Oklahoma 'angel' investor group growing

SeedStep Angels provides sophisticated deal flow for members, critical capital for entrepreneurs.
BY JIM STAFFORD Published: July 30, 2013
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As a serial entrepreneur with three previous life science companies to his credit, Craig Shimasaki raised millions of dollars of investment capital for his past ventures. He's successfully pitched business concepts to individual investors, venture capital groups and fund managers.

In May 2012, Shimasaki found himself standing before investors who comprise the SeedStep Angels investment group. It was his first time to pitch a concept to an organized angel investment group composed entirely of fellow Oklahomans.

Shimasaki had 15 minutes to make the case that his latest venture, Oklahoma City's Moleculera Labs, has an answer for the devastating challenges that families and health care providers have in diagnosing a neurological condition within the autism spectrum that afflicts thousands of children across the U.S. each year.

When the presentation was over, four of the SeedStep Angels members were sold on its potential. They invested a collective $155,000 in the company as part of a $600,000 overall financing round.

“I was excited to see an Oklahoma group come together and be a part of what we are doing,” Shimasaki said. “It's always a pleasure to present business-based opportunities to Oklahoma investors, because the goal for us is to grow and build organically in Oklahoma.”

Angel investment was crucial to Moleculera Labs. Capital was needed to develop a certified clinical laboratory housed at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center to begin implementing a diagnostic test for the autism condition.

In addition to the SeedStep Angels investments, co-investment included out-of-state investors and $300,000 from the StartOK Accelerator Fund managed by i2E Inc., the Oklahoma-based nonprofit economic development corporation.

“That was a critical investment,” Shimasaki said. “Without that $600,000, we wouldn't have been able to open the laboratory, begin clinical testing or develop the regulatory protocols. We wouldn't be starting.”

‘Gap' addressed

Founded in 2009 and managed by i2E, the SeedStep Angels group is composed of successful Oklahomans who make investments in innovative, high-growth companies such as Moleculera Labs. The group was created to address the “capital gap” that exists in Oklahoma for startups that are typically too risky to attract traditional bank funding, and too new for larger venture capital dollars.

SeedStep Angels has grown to 27 members in three chapters — Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Ardmore. Its members are attracted to the organized investment group in part because the deals brought to them are prescreened by i2E's investment professionals.

i2E provides deal flow, due diligence and best practices for the angel group. With funding from both state and federal agencies, i2E manages $40 million across five staged funds that typically invest alongside the SeedStep Angels.



Information

For information on joining SeedStep Angels, contact Michael Kindrat-Pratt at 813-2418 or mpratt@i2E.org.

I was excited to see an Oklahoma group come together and be a part of what we are doing. It's always a pleasure to present business-based opportunities to Oklahoma investors, because the goal for us is to grow and build organically in Oklahoma.”

Craig Shimasaki,
Entrepreneur

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