When it comes to organizations that add value to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the more the merrier — especially when those organizations mentor budding entrepreneurs and accelerate deal flow in our state.
Two such organizations, Blueprint for Business and VentureSpur, are modeled on the best practices from nationally recognized entrepreneurial accelerator programs, offering rigorous business development programs.
Their programs are highly selective, using written applications and personal interviews to attract the best of the best. They offer a great next step for Governor's Cup Business Plan competition participants. Two of the 2012 Governor's Cup companies, MaxQ (Blueprint for Business) and MesoBio (VentureSpur), have been accepted.
Blueprint for Business and VentureSpur also accept applicants from other states and countries; however, all participants must come to Oklahoma City for the duration of the program — approximately three months.
This borderless cross-pollination is ideal for building a more diversified exchange of entrepreneurial ideas and a national network of relationships.
It is also a wonderful way to showcase Oklahoma's advantages — our business-friendly policies, low cost of living, solid work ethic, and eager support of startup companies — to entrepreneurs who may not realize just how great a place Oklahoma City is to start a company.
Blueprint for Business and VentureSpur both provide a depth of expertise in software and mobile applications.
And they understand that entrepreneurs, by nature and necessity, are very committed to their products and services — sometimes to a fault; each accelerator program is proactive about the importance of entrepreneurs going out and talking with real customers.
A cornerstone of Blueprint for Business and VentureSpur is a comprehensive roster of engaged mentors. These business leaders, professional service providers and serial entrepreneurs are committed to provide coaching as well as a range of pro bono services that every startup founder needs.
And, yes, Blueprint for Business and VentureSpur also provide early-stage seed money to program participants.
Will all of the startups that subscribe to Blueprint for Business or VentureSpur succeed? Maybe not. But will there be more deal flow and entrepreneurial activity in our state? Yes — and entrepreneurial activity has been the primary driver of economic expansion and job creation in the U.S. for the last 25 years.
This opportunity for a more active entrepreneurial ecosystem and for more homegrown jobs should make all of us feel a bit merrier.
Rex Smitherman is interim 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 Smitherman at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
By the year 2018, there will be 1.4M job openings for “computer specialists.” Jobs for application software developers alone are expected to grow by 30+ percent.