Danny Maloney, a serial entrepreneur who founded and leads PinLeague in Oklahoma City, said something a few weeks ago that stuck with me. He predicted that over the next decade more tech markets like Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colo., would emerge, and that Oklahoma City should be one of them.
Having led significant initiatives at YouTube, Google, and AOL, Danny brings experience and perspective that is somewhat unique for Oklahoma; if he envisions that kind of opportunity here, he is in the perfect position to know.
It's a worthy goal.
The first step in building a vibrant innovation economy is to figure out how to get more new companies funding so more entrepreneurs have the opportunity to understand, appreciate, and gain the financial rewards of building a business from the ground up. Until people have tried it, they don't really know what entrepreneurship is or how to do it well.
Providing a capital structure for innovation is what i2E is all about. In fact, as Maloney rightly perceives, we are the in-state source for early stage venture capital. Since the Internet bubble burst and the national economy imploded in 2009, risk capital has been a challenge for our state. There are no traditional venture capitalists here.
It's a chicken-and-egg situation. Building an Austin-like climate to attract risk capital requires risk capital. Capital attracts capital. That's why the state-appropriated proof-of-concept and seed capital funds managed by i2E are so critically important to Oklahoma's future.
But it takes more than just i2E providing capital and venture services for entrepreneurs. It will take the concerted effort of many to set Oklahoma on a path to compete as an innovation region.
If you are an accredited investor, join an angel group to invest in innovative startups. Oklahoma's SeedStep Angels is the largest and most active group within 400 miles.
If you operate a business in Oklahoma, investigate how you can deploy new technology being developed by savvy entrepreneurs like Danny Maloney. There are many young firms in Oklahoma building interesting technologies that can increase revenues, reduce costs or help modernize your businesses.
If you are already an entrepreneur, recognize that what you are doing and building is part of a larger initiative. Band together with other entrepreneurs to create synergy and make your needs and voices heard.
At i2E, we'll continue the fight for more capital, more startups and more entrepreneurs.
DID YOU KNOW? The tech industry paid an average wage of $86,000 in 2010, 93 percent more than the average private sector wage of $45,000.
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.