February 19, 2007
For technology entrepreneurs, finding start-up money is often a catch-22. To attract capital, they need a product and a management team, but without capital, they don’t have the resources to develop those key elements.
The Technology Ventures Summit, scheduled for Feb. 20-21 in Tulsa, is designed to both educate entrepreneurs and help them connect with “angel investors.”
The summit, to be held at Tulsa’s Downtown Doubletree Hotel, is co-sponsored by the Oklahoma Capital Investment Board and Oklahoma Equity Partners.
Day one is an entrepreneur workshop titled “Roadmap from Technology to Commercialization,” developed by the National Science Foundation. The presentation helps entrepreneurs map out how to commercialize their ideas and technologies, and is followed by a reception for all summit attendees.
“Day one is going to do a good job of helping entrepreneurs evaluate their technology, try to determine whether they actually have a marketable product, what their market should be, what their milestones should be, and the different avenues they can take in trying to get their company funded,” said Devon Sauzek, president of the Oklahoma Capital Investment Board.
On the second day, 12 entrepreneurs will present their ideas to an audience of potential investors with hopes that a match can be made that would help them take their concept into the marketplace.
The angel investor network is crucial to the progress of many early-stage companies, said David Humphrey, president of Oklahoma Equity Partners.
While many people begin with their own resources, or with help from friends and family, finding long-term funding can be challenging, Humphrey said, especially since many venture capital firms have shifted away from funding seed-stage companies in favor of later-stage deals.
“The gap between friends and family money and venture capital money has widened, and these angels have an even more important role to fill in providing funding for these early stage companies,” Humphrey said.
The 12 companies chosen to present were selected from 28 applicants, who were judged on their four-page executive summary. The selected companies were provided mentors, and will have 10 minutes to present a financing proposal to the audience.
P.J. Bennett, president of ActionCam, one of the companies showcased, said the summit also gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to network with, and learn from, their colleagues.
“Networking really draws out all the different opportunities, but it also builds up that kind of team approach where, as you get to know other entrepreneurs, you get to know their investors, and will be able to network that group,” Bennett said.
David Orme, president of Sol, another presenting company, said this networking is important for entrepreneurs who may be in unfamiliar territory.
“We’ve learned something from every business we’ve had a relationship with,” Orme said. “The opportunity to see what other people are doing and share our ideas with them is a good growing experience for us.”
Most entrepreneurs understand they need money, Humphrey said, but they may not understand how much it will take to be successful. He hopes the summit will provide practical guidance on developing a technology-based business and turning an idea into a viable opportunity.
“I’m hoping they will come away with a greater understanding of what it’s going to take for their business to succeed and that they’ll have a greater understanding of all the elements that have to come together – hiring the right people, attracting capital and continuing the development of their product,” he said.
Several Oklahoma universities and research institutions also are participating in the summit, with a forum on the second day, in which they discuss their strengths and how they can compete on a global level, Sauzek said.
Oklahoma universities are playing a more active role in developing an entrepreneurial spirit in their students, said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
“We recognized a few years ago that we’re graduating a lot of highly skilled people in Oklahoma with upper degrees, and they were having to leave the state to find work,” Cornett said. “I think what you’ve seen is the ascension from the presidents’ offices at the universities to look harder at how they can be on the job creation part of it. As opposed to just creating talent, how do they create the entrepreneurs?”