By Scott Meacham
Entrepreneurs are the rising tide that lifts all our boats.
It is the season to count our blessings and the people and things for which we are most thankful.
In some industries, the last few weeks of the year provide time to take a breath and take a break. That is not the case in entrepreneurship. Startup founders just don’t stop.
Many are striving to lock in client contracts before their customers’ 2022 budget cycles take hold. Some are pressing to complete final testing on the next version of their software to make a first quarter product release. Still others are pushing through the final steps of due diligence to gain investor commitment on the next funding round.
Whatever is happening in the new companies around our state, be sure that their founding teams are engaged. They are engaged because they have to be — entrepreneurship does not come with days off — but also the special thing about entrepreneurs is that they want to be engaged. They are laser-focused and determined to turn their visions into viable businesses.
I am especially grateful to our state’s entrepreneurs for battling through the months of the Covid-19 pandemic. They proved their resiliency and innovative spirit repeatedly. I know that first hand, because the staff at i2E and iMCI worked right alongside them (and virtually over Zoom). For this entrepreneurial spirit and drive everyone in Oklahoma can be grateful. Entrepreneurs are the rising tide that lifts all our boats.
A special thanks goes out to the entrepreneurs, dedicated staff and community partners of ACT Tulsa, a unique joint venture between i2E and ACT House aimed at cultivating and driving innovation of minority-led technology startups located in Tulsa. We have funded the first cohort of nine minority-led startups who completed the incubator course, and we are recruiting for cohort No. 2.
I am thankful to live in a state that is determined to support all entrepreneurs and innovators in a way that works with the realities of our region — even if that support may look different from what happens on the coasts. It takes longer to build deal flow and sources of capital here. It is a heavier lift to secure federal funding for R&D. But we have done both.
Thanks to OCAST (Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology) and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), and Oklahoma’s research universities, we are building a pipeline of commercializable technologies. The $600 million Selexys acquisition is proof positive.
Oklahoma has experienced memorable successes this year. We benefited from our first unicorn exit — Alkami, a huge milestone for any venture fund that very few every reach. Spiers New Technologies (SNT) expanded Oklahoma’s reputation as the modern energy state by building a new company and then establishing a new industry in electric vehicle battery life cycle management. SNT was acquired by Cox Automotive, a business unit of Cox Mobility, a $21 billion privately held company.
I am grateful for my board of directors who stay involved with our initiatives and with Oklahoma’s entrepreneurs, no matter how wild the ride. I feel especially grateful this Thanksgiving for the privilege of knowing and working with Dr. Stephen Prescott, the long-time leader of OMRF. Steve took the organization to the next level as a nationally and globally prominent research institution. He also served as chair of the i2E board and was, for me, a personal source of inspiration and practical advice. He will be long-missed and long-remembered.
Finally, I am grateful for my family and all the families that support those of us in the business of entrepreneurship and innovation. Because we are “on call” 24×7, so are they. They back us up and make our work possible. Wishing all of them, and all families across Oklahoma, a peaceful and happy time of thanksgiving and joy.
We always remember that entrepreneurs are the rising tide that lifts all our boats.
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.