By Scott Meacham
I often get the question “What is a typical day like working with entrepreneurs ?” My answer is short: There is no such thing as a typical day, and that is perfectly okay. I like it that way. The variability and unexpected nature of entrepreneurship is what makes working with startups and their founders so interesting, challenging, and fun.
However, successful entrepreneurship isn’t the Wild West, even though starting a company is more than a little like riding a bronco bareback while holding onto the mane.
Investors, board members, and organizations (including i2E and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology) that provide services and venture support for startups, insert process and best practices without tamping down the originality and enthusiasm that entrepreneurs bring to the deal.
Have you ever watched any of the early footage of Will Rogers tossing a rope? If not, it is worth an online visit to the Will Rogers Museum (https://www.willrogers.com/). In excerpts from The Ropin’ Fool, a 1922 silent film, Will performs a series of horse catches—using a sixty foot rope to gently lasso rider and horse—slowing them down a bit but never knocking them over.
Will’s son who provides the commentary on the movie says that “Will’s rope loops roll faster than a running horse, with perfect control and not flashy.” That description is an apt metaphor for the effect of the venture support services delivered through our recently launched e3 initiative.
e3 and its predecessor Venture Assessment Program (VAP) have served more than 150 participating Oklahoma companies comprised of both seasoned founders and first-time entrepreneurs. e3 creates a well-defined, highly-focused, and individualized opportunity for company founders to pause, take a step back from the frantic pace of starting up a company, and apply proven rigor to produce a solid plan for the next steps of their venture.
“e3 was a powerful distillation of the things we didn’t know we didn’t know. It taught us to start asking the right questions and where to look for the answers,” said Jason Davenport, co-founder along with Nathan Gillock and Aaron Martin of Imperial Bioworks in Edmond. This company is working on developing and manufacturing a kit that will enable rapid generation of human antibodies for researchers pursing new methods of treating disease.
Our thirty-first e3 cohort began this week and includes two of the Love’s Cup teams from Tulsa. The thirty-second e3 cohort is scheduled for August. Entrepreneurs who join us can expect, like the Imperial Bioworks team, to learn things they didn’t know that they didn’t know. For certain, I know that those entrepreneurs will teach those of us leading the workshop something new and unexpected. And that takes me back to the joy of the business we are in.
In Ropin’ Fool, Will’s coup de grace is “two Texas skips and the clean, straight roll into a four-foot catch.” That’s an apt metaphor for how entrepreneurs who complete e3 learn how to execute their business plan—faster than a running horse, with near-perfect control and not flashy.
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.