It's an undisputed fact. The greater the availability of early stage capital, the greater the success rate of startup companies. The greater the success of startup companies, the more job and wealth creation.
Yet nationwide, the venture capital available for new investments is the lowest it has been since 1998. The capital that is under management is being invested at a faster rate than new capital commitments are being made. To make things even more challenging, more than 60 percent of the venture capital that is available is managed and invested in California and Massachusetts.
States like Oklahoma — and there are more like us than not — must figure out ways to overcome the inefficiencies of the venture capital market if we are going to capture our share of new job creation.
More than 25 years ago, voters in Oklahoma recognized that there were not enough investments being made in Oklahoma's innovations. There wasn't enough capital available to grow these new ideas into Oklahoma companies. The ideas would either die for lack of capital or become jobs in other states where capital was available.
That led to a constitutional amendment that allowed the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST) to make equity investments. These investments are accomplished through a public/private sector partnership with i2E.
Some might argue that the state doing something the private sector “should” be doing. Possibly. But “should” and “is” are worlds apart. Without state investment in the Proof of Concept and Oklahoma Seed Capital Funds, there wouldn't be early stage capital here.
i2E investment of $23.8 million in Oklahoma companies has leveraged an additional $402 million in private investment. The economic impact of these investments exceeds 10-to-1. The activity produced by these funds has helped SeedStep angels grow to be the largest and most active network of angel investors within 400 miles.
The $70,000 average annual wage and 39 percent job growth for i2E's portfolio companies last year greatly exceeds the statewide average of $37,000 and growth rate of 1.9 percent.
Oklahoma is overcoming the absence of venture capital and creating jobs and wealth through its investment in early stage companies. The commitment that Oklahoma's voters made 25 years ago is paying huge dividends today.
It is nice when some things work out as they were drawn up (or even better).
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?
States engaging in the $1.5 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative to fund state venture capital programs (Accelerate Oklahoma!, for example) expect that total private investment stimulated will be at least $4 billion.