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I hope that you are healthy and doing well!
I haven’t spoken to many of you since our OVF Awards, and I want to assure you that our incoming Chairman Danny Slusarchuk, our dedicated Board of Directors and the Executive Committee and I, have all been extremely busy determining what is next for OVF.
COVID-19 has obliged us to closely examine OVF’s important role in diversifying Oklahoma’s economy. OVF develops Oklahoma’s economic ecosystem providing quality content, venture investment opportunity, pitch presentation practice, industry specific networking. OVF recognizes the achievements of successful Oklahoma companies. Our members include entrepreneurs, colleges, incubators, accelerators, venture investors, service professionals, and just about every other person who is interested in the advancement of small business in Oklahoma.
Impressive isn’t it?
It truly is impressive when you consider all the things that OVF does to connect, teach, and recognize. OVF offers purposeful networking for leaders of commerce. OVF programs create awareness of business opportunities and trends, and OVF annual awards spotlights outstanding Oklahoma success stories.
The world has changed significantly during the pandemic, and organizations like OVF continue to work towards diversifying Oklahoma's economy. OVF must continue to encourage and identify the importance of entrepreneurship in our state. We cannot do that without you, our members, and friends.
The OVF Board, Executive Committee and sub-committees have been virtually meeting often during the last several weeks looking for the best solution for our 33-year-old economic ecosystem. We could see from the annual surveys that the top three membership values of OVF are quality content in main speakers, investment opportunities in Pitch Presenters, and industry specific networking. With those core values in mind, we coordinated new programming for the 2020-2021 session that will deliver these three valued aspects of OVF to our members and friends safely!
The OVF 2020-2021 Session monthly Power Lunches will be delivered via Zoom. Since you will not be commuting to and parking at the meetings, we will be adding additional networking time. Each event will have three networking breakout sessions with randomly selected groups in each session. This will ensure maximum networking opportunities. Each event will have a Pitch Presentation by a company in a growth stage, and a Main Speaker who will share success experiences, exit stories or other educational subject matter just like our in-person events in the past. These events will also be uploaded to our website for later viewing by members. Our online event programming also allows for three sponsorship opportunities. If you are looking for a great way to introduce your company to OVF members and guests, this is a cost-effective way to say hello!
Your needs and your health are most important to us. We will continue to have virtual events until we can meet in-person safely. When we can meet safely, we will add after-hours networking events in open air locations. Face-to face meetings are important, and with our new programming layout we hope to double the number of after-hours events. If you have locations in mind, please share them with me.
While discussing how to proceed safely, we realized that our new programming would allow for statewide membership expansion. We have wanted to do this for a long time and have not been able to (do so successfully) for a variety of reasons. Virtual meetings have also revealed another opportunity for OVF - with the option of streaming and recorded events we will now be able to offer Incubator and Founder memberships that better suite their needs.
Wouldn't it be an amazing for small businesses, investors, incubators, colleges, and founders from all over Oklahoman to be able to access OVF’s quality content, potential venture investment opportunities, or the opportunity to pitch without driving to OKC? The COVID-19 situation has been disastrous for so many small businesses, founders, and citizens. OVF is very fortunate to have the ability to pivot and ensure our organization will continue to operate in its next 33 years as Oklahoma’s economic ecosystem.
We have also launched our online forum, please subscribe to it and use it to seek out information, share information, or to engage directly with OVF. There are so many (NEW) benefits to OVF membership. I hope that you have time to visit the website and see all of the new tools available to you as an OVF member or friend.
“Stay resilient, maintain the “Oklahoma Standard” and invite a guest to our upcoming membership drive. This will be incredibly important for the success of these new offerings to succeed. So please reach into your network. Find someone who you think would benefit from the many facets of the OVF economic ecosystem and all the new ways we are serving Oklahoma and let’s grow! When OVF grows, your state and local communities grow.”
