Two major acquisitions of local firms good news in several ways
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
I had an amazing Friday a couple of weeks ago. Literally, in one day, I found out that two of i2E’s portfolio companies were being acquired by major corporations — the two biggest exits i2E has ever had.
The first deal was acquisition of Selexys Pharmaceuticals by Novartis, the No. 2 ranking pharmaceutical company in the world. The second acquisition is the purchase of majority control of Oklahoma-based WeGoLook by Crawford & Co. Crawford is one of the world’s largest independent providers of claims management solutions to insurance companies and self-insured entities.
Sometimes in big acquisitions like these, the deal engulfs the narrative, so I want to call out three things that we all need to recognize and celebrate.
First, these acquisitions are providing financial returns to Oklahoma investors and jobs to Oklahoma residents. This is the reason that the state puts money into seed-stage deals.
Many people will benefit. Members of SeedStep Angels, individual angel investors, and investors in other i2E managed funds, including the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund, the Accelerate Oklahoma Fund, and the Oklahoma Angel Fund I, will see their faith in investing in Oklahoma startups rewarded.
There will be jobs created as well as jobs retained. The management team of Selexys has moved on to its next deal with Tetherex Pharmaceuticals, another Oklahoma-based therapeutic company.
WeGoLook and its jobs will remain in Oklahoma while receiving the support to grow even further from its new majority owner, Crawford & Co.
Second, these two big exits in the two dominant sectors of innovation — information technology and biotech — put Oklahoma solidly on the map as a state with exciting, investable startup deals.
We’ve delivered on homegrown, breakthrough, disruptive technologies. We’ve built our own continuum of early stage and seed capital when VCs were hard pressed to bring their money here. We’ve proven that Oklahoma entrepreneurs, scientists, and technologists have the talent to solve big problems for big markets.
Third, these exits validate the Oklahoma model of helping build and support startup businesses developed by i2E as part of its partnership with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).
Selexys achieved an exit in less than 10 years, with the first institutional capital provided by OCAST, i2E, and the Presbyterian Health Foundation.
WeGoLook leveraged i2E’s model and services from the beginning finding, with i2E’s assistance, a path to a broader commercial market attractive to strategic acquirers. WeGoLook exited in less than three years, with i2E, once again, being its first institutional investor as well as leading each of its investment rounds.
Before that amazing Friday, i2E had accomplished a lot of important things — including providing funding and business expertise to more than 650 of Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses as well as achieving great results in terms of jobs created and investment attracted into Oklahoma-based startups — but we hadn’t had a big portfolio exit.
The exit is the ultimate goal and measure of success for any early stage venture investor like i2E. Now we — and Oklahoma — have two.
This is so much more than just the start of something big.
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 i2E_Comments@i2E.org.