The surest way to
For that, a state needs deal flow — a pipeline of startup businesses with groundbreaking technologies that solve problems for big markets.
The most assured way to build a pipeline is to develop and support educated entrepreneurs and others with entrepreneurial mindsets. Additionally, as savvy startup investors know, a company started by an entrepreneur who has prior entrepreneurial experience stands a better chance of success.
Which brings us to the i2E Fellows Program, an initiative that gives Oklahoma college students opportunities to work directly with advanced technology startups and/or I2E investment funds.
“The fellowship initiative works because of the combination of mentorship provided to the students by both i2E and Oklahoma City entrepreneurs along with the real world responsibility and actual projects they get from the startup companies,” said Casey Harness, manager of the i2E Fellows program. “While the students are working with their host companies, they know they can reach out to i2E, and we are here to help.”
The Fellows Program is open to graduate and undergraduate students from any Oklahoma college or university.
Any student can apply. Additionally, the program reaches out to professors, students who have expressed interest and Governor's Cup participants.
“We are very selective about participating companies. We identify five client companies that have a business development-related project that a student could take on,” said Harness. “The entrepreneur and company must also have the time to mentor as they go.”
The rigorous applications process includes essays and interviews and matches the students' interests and experience with the client companies' projects.
“This year we had more than 50 applications for five company-hosted fellowships,” said Harness. “The quality of students has been extra
This initiative is powerful. Building an innovation economy is all about linking people and ideas. Whether a fellow actually becomes an entrepreneur or takes entrepreneurial awareness into an established business, Oklahoma gains.
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.
DID YOU KNOW?
Thirteen client companies have hosted fellows during the 4-year-old program. The 28 i2E Fellows have represented six Oklahoma institutions. They are: East Central University, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma State University-OKC, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Tulsa.