In Oklahoma this time of year, we are all about football.
I've never seen any stats on this, but I imagine that football players might make pretty good entrepreneurs, because there are so many similarities between the game and entrepreneurship.
It takes talent and good coaching to make a successful football team, and it's no different when it comes to building a startup company. You also need different skills for different times and teams. There is no perfect profile that defines all winning football teams or entrepreneurs.
Both football and company founding are high stakes and milestone driven — benefiting from a steady offense, a concentrated defense, and the occasional “Hail Mary” pass. In each, it's all about outpacing the competition and scoring points on the field or revenue in the marketplace.
Perhaps the greatest similarity is innovation.
It's innovation in the teams' offensive and defensive schemes that makes Oklahoma football so good.
Oklahoma coaches tend to be innovative masters in figuring out how to stay steps ahead of the other team. Barry Switzer didn't pioneer the wishbone offense, but he recognized the potential, perfected it, and OU became the first major team in the country to ride the innovative offense to three national championships.
As football has evolved from a running to a passing game, the wishbone has given way to new types of innovation. Mike Gundy is running the most difficult-to-defend offense in the country — always adjusting OSU's decoying and feinting, and creating matchups that put defenses in a bad position. Nobody has been able to figure out how to stop it consistently. For the first time in its history, OSU was rated ahead of OU in the preseason polls, and it's innovation that's driven it there.
In entrepreneurship, like football, innovation rules the game. It might be an original discovery patented from the labs of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. It might be the application of a spun-out technology from OU or OSU in an incubator, or it might be a completely new, original and improved application of an idea that's been around for a while.
It doesn't matter whether Barry Switzer thought up the wishbone or not. Innovation is all about ideas and execution. OU is the only school to have four coaches with at least 100+ wins each — and Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops are two of them. What is their secret? It's the same as a successful entrepreneur — innovation and execution.
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?
In 2012, 56 percent of Americans believed that they had the capabilities to start a business, one-third higher than the average among the world's 24 innovation-driven economies.