Receive great articles like these right in your inbox each month: SUBSCRIBE NOW
Want to know more about how to subscribe to our RSS feed? CLICK HERE
Nathaniel Harding and James Spann, Jr."The Oklahoma Advantage with SSBCI"
by Dennis Spielman
The State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), a longstanding program, received increased funding through the CARES Act, with allocations directed to each state based on guidelines from the US Treasury. In Oklahoma, these funds were strategically invested in various venture capital funds to nurture the state’s growing venture capital market. Over the past five years, the number of venture capital firms in Oklahoma has multiplied, showcasing the region’s emerging entrepreneurial landscape. The Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) played a pivotal role in distributing SSBCI dollars to several funds, including allocations to Cortado Ventures and Boyd Street Ventures. This initiative reflects a concerted effort to stimulate innovation and economic growth within Oklahoma’s business ecosystem. On December 13, Managing Partners from Cortado Ventures and Boyd Street Ventures will speak to members of the Oklahoma Venture Forum about venture capital in Oklahoma.
After college, Nathaniel Harding embarked on a career in a prominent oil and gas company that later led him to take over and successfully sell the family business. Subsequently, he founded his own oil and gas exploration company, where he adeptly applied technology to innovate within the industry. Alongside his entrepreneurial endeavors, Harding served in the Air Force, deploying to Afghanistan in 2012 and contributing to logistics and geospatial intelligence. Balancing roles as a reservist and an entrepreneur from 2009 to 2017, Harding later diversified into technology investments, laying the groundwork for establishing Cortado Ventures—a testament to his dedication to supporting and investing in innovative ventures.
Cortado Ventures invests in efficient businesses that leverage technology to scale in the Fintech, Biotech, Aerospace, Ag Tech, Energy Tech, Manufacturing, and Logistics sectors. For entrepreneurs looking for an investment, Harding recommends they visit their website at cortado.ventures to see if they would be a good fit. While not widely known, they offer free executive coaching through our partners at Magellan Executive Partners.
“That’s a critical piece, I think, because those early years of forming a company can be lonely,” said Nathaniel Harding, Managing Partner at Cortado Ventures. “A lot of times, you don’t even have a board yet. Or if you do have a board, the board covers a lot of things in terms of governance and strategy, but not a lot of things in terms of professional development.”
James Spann’s career journey reflects a diverse and entrepreneurial spirit, starting with his time as a Navy ROTC graduate from the University of Oklahoma. With nearly seven years in the Marine Corps and subsequent corporate roles, Spann thrived in structured environments but always embraced high-risk challenges, showcasing an entrepreneurial mindset. In 2016, after three decades in corporate America, he recognized an opportunity to address the need for more support for innovative startups emerging from OU. This realization led to the founding of Boyd Street Ventures in 2021, a venture capital firm focused on supporting Oklahoma startups. Spann and co-founder Jeff Moore launched the firm with a mission to build meaningful partnerships, remaining nimble to market opportunities. Their dedication culminated in establishing Fund 1, a $25 million capital fund that propels innovations to new heights in the state. Spann’s journey highlights years of research, collaboration, and hard work, emphasizing his commitment to fostering entrepreneurship in Oklahoma.
“We have a strong commitment to supporting minority, female, and socially economically disabled founders, socioeconomic and disadvantaged founders through our Boyd Street Endowment,” said James Spann, Jr. MBA, Founder and Managing Partner of Boyd Street Ventures. “One of the things that I saw when I was looking at entrepreneurs in Oklahoma, and we had a lot of minority startups that couldn’t get access to capital, so we found that the Boyd Street Endowment Fund. And the Endowment Fund is specifically focused on investing in minority and female founders in the state of Oklahoma.”
One unique aspect about Boyd Street Ventures many people don’t know is they’ve built the venture studio model inside of their fund to help companies to scale, and they provide de-risking strategy and operational guidance for their portfolio companies.
By the time of the upcoming Power Lunch event, Harding said they plan to have launched fund two with 80 million in capital. He plans to share a preview of Cortado Ventures’ focus for 2024 at the event.
“Anybody who wants to invest alongside us or any founders who want to learn how they can pitch our team, then we have a lot of dry powder, as they say in the business,” said Harding. “We have a lot of deployable capital that we’re looking to invest over the next two or three years.”
“We’re looking forward to generating strong returns for our investors over the next several years and doing great things in the state of Oklahoma and for Oklahoma entrepreneurs,” said Spann. “We’re not stopping with Fund 1. We are pushing forward to Fund 2 and going to make a lot of great things happen in Oklahoma.”
