From the time the first Sooners struck oil, there have been financially successful Oklahomans who showed a strong appetite for investing in high risk, high return deals.
In that way, angel
In another way, angel investing is a more recent phenomenon as individual angel investors — wealthy individuals who provide capital to startup companies in anticipation of significant returns — are increasingly organizing into angel groups.
There are more than 300 organized angel groups in North America.
Given Oklahoma's pro-risk DNA, it wasn't surprising when SeedStep Angels started up three years ago, that the idea of organizing and bringing coordination and best practices to Oklahoma's early-stage capital sector was met with enthusiasm.
Combining energy and capital allows angels to leverage their individual investments, diversify their portfolios and most importantly increase their rate of return.
Even though we were shoulder deep in one of the worst economic periods in history, that Oklahoma risk-tolerant DNA kicked in and more than two dozen accredited investors signed on.
Then, as the recession deepened, the SeedStep Angel group's ranks receded to single digits. The question became, do we press on, or do we wait for times to get better?
We pressed on.
That's because we're Oklahomans and because a sustainable source of early stage equity capital is absolutely vital to startup companies that create the higher paying jobs that power an innovation economy.
With the constriction in venture capital — both in terms of the number of firms and the dollars those firms are willing to place in early stage deals — angel investments are more important than ever as the source of that risk capital.
With nearly 40 members and chapters in Ardmore, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma's SeedStep Angels has invested $600,000 in six early stage companies.
SeedStep members will tell you that besides offering the possibility of great returns, it is intellectually stimulating and downright cool to play a part in bringing innovative products and services to the marketplace and see them take off and grow.
In addition to that, angel investing is a personal way to support economic growth of our state. That's because along with capital, the angels have been an invaluable source of mentoring and networking for entrepreneurs.
Making money, being intellectually stimulated and giving back. For Oklahoma angel investors, that's a trifecta that wins.
Tom Walker 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. Contact him at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
This is the first in a four-part series exploring angel investing and the opportunities it affords the Oklahoma economy.