By Scott Meacham
There is no monopoly on great ideas.
Capital begats capital. That’s the drumbeat setting the cadence for the i2E Management Company, Inc. (iMCI).
iMCI is a private for-profit investment and fund management firm operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of i2E. iMCI manages more than $90 million across five venture funds. The company makes investment decisions and provides investment services as a general partner and managing member to a growing number of privately managed venture capital funds from other states. iMCI creates a two-way access to high quality, well-vetted deal flow from Oklahoma and across the central region of the U.S.
Justin Wilson recently joined our team as managing director and president of iMCI.
Justin grew up in Wright City in McCurtain County, about as far southeast as you can go and not be in Arkansas. “I grew up in extreme poverty,” he said, “not uncommon in that part of the world. I left home at fourteen and saw education as my way of escaping that cycle that grips so much of rural Oklahoma. My goal was to get full scholarship to OU or OSU.”
And he did.
“The greatest barrier to economic success for poor rural kids is not a lack of aptitude, it is a lack of exposure and of resources,” said Justin. “The only avenues of success I had ever known at that point in life were law and medicine. I thought engineers drove trains. I didn’t grow up dreaming of working in venture capital, because I didn’t know that such a thing even existed. Before I knew it, I had earned a Bachelor of Science in Physiology and was leaving Stillwater en route to Oklahoma City and the OU College of Medicine, which is a pretty unfortunate place to come to the realization that one does not actually want to be a doctor.”
In startup terms, Justin pivoted.
“What I really wanted was to make an impact, to counterbalance some of the blight and desperation that I grew up in with something positive that offers people hope and fulfillment,” he said. “I found I could do that by uniting capital with an unmet need.”
Justin is a quick study and, as it turns out, an effective fund raiser. He honed those skills in the non-profit sector until he received an unexpected appointment to serve as advisor to the Special Trustee for American Indians in the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. From there, he went on to be director of strategic investments for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. And now comes to iMCI.
Drawn to Venture
“I’m drawn to venture because it is the most optimistic slice of the financial sector,” Justin said. “Venture says we can build something where there is nothing. Out of thin air, we can establish new opportunities and solve big problems and find a new way of doing things. We can stimulate organic growth in communities and provide real opportunity for people, well-heeled or not, if they are scrappy and have a good idea and want to build something meaningful.”
For those who believe that venture can only happen in Silicon Valley, Boston, or NY, we at iMCI are out to prove them wrong.
“There is no monopoly on great ideas or great entrepreneurs on the coasts,” Justin said. “There is tremendous opportunity for success in the venture arena in so-called flyover states. This is no different than my belief about the aptitude of rural youth. Founders here in the central time zone don’t lack creativity or resilience or intelligence. They lack capital.”
The team at i2E and now iMCI will continue to bridge the gap between ideas and resources. We will continue to foster growth and creativity and support the best founders and the best ideas . We invite all Oklahomans who believe as we do, whether founder or investor, to join us.
Scott Meacham 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.