~2020-2021 Oklahoma Venture Forum Chairman, Danny Slusarchuk
Oklahoma Venture Forum
2020 Most Promising New Business Award Sponsor
The 2020 finalists for Most Promising New Business include: Galvanic Energy and Canopy Weather, LLC. Galvanic Energy addresses economic and technical barriers to create an abundant domestic supply of raw materials for alternative-energy future. Canopy Weather identifies roof condition and damage within 1 hour of hailstorms by using innovation within the data science and AI required to create the original dataset.
Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma
BBB’s mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. We do this by
BBB sees trust as a function of two primary factors – integrity and performance. Integrity includes respect, ethics and intent. Performance speaks to a business’s track record of delivering results in accordance with BBB standards and/or addressing customer concerns in a timely, satisfactory manner
2020 Venture of the Year Award Sponsor
2020 Venture of the Year finalists include: Insights to Behavior and SendaRide. Insights to Behavior is an innovative behavior management company offering an exciting, new technology-based solution for developing behavior interventions for K-12 school districts. SendaRide provides customized non-emergency medical transport for the health care industry through use of an online technology platform.
Mariner Wealth Advisors believes everyone can benefit from professional advice. As your advocate, they help you make informed financial decisions so that you may live a fulfilling life.
At Mariner Wealth Advisors, we don’t just provide you with services, we serve as your partner.
We take the time to get to know you beyond your finances. We want to know your dreams and aspirations, your challenges, your plans and your priorities. We strive to understand your goals so we can create a plan to help you achieve what is important to you. We don’t propose services, we provide solutions.
This approach is an integral part of our firm, rooted in our culture since our founding in 2006 when our CEO, Marty Bicknell, and seven of his colleagues were inspired to launch a new type of firm – one that always puts the client first.
Mariner Wealth Advisors was founded with a vision of helping clients and their families navigate their financial futures. The firm was specifically designed based on client feedback with the aim of solving more issues than a traditional advisory firm. We strive to go beyond finding solutions to problems faced by our clients. Our goal and unique value is in helping you identify potential issues that you may not yet see. We look beyond what is currently visible and try to see what may be around the corner. That’s how we help you.
The firm, built upon this foundation, now has offices nationwide serving a wide range of clients. Regardless of our growth, one thing will never change – the promise that launched this voyage in the first place:
Client first. Associate second. Shareholder last.
You are invited! Please invite a guest!
OVF will host Oklahoma’s 16th Venture of the Year and Most Promising New Business awards ceremony on May 13th, 2020 via Zoom online. Featuring keynote speaker Scott Klososky, Founding Partner with Future Point of View.
Evaluation criteria for the two awards are based on: product or service innovation, market potential, potential economic impact, and more.
2020 Venture of the Year finalists include:Insights to Behavior and SendaRide. Insights to Behavior is an innovative behavior management company offering an exciting, new technology-based solution for developing behavior interventions for K-12 school districts. SendaRide provides customized non-emergency medical transport for the health care industry through use of an online technology platform.
“We are always blown away by the competition and look forward to seeing what new innovations will come next. Historically this event was held biannually but considering Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial growth OVF will now be seeking submissions for these awards each year. Each round of nominations & applications reveals a new group of entrepreneurial pioneers who deserve to be publicly recognized for their achievements.” explains Che’ Loessberg, Executive Director of Oklahoma Venture Forum.
This year’s award event will feature an interactive presentation by special keynote speaker Scott Klososky, Founding Partner of Future Point of View. The 2020 Venture of the Year and Most Promising New Business Awards will be hosted on May 13th, 2020 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The ceremony will take place via Zoom online. Registration for this event must be done online through the website: www.ovf.org.
It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this, but I certainly had no idea my tenure as Chairman of the Oklahoma Venture Forum would be such a wild ride. Thanks Coronavirus! Our unofficial theme was “you CAN do that in Oklahoma” which has proven true each and every day.
