Every long-term healthy economy needs many new small companies to be “planted,” saplings if you will, that have the potential to grow up and become big strong trees.
As a state, we know that if we don't make an effort to ensure a continuous flow of new company startups, we won't grow the next Devon, Williams or Chesapeake.
We can't just focus on getting our economic growth from bigger firms and from expanding existing businesses. Our best source for long-term growth is organically growing more of our own new companies.
However, it is not easy. We've all heard the statistics: Half of all new companies fail in the first five years.
I've always had the feeling that it was easy for some startups and hard for others — that there was a sort of natural selection process that separated the stronger from the weaker when it came to the successful new businesses.
Now that I'm living it — at i2E — we see all the challenges of starting a new company from the bottom up instead of from the top down. I'm seeing things from a much different perspective.
What I recognize is that survival is much more difficult for every entrepreneur. They are all fragile starting out. Many of them don't realize just how hard entrepreneurship is until they are in the middle of it.
Oklahoma entrepreneurs need our help. Some need less. Some need more. The important thing to remember is that even the best entrepreneurs can't do all that it takes to get a company going all by themselves.
Whether it is helping to craft a product that the market will buy or figuring out how to meet financing needs until the company can generate its own positive cash flow, at i2E it's our job to help entrepreneurs weave together all the components that a new business needs to successfully take root and grow.
We have a proven model that can dramatically increase an Oklahoma entrepreneur's chance to succeed. Even so, a significant percentage of startups are going to fail. That's the nature of innovation.
That means that while we are constantly working to improving our rate of success, Oklahoma also needs to focus economic resources toward increasing the number of startup saplings we plant.
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?
Angel investments created 106,400 new jobs in the U.S.in the first half of 2012, with 3.9 jobs per angel investment.