By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City-based business accelerator VentureSpur has secured funding from capital firm Trailblazer Capital in Dallas to launch its 2013 program at twice the size of its inaugural group of startups last year, officials said.
Specific details of the investment for the accelerator’s second-stage fund were not released.
Trailblazer typically invests in early-stage startups in Oklahoma and Texas, VentureSpur Managing Director Kraettli L. Epperson said, and that meshes well with the accelerator’s goals of developing synergies with other new companies to keep those moneymakers from drifting elsewhere.
Trailblazer managing partner Joel Fontenot agreed.
“This is a strategic investment for us, aimed at ensuring that our region can attract and keep competitive startup companies and talent that, in turn, ensure that there are great deals and great companies growing in our region,” he said.
The relationship between the two organizations is even tighter than might first appear. Epperson, the owner of information technology firm Black Mesa Consulting, launched VentureSpur a year ago with David Matthews, a partner in Trailblazer Capital and manager of the Oklahoma Opportunity Fund, and Gabe Bass, managing partner of the law firm Bass Law.
Accelerators seem to be the next evolutionary step of incubators, both designed to improve the odds of a fledgling company’s success. Watchers of the industry – if investing in untried companies can be considered an industry – estimate that when incubator programs were first introduced in the early 1980s, they numbered only a dozen nationwide. Now they can be counted in the thousands, according to the National Business Incubation Association.
Trailblazer Capital’s portfolio includes Koupon Media, a graduate of the Tech Wildcatters incubator in Dallas, considered to be one of the larger incubators in the country and in the peer group of Tech Stars and Praxis Labs.
Incubators tend to provide foundational resources for their clients, such as office space and professional advisers to help refine business models over a year or more, according to Jim Stafford, spokesman for the nonprofit i2E business support organization, which resembles an incubator in many ways. Incubation is more likely to attract fewer sponsors with help from government agencies.
Accelerators, on the other hand, focus more on the speed aspect of the name, attracting venture capital from multiple sources to see profit from more tech-based business concepts that are already on their feet. Accelerator programs are usually just a few weeks long. In exchange for providing seed capital of up to $30,000 and other resources, VentureSpur takes a 10-percent equity stake in its startups.
“Accelerators emerged from venture capital firms that were frustrated at being asked to put millions of dollars into new companies each year to see if the business plan would make sense, the team would gel, and the company could actually get out to market,” Epperson said. “Accelerators put smaller amounts of capital in a larger number of companies.”
VentureSpur had four startups in its first group. Epperson is planning on eight to 12 this year. He doesn’t foresee an upper limit to the accelerator’s growth.
“We can look to other accelerators to answer that question,” he said. “It can grow infinitely large. As long as we keep getting good mentors involved, we’ll be in good shape.”