By Scott Meacham
It’s official. The country is in a recession. Of course, we didn’t need the recent announcement by the National Bureau of Economic Research to tell us that. Given its unusualness, our hope is that we have nearly bottomed out from the pandemic free-fall and that economic recovery will come quickly.
However, we just don’t know. Here’s what we do know. Times of upheaval are times of change. And there is no better bellwether of entrepreneurial opportunity than change. Great companies start from great adversity.
Adobe, Apple, Burger King, Disney, Ferrari, GE, and IBM are all iconic businesses launched during previous recessions. Besides that, what do they have in common?
From Walt Disney’s debut of a dancing mouse in Steamboat Willie to the “click-and drag” mouse conceived as part of the Macintosh Project for Apple, these companies were founded by entrepreneurs who embraced problems as opportunities. They were powered by innovators who looked at the way things were currently being done and developed new technologies, new processes of distribution, new forms of entertainment, transportation, and new ways of manufacturing.
The same kind of creativity and invention is happening right now in Oklahoma. We are seeing it. For entrepreneurs in Oklahoma — even those with the tiniest drop of market interest and the smallest seed of an idea — i2E is the place to call first. This is the Oklahoma Innovation Model at its finest.
All kinds of entrepreneurs reach out to i2E for various reasons, and we encourage that. We want to hear about every potential Oklahoma deal. Over 200 a year go online and fill out our inquiry form. Anyone who fills out an inquiry form will be contacted by a staff member.
The companies that that pursue high-growth business models reach out to us for assistance start down the i2E path. In weekly pipeline meetings, our team of venture advisors and investor, individuals who have years of experience in assessing technologies, markets, business plans — and most importantly entrepreneurial talent — review each inquiry.
While i2E can’t work with every company, we never ghost them. If the inquiry doesn’t match our high-growth model, we will connect the entrepreneur with better matched resources in the state. When we see potential, either in the idea or the entrepreneur, we make a personal connection to explore the idea further. We want to catch startups early in the process when founders can be more open to feedback and can apply our experience to avoid critical early missteps.
In a typical week, we get maybe five to seven inquiries. In one week recently, we received eighteen — that’s eighteen Oklahomans who, in the midst of this economic crater, are thinking about starting companies.
Oklahoma is innovating. We are seeing it bubble up. All over the state people are pondering and talking on Zoom and at the dinner table about new business ideas. I know because people are talking to us.
What are you thinking about? What are you writing on the back of a napkin? Oklahoma has resources to help a startup become the mouse that roared.
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.