Survey shows young companies adding jobs, wealth to Oklahoma economy
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Nearly the last thing I want to hear more about right now is surveys and polls, and I’m guessing that many others feel the same way. So let me warn you, this is a column about a poll — the 22-question survey that i2E sends every spring to its active and past clients.
We survey annually to evaluate the effect of our services on the state’s economy. It’s important that state leaders and taxpayers have the information they need to assess the impact of Oklahoma’s investment in technology-based startup businesses.
This year we sent 153 surveys and had approximately a 76 percent response rate.
One of the best yardsticks of startup impact of i2E’s assistance is the money those young firms have raised. The respondents to this year’s survey (the data reflects 2015 results) reported raising $40.1 million in equity and debt capital and $8.7 million in grants. This in a state that has zero Oklahoma-based seed stage venture capital firms other than i2E.
The startups put that capital to work generating $129.1 million in 2015 revenue, 70 percent of which was reported to have come from outside Oklahoma.
A significant chunk of that revenue went to pay an aggregate annualized payroll of $70.3 million with an average annual wage of $64,245. That’s 51 percent higher than the 2015 Oklahoma average annual wage of $42,458.
Those wages went into the wallets, purses, and bank accounts of employees holding 975 current full-time equivalent positions in these 153 responding companies.
These better-than-average wages fed Oklahoma’s economy through the payment or purchase of things like rent, groceries, gasoline, backpacks, tennis shoes, clothing, medical bills, and housing and many more items.
That’s the virtuous cycle of an innovation economy.
So what are the take-aways?
The young companies that responded to this survey are wealth creators for Oklahoma. The nearly 500 new products and services and 143 issued patents that these firms have introduced into the marketplace are pulling dollars into Oklahoma with more than 80 percent of sales coming from other states and nations.
They are also job creators. Of the nearly 1,000 full-time equivalent positions across these firms, 218 were 2015 additions.
Innovative startups lead statewide economic diversification. While concentrated in two major sectors — software/information technology (42 percent) and life sciences (34 percent), we have startups in chemicals, manufacturing materials and components, and energy and environment. None of them are directly in oil and gas production.
And here’s one more takeaway.
Every business and individual in Oklahoma can boost the impact of these innovative firms. How? Find a way to do business with them. Act as a mentor. Become an investor or development partner. Be an outspoken advocate for OCAST and i2E funding when the next budget cycle rolls around to allow these positive impacts to be continued and expanded across the state.
There are lots of ways to get off the sidelines and get into this game.
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 and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.