We started the 2019-2020 session off in a great way with our membership drive in August of last year in a beautiful loft on Film Row filled with exotic sports cars. I had the honor of introducing my friend, personal hero and true American patriot Major Ed Pulido, US Army (ret.) who spoke with us about creating opportunities from major setbacks. Major Ed (as he is most known) is living proof of overcoming obstacles to become an even better version of yourself. On the 17th of August 2004, Major Pulido hit an Improvised Explosive Device (I.E.D) or roadside bomb while serving in Iraq. Due to the extensive injuries to his left knee, doctors had to amputate his left leg. Major Ed did not let the loss of his leg, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or PTSD from the explosion stop him or even slow him down. In fact, he uses it as motivation every single day. The list of Major Ed’s accomplishments and efforts supporting veterans and military families over the last 15 years is way too long to post here. Major Ed is a shining example of overcoming your darkest days.
The Oklahoma Venture Forum as an organization, our members collectively and each of us individually cannot control the COVID-19 pandemic or the massive impact on our personal and professional lives. But we can react to it. We can work together to create positive outcomes from unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty. We can adapt, collaborate, and marshal our resources to rescue not only our business interest but the economies of our cities, state, and nation. The time for smart, capable, and experienced business leaders working together on solving the problems created by COVID-19 is now. OVF members joining with our local governments, civic and non-profit organizations can and will put us all back on the right path to opportunity and economic freedom.
Last week, we observed the 25th anniversary of the tragic event that occurred in Oklahoma City on April 19th, 2005. The Oklahoma City bombing revealed to the whole world what those of us who live here already knew. We are collectively stronger than anything that tries to destroy us. Many call this the “Oklahoma Standard”. I love that. A terrorist attack, oil bust, dust bowl or pandemic will not stop the people of this state from getting up every morning and doing the work necessary to provide for our families and our neighbors. We do what is right, we do our best and we never give up.
Despite COVID-19, OVF continues to provide information and connection for the Oklahoma business community. In April, we held our first-ever virtual Power Lunch meeting with a presentation via Zoom from COOP Ale Works CEO Daniel Mercer. Attendance online while maintaining social distancing was better than expected, we a great amount of positive feedback. I want to personally thank everyone for participating or watching the video afterward if you could not attend the event in real-time. To end this roller coaster of a session, we will hold our annual Venture of the Year & Most Promising New Business event on May 13th via Zoom as well. All our finalists will be involved, and our winners will deliver acceptance speeches in real-time. Our keynote speaker is internationally renowned futurist Scott Klososky, Founder of Future Point of View. Klososky will be leading an interactive presentation that will fully utilize the online format. We may not be in the same room together, but we will be enlightened, entertained and challenged by Klososky’s presentation.
As I wrap up the 2019-2020 session, I want to give a few shout outs. The first goes to OVF Executive Director Ché Loessberg. She has made my year as Chairman run smoothly as possible and she has worked extra hard the last few months to ensure everyone receives the maximum value of OVF membership. A big shout out to the Venture of the Year & Most Promising New Business award sponsors Mariner Wealth and the Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma. Specifically, Joe Hendrix and Kitt Letcher for continuing to support the VOTY / MPNB event despite all the changes from the traditional format. A great example of working together during tough times. Also, a heartfelt Thank You to the board of directors, executive committee and every member or guest who attended OVF events this year. It has been my honor to work with all of you this session. I cannot wait to do it one more time on May 13th, even if it is from separate locations.
We will end the 2019-2020 session the same way we started, with our unofficial theme of “you CAN do that in Oklahoma” along with a collective can-do attitude, unbridled optimism, and support for anyone who needs it. That is the Oklahoma Standard.
Most Promising New Business Finalists
Venture of the Year Finalists
SendaRide provides customized non-emergency medical transport for the health care industry through use of an online technology platform.