“I think most know Oklahoma has some of the lowest tax rates and some of the best tax incentives in the nation in our small state,” said Spann. “And I’ve talked about that as I’ve gone out to the marketplace to try and raise money to educate others about Oklahoma because we have a lot of great things going on in the state. And this SSBCI funding that we receive from venture capital allows us to boast that to the rest of the world. And the state offers companies a low cost of doing business, a low cost of living for employees, tax rebates that reduce tax burdens even further.”
Nathaniel Harding and James Spann will be part of a panel discussion at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, December 13, 2023. Attendees can expect to gain invaluable insights into the impact of SSBCI funds on fostering innovation, promoting economic development, and nurturing innovative technologies in Oklahoma. The event will be open to members and guests in person at Metro Tech Spring Lake Campus (1900 Springlake Drive in Oklahoma City) and online via ZOOM.
“OVF is a great place to regularly network with other investors of different stages and sectors, but also innovators, people who support ecosystem builders, people who support developing this market for entrepreneurs,” said Harding. “So, really, it’s the best place to have those intersections between all three.”
Register to attend the December 13th OVF Power Lunch
As we lean into the final quarter of the year and continue to celebrate holidays with friends, families, and colleagues, I am thinking about the gift of quality relationships. Oklahoma is unique in that many of our circles not only overlap, but they go deep – especially here in the OVF community. I don’t think I could count the number of times that I have called someone in the ecosystem and asked for help for myself or an incubator client where I did not receive an abundance of resources or connections. During GEW, I had the opportunity to represent OVF on a VC panel. One of the takeaways from the conversation is how important it is to be present and systematic with the seeds we plant today so that we get to see how they blossom, are harvested and sown again throughout our careers and lifetime. As we nurture our relationships, we are able to advocate for each other and to give back. OVF power lunches provide an avenue to grow those relationships and be exposed to new companies, technology, and information through intentional programming. When you register, you can even let us know a type of resource or the name of someone you need to connect with and our membership committee will facilitate an introduction. How cool is that?
On December 13 at MetroTech Springlake we will host Part 2 of the SSCBI funding panels where we will hear from Boyd Street Ventures and Cortado Ventures as part of the Oklahoma Venture Capital Investment Program facilitated by OCAST. This builds on what we learned in October when we heard from FortySix Venture Capital, the Oklahoma Life Science Fund, and TEDC Creative Capital which represents the Oklahoma Business Lending Partnership Program.
The Oklahoma Venture Capital Investment program is set to strengthen the state’s economy and incentivize the growth of private venture capital in Oklahoma by investing nearly $49 million of SSBCI dollars in Oklahoma based venture funds. The Oklahoma Business Lending Partnership Program will provide up to $32.7 million in nondilutive loans through CDFIs and local banks. How amazing that these funds allocated to Oklahoma will remain in Oklahoma – and even more incredible is that they are inclusive. These funds touch several different industry verticals and are intentionally positioned to fund socially and economically disadvantaged individuals (SEDI)-owned businesses and very small businesses (VSB) that have 10 employees or less. The cherry on top is the people distributing those funds and delivering technical assistance are all part of the OVF community and dedicated to Oklahoma’s growth. It is a gift to be your chair. I hope I can count on your presence on December 13th as one the presents I receive this holiday season!
Daniel Johnson, Director of Innovation
Daniel Johnson serves as the Director of Innovation at Startup 405, Cleveland County’s only business incubator certified by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce that aims to help startup companies grow, prosper, and develop within the state of Oklahoma by providing a supportive environment and access to tools, resources, and technical assistance through tailored programming.
Daniel previously served as the Director of Operations at the Norman Economic Development Coalition for the past 3 years. In his role, he managed the organization's physical and digital assets, providing daily operational support for NEDC's business operations and facility management, most recently managing and overseeing the renovation of the Commerce Building in Downtown Norman that is home to the Norman Economic Development Coalition, Norman Chamber of Commerce and Visit Norman.
He holds a B.B.A. from Mid-America Christian University, where he graduated Cum Laude and made the President and Deans Honor Roll.
He has been married to his wife, Carly, for 6 years and raising sons Woodley (15) and Bauer (2).
