Last week, i2E co-hosted a luncheon at the Colcord Hotel that featured Brad Feld, a nationally recognized entrepreneur, early-stage investor and author. Feld spoke to several dozen Oklahomans who are active in our state's innovation economy. I liked him and his message.
Feld was in Oklahoma City as the keynote speaker at the seventh annual InnoTech Oklahoma, a conference for our region's top business and technology professionals.
With a focus on early-stage software, Feld has invested in or served on the boards of such notable companies as Feedburner (acquired by Google), Abuzz (acquired by The New York Times), Cyanea and DataPower (acquired by IBM) and Zynga.
Feld talked about the ingredients for thriving startup communities: leadership by entrepreneurs, a long-term view of success, and an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Whenever there's a meeting such as this, we are reminded how important it is to create opportunities to learn from experts, investors and serial entrepreneurs from around the country and how important critical mass is to entrepreneurs. Listening to Feld and others such as him underscores the challenge and enormity of building an innovation economy.
However, we're also reminded of how Oklahoma's entrepreneurial ecosystem is starting to coalesce.
No doubt we need more venture capital here and more seed money. We could use more mentoring, more science and math graduates and increased technology transfer from Oklahoma's excellent universities and research entities.
And yet, we've come a long way. Hundreds of active entrepreneurs are starting businesses all over the state. Organizations such as luncheon co-host Blueprint for Business (BP4B) and VentureSpur provide accelerator programs and access to capital.
In Tulsa, organizations such as The Forge and the Fab Lab are providing entrepreneurs with important early-stage support. And SeedStep Angels is the largest angel investor group within a 400-mile radius of Oklahoma City.
Collaborations among Oklahoma entrepreneurs and economic development organizations are pushing us closer to that critical mass necessary for a thriving startup community. Many key people were there to hear Feld. And the timing is perfect.
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?
i2E has nearly $40 million of risk capital under management, with about $17 million available for future investments in Oklahoma high-growth companies.