By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
I’ve been writing (and talking) a lot about the exits of WeGoLook and Selexys over the few weeks. In fact, when I sat down to work on this column, my wife even asked me if I was ever going to come up with something new.
Nope, not yet, I told her. The stories of these two companies are simply too big and too important to Oklahoma for us not to keep a front and center focus on their success — especially when in a few weeks, the Legislature will be moving into the budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2017 in yet another tough budget year.
Last year, about this time, I urged the state to adopt diversification and innovation as a rallying cry and show of faith in the legislative vision from nearly three decades ago that funded the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST) as a state agency whose focus is on building new companies based on technology.
This year, my message is the same — but with a much different slant. It’s no longer a matter of faith that Oklahoma’s model of innovation and diversification works. This year, with the exits of Selexys and WeGoLook, we have hard proof that Oklahoma can diversify our dependence on oil by funding and following a commercialization model that works.
It felt good to see Oklahoma’s SeedStep Angels appear (not once but twice) on the Angel Capital Association’s 2016 “wonder wall” of successful exits. It feels great to see our homegrown angel group stand so tall on a list that is dominated by angel groups from either Coast. People from across the country are hearing us now when we say that Oklahoma isn’t flyover country anymore.
Going into 2017, we can capitalize on the tail winds of the fourth quarter exits of Selexys and WeGoLook. Early stage investors and venture capitalists are starting to give Oklahoma a second look. They are beginning to recognize that we have talented serial entrepreneurs, that Oklahoma’s world-class research institutions are delivering ground-shattering technologies and that oil is not our only focus.
So, I’m not going to stop talking about the jobs created, the wealth generated or the groundbreaking technologies launched by Selexys and WeGoLook. No matter how tough the budget challenge, I’m not going to stop urging the state to put more money into funding basic and applied research so we can see more of these successes in the future and diversify our economy.
The i2E team, and our partners at OCAST are not going to take our foot off the gas when it comes to expanding our pipeline of startups that have gained the attention and investment of industry giants like Novartis.
Another thing you’ve heard me say before: success begets success. Capital begets capital. We have a winning formula here. Let’s hope everyone in the state is paying attention.
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 [email protected].
DID YOU KNOW? According to the Angel Resource Institute’s largest study of angel investing returns, the investment holding period is 4.5 years on average; bigger wins commonly took nine or 10 years to complete.