I have a story. It’s the story of a handful of college students with remarkable focus and tenacity, a spin-out technology from OSU, and $520,000 in Oklahoma-raised seed stage capital.
This story sounds like something that a public relations firm might dream up to drive home a message about Oklahoma having everything that an entrepreneur needs to successfully start a company here.
Except that there’s not a drop of spin to the story of Roll-2-Roll Technologies.
The story begins just last spring when Aravind Seshadri, then a graduate student at OSU and now Roll-2-Roll co-founder and president, and his teammates took second place at the 2013 Governor’s Cup, earned top ranking in the OSU Riata Business Plan Competition, and went on to win first place at the 2013 Tri-State competition.
The awards came with money — more than $60,000, in fact.
“From our side, we said we are going to do this. We are going to put in our resources and see what we can accomplish,” said Seshadri. “It’s all about commitment, and we stuck with it.”
The Roll-2-Roll team enrolled in i2E’s 10-week Proof of Concept Center program to validate the market for their product, a device designed to reduce manufacturing waste, and performed intense market research, which included contacting more than 100 companies worldwide. Then, they reworked their business plan.
“Basically, we were a student team,” he said. “There was no way I would have thought that we would be able to go and raise $500,000. Everyone was open and willing to give us a chance. We convinced people that we were serious when we put in the money from the business plan competition and added some of our own personal funds.”
After getting to know the Roll-2-Roll team and seeing the results of the POCC work, i2E approved an investment from the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund. Cowboy Technologies and SeedStep Angels joined in the investment.
We could draw many morals from this story of entrepreneurship—innovation, persistence, and hard work—but the moral for Oklahoma is the power of leverage.
Aravind and his team put their time and effort into three business plan competitions and the 10-week POCC program. They leveraged that experience and their award money to attract an investment from the Seed Capital Fund.
OSU added to the leverage through licensing the technology. That commitment leveraged additional investment from angels and Cowboy Technologies.
Last week, I wrote about how the state’s investment in OCAST produces leverage of more than 20:1.
The story of Roll-2-Roll isn’t complete. The company has a lot yet to do to move from prototype to revenue. But their progress shows that same kind of leverage in action.
Oklahoma has the fulcrum and a long enough pole. We don’t need to move the earth—just the needle of Oklahoma entrepreneurship.
We have the innovation, the talent, and sources of capital to produce happy endings if we stay committed.
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?
Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund clients have raised $53.3 million in private equity funding since its inception.