A Future Point of View
Scott Klososky, the keynote speaker for OVF’s 2020 Venture of the Year & Most Promising New Business Awards, is well known in Oklahoma and around the world. He is a technologist, a serial entrepreneur, a writer of books and white papers, an internationally recognized speaker, and a self-proclaimed lover of humanity. But lesser known is the fact that his earliest entrepreneurial experience was knotty at best.
In 1978, while Scott’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio made headlines for a severe blizzard forecast and a Springsteen concert simulcast, Scott had a front row seat to another show: “I was sixteen years old and working for a company called Craft and Flower,” he recalls. “I got to watch the founder’s son start his own company that manufactured macramé boards.”
“I will never forget watching Jeff buy fiber board at the lumberyard, print out some macramé grids, and run it all through a shrink wrap machine.” Scott and a few of his buddies did the manufacturing after school and Jeff sold the boards as fast as they were made.
“By the time I was 18,” recalls Scott, “I knew that it was possible to have an idea or see some hole in the market and just start up something. And I knew I wanted to start something of my own someday.”
At first, Scott’s lumberyard was a delivery route, but that quickly morphed into a computer sales opportunity. He bought the computer company and expanded it into a dozen stores in a trio of states. Along the way he fell in love with technology.
His ventures grew larger. He co-founded ParaGraph, a Soviet/American enterprise that developed pattern recognition tools to automatically translate handwriting into machine readable text. Then, as one of the first entrepreneurs to harness the power of the internet, he founded webcasts.com and later sold it for $115 million. Today Scott is a partner at TriCorps Cybersecurity and a founding partner at Future Point of View. Of the latter he says, “We help organizations gain a two year lead on their competition with the use of technology as a tool.”
But technology as a tool, unlike macramé, will never go out of style. So the entrepreneur with a “Future Point of View” is already considering his greatest venture of all: “The world needs an international body with oversight over the healthy implementation of technology,” says Klososky. “An International Digital Oversight Coalition (DOC) that might look a little like the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and the role it plays internationally with electronic products and safety.”
Do digital tools really wield that much power? To answer that question, Scott points to the malware in the technology products from Huawei. Then there are AIs and their inherent bias. And the ongoing dangers of texting while driving.
“If you think forming a coalition sounds difficult,” he says, “think about some of the other precedents for managing behavior around the world when it falls outside of acceptable norms. The UN monitors how countries treat their own people and their enemies in some cases. We have Amnesty International and the Red Cross, and the list goes on. These organizations were all formed to assure humanity is humane and to resolve conflicts.”
Does Scott look into the future and picture himself as part of an International DOC? “If someone asked for my help,” he says, “I would serve on it. I would build it. I would design it,”
“It would be an end of career thing, to build an international committee to help control technology so that it’s healthier. Whoever helps build it will be doing humanity a big favor.”
Keep Calm And Carry On.
Uncertainty is bad for business. Very bad for business. Sales projections, budgeting, staffing, purchasing, short-term and long-term reinvestment all depend on having as much knowledge and understanding of your industry, audience, market demand and competition as possible. Outside factors are always involved, but often with the least amount of impact. That is, until a national emergency changes everything.
The current COVID-19 health crisis is impacting everyone in Oklahoma, the United States and most of the world. Our doctors, nurses and medical professionals are doing an amazing job of taking this challenge head-on. Local, state and Federal officials are doing what they think is best to gain control of the situation. We can debate their effectiveness, but that’s a whole separate issue. The public is concerned. Leadership is demanded in a time like this.
There is no single “correct” way to deal with a viral infection like COVID-19. That’s why we have so much uncertainty as to if we all (collectively) are doing enough, in the right order to create as safe of a situation as possible. Do too little and the virus gets out of control. Do too much and we strangle businesses, churches, and non-profits to a point of no return. No one benefits from that.
So what can we, Oklahoma business owners and investors, do in an uncertain situation like this with no end date in sight? Adapt, keep calm and carry on (don't forget to wash your hands, stop touching your face).
