One of the best yardsticks of startup impact of i2E’s assistance is the money those young firms have raised. The respondents to this year’s survey (the data reflects 2015 results) reported raising $40.1 million in equity and debt capital and $8.7 million in grants. This in a state that has zero Oklahoma-based seed stage venture capital firms other than i2E.
For venture and economic development organizations like i2E, a key aspect of our responsibility is acceleration. It’s figuring how to find the best athletes, amp up their training, speed up the track, improve the car. We also measure and communicate the metrics of innovation progress over time by distributing an economic impact survey to our entire population of client companies every year. In March, we submitted the 2016 economic impact survey to 153 active clients.
No. 3 on my short list of things that cause startups to fail is not having enough capital. I don’t mean “not having enough capital” in the way you might expect, at least not in the way that I do when I write about the dearth of seed-stage capital. With only about 2 percent of all VC funds going to seed-stage deals in the first place, and most of that in Silicon Valley and to a handful of other areas across the country, there is simply not enough seed capital in play.
The i2E Angel Fund I provides seed-stage capital with professional management and diversification, plus offering the satisfaction of investing in job and wealth creation in Oklahoma. The fund benefits from i2E’s deal flow of quality, well-vetted startups. (The fund’s primary focus is on Oklahoma companies, but to ensure adequate deal flow, the fund may invest outside the state.)
A fast-growing Oklahoma City startup named WeGoLook has established itself as a pioneering crowd-sourcing business trailblazer, creating a market where there literally wasn’t one before.
In the vocabulary of startups, the word “pivot” holds a special significance. When something isn’t working well, isn’t working as expected, or just plain isn’t working at all, the startup pivots from plan A to plan B or C or D.
I get really excited when I see an Oklahoma startup improving the lives of people who have incurable debilitating disease. That’s the story of Progentec Diagnostics, a startup that is focused on developing breakthrough diagnostics. The firm’s initial focus is on developing a diagnostic test to identify patients at increased risk for flare in lupus, an incurable autoimmune disease that afflicts 1.5 million patients in the U.S.
Success always brings more success. Likewise, capital begets capital and deals beget deals. The best way to get more of both is to create more successful startups with products that the market wants to buy.
It’s not always apparent just how significant Oklahoma’s opportunity in life science startup companies is.
When we talk about startups, we tend toward information technology or advanced manufacturing deals. Things move faster in those types of businesses. Solutions are easier to understand. There’s simply more to talk about from week to week.
i2E’s Scott Meacham: In a perfectly efficient world, we would have a set of early indicators that could accurately predict future gazelles.