J.W. Peters, President & Co-FounderSolar Power of Oklahoma
J.W. Peters is the president and cofounder of Solar Power of Oklahoma. J.W. is an experienced business owner, solar advocate, and leader in renewables in Oklahoma. Driven by his passion for renewable energy, he takes pride in educating Oklahomans on the benefits of solar and the true expected benefits. He has spent the past 7 years building a company that provides the absolute best customer experience for their prospective and current customers. J.W. leads by example, including his time spent installing solar on hot Oklahoma summer roofs in the early years of the company. J.W. is an active member of his community. He is currently serving as the president of the Oklahoma Solar Association as well as a board member for the Oklahoma Renewable Energy Council. As a proud alumnus of Salt and Light Leadership Training Class 2, LOKC Class 30, and LOK Class 22, J.W. gives numerous talks throughout the year across the state about the importance of solar energy, energy diversity, and how municipalities, private businesses, and tribal governments can harness the power of the sun!
J.W. Peters is a true Solar Energy Pioneer in Oklahoma.
As we step into the vibrancy of fall in Oklahoma, I find myself reflecting on the spirit of entrepreneurship that defines our great state. This season, like entrepreneurship, is a time of transformation and growth. There are application deadlines, funding activities, final sprints, end of year checklists and yet, despite all the chaos, autumn seems to usher in a season of gratitude and togetherness. The (hopefully) crisp air will arrive with a burst of vibrant colors as people begin making holiday plans, talk will turn to favorite foods, possibly elections, honoring veterans, and in this community…. Global Entrepreneurship Week. The 2023 campaign “Entrepreneurs Thrive Here” could not be more apt regarding Oklahoma – because I truly believe that as we collaborate and come together, we can all thrive together, and OVF is a great place to begin!
Global Entrepreneurship Week is a movement to celebrate and empower entrepreneurs in every country and community around the world – especially those who face structural barriers or may have never considered the idea of launching a startup. Each November 10 million people take part in tens of thousands of activities, competitions and events that inspire them to act and provide them with the knowledge, experience, and connections they need to succeed. It envisions one entrepreneurial ecosystem open to all, including smaller cities in emerging economies and under-represented communities, whether systemically marginalized, geographically hard-to-reach or otherwise pushed aside or left out. While GEW only takes place one week each year (Nov 13-19), the connections made are long-lasting. There are activities across Oklahoma, and I encourage you to attend as many events as you can. OVF is proud to participate in this effort to grow our ecosystem and connect our members to other ecosystem builders across the state.
So, as the days grow shorter, let us seize the opportunities this season offers. I encourage you to participate in the array of fall activities across Oklahoma. Whether you're visiting a pumpkin patch, attending a networking event, or attending Bedlam, this season presents a chance to connect with your fellow entrepreneurs, share your experiences, and celebrate our collective success.
Be on the lookout for your chance to nominate your favorite ventures and efforts for the 2024 OVF Awards. There will be a final push for sponsorship as we execute plans to honor the awesome individuals and organizations touched by our membership. You might also start seeing more activity from our committees – don’t be shy, let us know if you want to join one of them. This fall, as the leaves fall and new ideas rise, let us embrace the beauty of change and growth and take advantage of all the ways expand your connections within OVF.
Happy Fall, y’all!
Register to attend November 8th Power Lunch
Kevin Spaeth, PresidentTrinity Power and Renewable Resources
Kevin Spaeth has been in the commercial air conditioning business for over 45 years as a contractor, consultant, and industry leader. He has served as President for Spaeth Inc. for 35 of those years installing, designing, and serving commercial air conditioning, chillers, boilers, and controls. He was the National Systems Integrator for TCS Basys Controls designing systems and consulted on hardware and software designs for energy management projects.
In 2016, he became involved in a solar powered air conditioner with an optional backup generator. He and his wife Robin bought the intellectual property of the company including the patented product. He then wrote three additional patents for energy saving devices and building design. He and Robin then started Trinity Power and Renewable Resources, a company designed to sell products and services to help companies save energy.
Their byline is “We spend our Energy Saving Yours.”
Barry Day, Executive DirectorOklahoma Clean Technology Association
Cleantech is more than clean energy. An interview with Barry Day.
Barry Day’s journey reflects his adaptability, entrepreneurial spirit, and passion for knowledge. Starting as a fracking engineer in the oil fields during the late nineties, he eventually moved into plastics manufacturing, then transitioned to research in the printed circuit board industry. He earned his MBA with a double major in marketing and entrepreneurship. Subsequently, Barry worked for a biotech startup, a Korean oil and chemical company, and gained extensive experience in technology scouting, investment, and mergers and acquisitions in the clean technology sector. He also contributed to the Cleantech Open and launched the Oklahoma Clean Technology Association, demonstrating his dedication to promoting innovation and sustainability in various industries.
