Oklahoma needs to boost ‘deal factories’ to move forward in science technology
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2015 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
I sit on the governor’s Science and Technology Council, which was reinstated by Gov. Mary Fallin to help move the state forward in areas of science and technology.
Many council members are successful entrepreneurs. We also have scientists, educators, investors, and economic development leaders. Together we pretty much cover every aspect of the innovation economy in Oklahoma.
At a recent session early this month, the council chairman, Stephen McKeever, who is the secretary of Science and Technology, supplied the group with a list of talking points on what Oklahoma needs to do to expand the innovation economy in our state. As always, one of the items on the list was to expand venture capital.
I’ve been thinking about that.
Ready access to capital is critical to innovation. Without the capital to fund early stage businesses, the multiplier effect of innovation created by new higher paying jobs can’t happen.
Capital attracts capital, and while in absolute terms, Oklahoma continually lags the pace of most other states, we do have sources of early stage equity capital here.
Oklahoma’s SeedStep Angels (with nearly 50 members across the state) have invested more than $7.1 million in 30-plus companies (also across the state). i2E has nearly $50 million in investment capital under management.
Does the state need more early stage capital? Always.
But on the flip side, good entrepreneurial deals, as we see over and over, get funding in Oklahoma without a problem. So the question I’d like to tee up is, how do we as a state create a more robust high quality deal flow?
We have some of the finest potential deal factories in the world — with research institutions such as Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, OSU, OU, the Nobel Foundation and Fortune 500 corporations like Devon Energy, Continental Resources, General Electric, and Williams Cos.
Our universities are training entrepreneurs with entrepreneurship degree programs at Oklahoma State University, and the University of Oklahoma. (The University of Oklahoma’s Center for Entrepreneurship is ranked fifth for undergraduate and 18th for graduate study in the United States by Entrepreneur.)
We have the Oklahoma Applied Research Support (OARS) program, managed by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology that invests in innovative technologies with commercial potential.
The time is right for Oklahoma to turn up our focus on producing more deals from our deal factories that we can commercialize.
We need to prime the pump by providing more funding to OARS. We need to encourage more spin-outs from our universities and corporations.
We need come up with better ways to capture good deals that pop up around the state and then help connect those entrepreneurs with the contacts and resources that are available here.
When a region has an abundance of good deals, investors take notice. That’s the best way to attract more venture capital.
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.
Did you know? The median venture capitalist reviews 87 opportunities before making one investment.