This last year has been a remarkable time for those of us working to create jobs and wealth for Oklahoma by helping entrepreneurs and high growth companies become successful.
Entrepreneurs come to us with ideas at all stages of venture development, from those that are just a concept they are kicking around to those already in the product stage they want to take to the marketplace.
Let me share the story of one of those who came to us almost three years ago.
When Dr. Bryan Fuller walked through our doors, he already had a line of topical skin care products with anti-inflammatory properties. He wanted to build a sales force to expand revenue beyond a regional network of physicians' clinics and medical spas.
i2E's team of venture advisers and investment professionals worked with Fuller to position his company for the investment that would allow him to build the sales team that would expand his client base and grow revenue.
It all came together this year in a $1.5 million investment round in DermaMedics that included $325,000 from the i2E-managed Angel Sidecar Fund, one of three investment funds created through a partnership with the U.S. Treasury Department and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
It was a feel-good milestone for both DermaMedics and the i2E team that worked for months on presentations and documentation that demonstrated the company was a worthy investment.
“i2E is very proactive,” Fuller said. “They are clearly and sincerely interested in helping you.”
Since this is a day for warm reflections with family and friends, I thought it appropriate to share Fuller's story. The sense of accomplishment with DermaMedics has been replicated many times over through the years as the i2E investment team has closed funding deals with other Oklahoma entrepreneurs.
“When we've worked with a company for six months to a year, going through the ups and downs and the question marks, getting it through our investment committee, through due diligence — when all the boxes are checked, the dotted line is signed and the entrepreneur has the funds in hand — we know it's all worth it,” said Cindy Williams, i2E investment analyst. “The business can keep moving forward toward job creation and revenue.”
When the startups we've worked with for months or even years start hitting their milestones — when they sign that big contract with an all-important customer and accomplish the things that they and we believed they could — it feels like Christmas, no matter what time of the year it is.
Rex Smitherman is interim 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 Smitherman at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.