Day founded The Oklahoma Clean Technology Association to promote awareness and knowledge of what clean technology is and promote entrepreneurship in clean technology. Day thought he would get pushback against clean technology when he moved to Oklahoma because of the politics involved. However, he’s learned Oklahomans, whether they’re liberal or conservative, they’re not against helping the environment - they just don’t want to be forced to by the government.
“I believe that in entrepreneurship, the free market will push the right goals,” said Barry Day, Founder and Managing Director of Oklahoma Clean Technology Association. “And with the new technologies, that’s what will save us, not government intervention. We’ve seen this in the economy, where most of our clean energy and technology advancements have come from the private sector, not government mandates. It was really important to me to make sure that people knew this was apolitical and that it’s also something we focus on in the entrepreneurial sector, the free market.”
Day is working on inspiring people to create new technologies, including big ideas and game changers, instead of incremental improvements. To accomplish this mission, the Oklahoma Clean Technology Association has a twofold, two-pronged approach. The first is to spread awareness of clean technology and the eight pillars of Cleantech.
“Oklahomans always associate clean tech with clean energy, but there’s so much more than just energy,” said Day. “It’s actually all kinds of different fields, subjects, and topics, including batteries, energy efficiency, energy storage, air quality, water tech, and agricultural technologies.”
For the second approach, Day is helping companies in their entrepreneurial journey. As an investor, Day found that clean technology tends to be the least profitable of all the verticals, but he believes it’s also the most important and that we must find ways to make profitable technologies that are good for businesses. The Oklahoma Clean Technology Association hosts quarterly events to help the community network, with speakers sharing information about clean technology and their journey, either as a startup, an expert in the field, or an investor.
“I found that there are several clean technology experts scattered throughout the state, but there’s no one single community where everyone can get together and discuss clean technology,” said Day.
One Oklahoma-based game-changing company Day is excited about is Utopia Plastix and its plant-based biodegradable polymer that doesn’t use oil. Another company to watch out for is Sci-Lume Labs, which develops biodegradable nylon for fishing lines and clothing. As Day encourages entrepreneurs to think big and aim for game-changing ideas that can revolutionize the world, he believes the Oklahoma Venture Forum is a great platform for connecting with knowledgeable individuals in the entrepreneurial community and fostering collaboration.
“There’s a lot of ways to come up with new technologies that are game changers if they think big and if they connect to the right people,” said Day.
Barry Day will speak at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, November 8, 2023. The event will be open to members and guests in person at Metro Tech Spring Lake Campus (1900 Springlake Drive in Oklahoma City) and via ZOOM. For his presentation, Day wants to help people develop big, game-changing ideas that will revolutionize the world.
“We’ve seen a lot of smaller technologies, incremental technologies,” said Day. “I’ve seen a lot of coffee shops and lifestyle companies, small businesses. I want to get people to start thinking huge picture the unicorns, how they can become the next Microsoft or Apple, and particularly how they can change the world with environmentally safe technologies.”
Shannon Carr, Communications Directori2E, Inc.
Shannon Carr is an accomplished marketing and communications leader with over 15 years of experience producing effective strategies and impactful campaigns. With a diverse background spanning the nonprofit, healthcare, advertising, and manufacturing industries, Shannon brings a wealth of expertise to her role as Communications Director at i2E, a nonprofit organization helping startups and entrepreneurs build, launch and grow great ideas into high growth ventures.
Dedicated to keeping up with industry trends and the dynamic marketing landscape, Shannon creates innovative, mission-aligned strategies that drive tangible results for both i2E and its subsidiary Plains Ventures. She has a passion for building meaningful connections, leading successful teams, and turning complex ideas into compelling stories that resonate with diverse audiences.
Shannon graduated from Southern Nazarene University with a degree in Marketing. She is an active member of the Oklahoma City Chapter of the American Marketing Association, where she served as president for two years. Recently, Shannon was named one of 405 Business magazine’s The Metro’s Most Influential.
Kate Sullivan, Intellectual Property Attorney/FounderBlack Dog Law
Introducing Kate Sullivan, a highly accomplished professional in the fields of Intellectual Property and Business Law. Graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Science and Business from Oklahoma State University, Kate continued her educational journey, earning a Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa College of Law, along with an Oklahoma Legal License and Patent Practitioner Registration from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
In 2018, Kate founded Black Dog Law, a dynamic legal firm specializing in Intellectual Property and Business Law. Her mission is to ensure that individuals from all backgrounds have access to legal expertise and strategic guidance. The unique name, Black Dog Law, pays homage to Kate's deep-rooted love for animal rescue and the dogs that have touched her life.