If your business can operate with remote workers or other alternatives to a full in-house staff, please explore those options. Use technology and common sense to make the necessary changes to limit public interactions and speed up the “flatten the curve” period of COVID-19 management. If you can’t operate in that way, focus on healthy practices for your employees, guest and customers. There are numerous list of actions to take available on your preferred search engine. Be flexible. Your employees are also dealing with changes in their daily lives. Schools are closed, stores are running out of essential supplies and everyone is on edge. Remember, your people are your greatest asset.
When it comes to servicing consumers, the key is to adapt to what’s best for them - not what’s best for you / your business. If your industry is affected by closure, quarantine or other restrictions you cannot keep an “as usual” approach for day-to-day operations. Change your system to what works best in this altered scenario. Create new partnerships, offer in-home or curbside delivery, change business hours if needed, offer discounts or credits to those also impacted, etc.
Put people first, so your business can survive this period of uncertainty. If the interruption to your cash-flow doesn’t kill your business, you can develop long-term relationships and public goodwill that will benefit you far into the future. These are only a few of the hundreds of ways your business can adapt to this uncertain time. Don’t panic, don’t give up and don’t let temporary uncertainty, although completely out of your control for a yet-to-be-determined time period, cripple or kill your business.
Keep Calm And Carry On. Reach out to Oklahoma Venture Forum members for assistance in adapting your business strategy, execution or management during the COVID-19 crisis. After all, we’re in this together and stronger when we collaborate.
Wash your hands, stay home if you don’t feel well and use your common sense. Lead by example. We’ve endured much worse threats many, many times before. The one thing you can be certain of is the good nature of Oklahomans during tough times.
Steven Griggs. Ph.D., combines strong industry experience with academic achievement to provide a unified approach to transitioning high-end academics to real world usage. Griggs has a unique understanding how academics can serve you for the rest of your life. Academically he earned a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in engineering, an MBA specializing in finance and strategy, and a Master of Arts in economics. He also earned a post-doctorate in International Business and Entrepreneurship. Griggs also has more than 30 years of full time aerospace industry experience and seven years of government and industry consulting. He was an adjunct faculty member at OSU teaching Professional MBA courses for seven years and a full-time faculty teaching management and entrepreneurship courses for three years. Griggs joined the management department at UCO in August of 2018.
Griggs’ career mainly has been in the front end of business: basic research and development, technology development, product development, prototyping, proposal writing, funding pursuit, government contracting pursuit and capture, project management, program management, supplier coordination, and just about anything that is required to bring innovation to the customer, while ensuring that our offering has superior value to the customer. He developed the ideas, strategies, plans, program execution plans, development and execution teams, and transition planning into company operations. He reviewed over 800 and coached approximately 200 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) firms that were attempting to sell their technology to the firms he worked for. Griggs held multiple positions in the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Northrop Grumman Advanced Technology Design Center, the Boeing Phantom Works, LTV Advanced Programs, and General Dynamics New Product Development organizations. He was also on multi-company, co-located teams that were developing new aircraft concepts and technologies for future military aircraft. He also coordinated multi-disciplinary supplier community to develop technologies to transition into Lockheed Martin products.
Griggs was on more than 45 aircraft programs, developed and transitioned more than 1500 technologies and reviewed for consideration approximately 4000 technologies for integrating into new products. He held leadership and team member positions in all types of organizational structures, cultures, and “systems.” He also had to lead, work or report to all types of people with various personalities and behaviors.
Diversifying Oklahoma’s economic opportunities
by Dennis Spielman
What started with “poor decisions and lots of circumstances,” COOP Ale Works has grown into a company with a $20 million expansion plan at the former 45th Infantry Armory. Despite feeling like an outsider in the brewing community from not being a brewer himself, Daniel Mercer, CEO of Coop Ale Works, sees positives in his business-focused skill set.
