Dr. Craig Shimasaki likens the pursuit of risk capital to trying to build an airplane while it's taxiing before takeoff. “At some point, you run out of runway,” he said.
Shimasaki and Dr. Madeleine Cunningham of the University of Oklahoma are co-founders of Moleculera Labs, an Oklahoma City firm with a lab test to predict a patient's likelihood of having pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococci (PANDAS), a form of autism spectrum disorder.
“This is the third startup company I have been involved with,” Shimasaki said.
“The pain and agony that entrepreneurs experience in attempting to finance an idea and a company are great.”
Entrepreneurs often are left to fend for themselves as they try to raise capital for their company.
“However,” Shimasaki said, “the state of Oklahoma and i2E have created funds that are available at different stages of company development to provide a potential funding continuum.
“When combined with the commercialization assistance that i2E provides, it makes a huge difference in what can be accomplished, especially in life sciences, where commercialization can take multiple years and multiple millions of dollars.”
i2E first became engaged with Moleculera Labs last year when Shimasaki volunteered the company to participate in the Governor's Cup business plan competition.
“We liked the concept,” said David Thomison, i2E vice president of investments, “but the original business plan, which called for $2 million to build a lab when the bench lab test hadn't yet been proven to scale, was too risky to interest investors.”
Moleculera restructured the business plan to temporarily lease lab space at the University of Oklahoma, rather than building, and then i2E led a $540,000 Seed Capital Round, with investment from the Oklahoma Angel Sidecar Fund, several Oklahoma SeedStep Angels, and interested parents of afflicted children.
The funding allowed Moleculera to complete the laboratory setup and receive certification to begin laboratory testing.
“Moleculera has completed 1,000 tests in the research setting,” Thomison said. “We anticipate that once the commercial laboratory opens, the volume will outgrow the temporary lab facilities and the company will need to transition to the next round of funding.”
i2E is anticipating an approximately $2 million Series A round, syndicated with out-of-state angels, Oklahoma SeedStep Angels from multiple locations, Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund and others.
Oklahoma's coordinated continuum of capital helps startup companies get off the ground before the runway runs out.
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 appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
As of the third quarter of 2012, health care attracted the largest share of reported angel investment for five consecutive quarters. It is second only to the Internet in the number of deals.