Kate is not just a legal practitioner; she is a passionate advocate for helping businesses thrive and ideas flourish. By bridging the gap between legal counsel and business strategy, Kate empowers entrepreneurs, innovators, and dreamers to transform their creative visions into successful ventures. With an unwavering commitment to both the legal profession and making a positive impact, Kate is your trusted partner in achieving your business goals and protecting your intellectual property. Reach out to Kate today to embark on a journey toward realizing your dreams and safeguarding your innovations.
Dollars from the State Small Business Credit Initiative are allowing a whole new cohort of institutional investors, angel investors, and high-net-worth individuals in Oklahoma to dip their toe in venture capital. Over 40 million dollars have been allocated to groups like 46Venture Capital, OLSF Ventures, and TEDC Creative Capital, to invest in businesses.
Tracy Poole’s journey into entrepreneurship began as a transactional lawyer, spending 30 years working with law firms and corporations. His early investments in disruptive technologies within the energy sector while at Williams Energy Marketing and Trading ignited his passion for startups. After leaving Williams, he continued his entrepreneurial endeavors, eventually forming 46 Venture Capital.
Before his time with OLSF Ventures, Sean Templemore-Finlayson worked for Jefferies Group LLC in the Energy Group, focusing on public mergers and acquisitions. While at Jefferies, Sean worked on $3 billion in successful deals. After his time with Jefferies, Sean co-founded a London-based financial intermediary focused on direct investment in startup companies. After building the firm’s revenue, product offerings, and client base, Sean moved on to OLSF Ventures.
Rose Washington-Jones’s career path started in banking and finance at Mississippi State University and Trustmark National Bank. Her journey took her into higher education at Jackson State University and later to Los Angeles, where she worked at the University of Southern California in community and government relations. After the events of 9/11, she moved to Tulsa and has since led TEDC, focusing on fostering economic development through supporting startups and growing businesses. “What the SSBCI funds did for every state, including Oklahoma, is they incentivized the funds that are there to actually take a deep hard look and try hard to find the great deals that are local,” said Sean Templemore-Finlayson, Vice President of OLSF Ventures. “There’s definitely a lot of qualification screening stuff we have to do, but in terms of the actual dollars that they can use and how they use them and what it means for the business, it’s an unbelievable opportunity.”
“SSBCI has been a really good catalyst to get things done and make sure that teams in Oklahoma are getting funded for those things that we feel are strategic for the state,” said Tracey Poole, Managing Partner for 46Venture Capital.
While there are two branches of funds within the program, one for venture investments and one for lending, TEDC Creative Capital operates as a lender, distinguishing itself from venture capitalists by not seeking ownership in the companies it supports.
“However, someone who has received venture backing from SSBCI can also qualify for loan funds,” said Rose Washington-Jones, CEO and Executive Director of TEDC Creative Capital. “Many times, companies can’t get all the funding from a bank or venture firm, and we’re here to fill that gap.
This funding aims to support high-growth businesses in specific sectors such as life sciences, energy tech, and aerospace. Poole emphasized that venture capital suits businesses with significant growth potential and a focus on disruptive technologies. Washington-Jones added that SSBCI funding isn’t limited to large healthcare or aerospace industries. Rather, it caters to a variety of businesses based on their alignment with the priority sectors or supply chain relationships with them.
Tracey Poole, Sean Templemore-Finlayson, and Rose Washington-Jones will be part of a panel discussion at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, October 11, 2023. Attendees can expect to gain invaluable insights into the impact of SSBCI funds on fostering innovation, promoting economic development, and nurturing innovative technologies in Oklahoma. With the state’s venture capital ecosystem evolving remarkably, this panel discussion promises to be an essential event for entrepreneurs, investors, and anyone interested in the future of the state’s economy. The event will be open to members and guests in person at 36 Degrees North (36 E. Cameron Street in Tulsa) and via ZOOM.
“Now is one of the best times to be raising capital in Oklahoma period,” said Templemore-Finlayson. “And by coming to the panel, you get to see who got SSBCI dollars, and so who’s able to write some of those checks.”
While entrepreneurs may not need funding right now, Washington-Jones said understanding all the resources available when trying to launch or grow a company will be worth their time. They may need these services in a month or two or next year.
“If you don’t go, you won’t know,” said Poole. “People need to get involved in this ecosystem to understand the upside and the upside’
Attend the OVF Power Lunch
HomeMembershipCurrent MembersPitch PresentersEvents
Call or Email Us
Office: +1 (405) 604-4775
PO Box 1701
Oklahoma City , OK, 73101