information and direction. We start with a proven method of market validation. Our approach to due diligence is published and consistent. Our term sheets and closing documents are standard, following the National Venture Capital Association Model Forms. From the first discussion through closing a round, everything follows a standardized national model for venture capital investing.
Young companies are the source of most of the net new job creation in the U.S. It’s in everyone’s best interest to help an entrepreneur figure out quickly whether or not he or she has an idea that has the potential to solve a big problem for a big market. If the idea is good, let’s make it happen as quickly as possible. And if the idea doesn’t bear the weight of investigation, then let’s help the entrepreneur let it go and come up with another, better disruptive idea.
Entrepreneurs don’t have the time to figure out just what it takes to start up a new company. A transparent process like we have in Oklahoma of identifying, de-risking, valuating, and investing in deals is the glue that binds a state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem together.
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.