“From day one, back in 2006 when Mark and J.D. and I met, one of my kind of tidbits and inputs was that we had the opportunity, in the research phase, to set a foundation for how we wanted to move forward and how diligent we wanted to be and how we wanted to run this thing,” Mercer said. “We were starting a brewery from scratch in a market that didn ’t have a production brewery outside of brewpubs, which aren’t packaging breweries.”
One of the first challenges the COOP team faced was Oklahoma ’s prohibitive alcohol laws, including 3.2 beer and the lack of availability of beer in grocery and convince stores. They collected data and feedback about what people in Oklahoma were drinking back in 2006. They knew Oklahomans had different tastes than what people were drinking on the coast or what people were drinking internationally. They did beer tastings in the back room of Cheever ’s.
“We were interested in whether there was a receptive audience to craft beer that didn ’t exist at the time,” Mercer explained.
They worked through the summer of 2006, brewing together. They then spent the next two years putting together plans, which included going to dozens of breweries around the United States. They visited with engineers, brewers, and financial people to investigate their methods of success, their histories and then built a strategy to launch COOP in the summer of 2008. They raised the initial capital, found their building, and then spent about six months building out “this little 5,000 square foot metal shack” over at 51st and Western, next to the 51st Street Speakeasy bar. They started brewing beer commercially on January 9th in 2009 and selling on March 3rd, 2009.
Now, the Armory project is going to consume Mercer ’s time over the next couple of years. He believes it will create a massive economic impact in the city and around the State Capitol Complex. However, with COOP ’s proven track record, raising the capital has been a challenge.
“Once you get into the core of it, we ’re taking this brewery model, and we ’re expanding it and adding other new businesses to our model that put us right back in the same boat that we were in 10, 12 years ago,” Mercer explained. “We ’re getting into the hotel business or we ’re getting into this culinary business that involves a taproom in a restaurant and a speakeasy and all these event support spaces that have culinary features and a pool club, bar. Banks have been interested but not receptive to the total deal structure and scale. It ’s a large deal, and when you take a package to a bank that says you ’re going to spend $36 million over 20 months, including the money we ’ve already spent over the past couple of years in development, it becomes a scenario where virtually every bank is casting doubt, and then your solution, there, is to try to find alternative methods to finance your deal.”
Where others may have given up with the challenges Mercer has faced over the past two years - including modernizing a building built in 1938 with no functional plumbing, electrical or heat and air - Mercer looks for solutions from a wide assortment of resources.
“Luckily, I ’ve got some historical background and tax credit work in historic preservation and, at least, exposure to deals like that and even participation and structuring some of those deals long ago,” Mercer said. “Capital can come from anywhere and it does come from everywhere. For us, in this particular deal, we ’re not raising more equity, so that component of the capital stack just doesn ’t exist for us. We have cash on the books that we ’ve been using for development expenses over the past couple of years, and we have a number of other sources of capital in this deal.”
Mercer is excited about the opportunity in Oklahoma, for both investors to bring money in, and also for entrepreneurs to start to drive a focus around their industries.
“We spend a lot of time talking about diversifying industry in Oklahoma, and a lot of that talk is around, either, high-impact or high-level concept industries,” Mercer said. “Whether it ’s biomedical research or autoimmune disease treatment or mechanical devices... things centered around the oil and gas industry that may be new technologies and hardware technologies. But there are also plenty of other industries that just aren ’t near as sexy, frankly. And I think, in Oklahoma in particular, we ’ve done a great job of focusing on our resources that we have. Particularly around the OU Health Science Center, around the oil and gas base that exists here and all the new technologies that have sprung out of that industry over the past, say, 20 years.”
Daniel Mercer will be speaking at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020. He ’s been attending OVF since 2001 and encourages others to become a member because of the “direct exposure to a knowledge base and resources that aren ’t highly-publicized in Oklahoma... and frankly anywhere.”
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