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2020-2021 OVF Chairman
Danny Slusarchuk, CEO, Standards IT
Oklahoma Venture Forum for me personally has lived up to the hype. Being a part of an economic and entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the membership and depth OVF carries, has offered my young company tremendous value. Relationships with members of OVF brought me to the Francis Tuttle Business Incubator program. It has allowed me to interact and sign up for services from companies like Resolution Legal Group and Insperity. OVF offered up talent from OU, OSU, and Moore Norman Technology. It surrounded me and my business with leading edge organizations like the Golding Group and Insurica providing invaluable insights.
This organization provides Entrepreneurship support, connects the dots for State and Local services, meaningful exclusive networking, funding opportunities, professional service providers, and lifelong relationships. OVF has continued to foster new and existing small business ventures since 1987. It’s where you go to start, grow, exit, learn, invest, and give back. Oklahoma needs organizations that rally the kind of people that make up OVF if it is going to truly diversify and accelerate economic growth.
2020 was an intense year for everyone, OVF included, however OVF was able to convert monthly events to a digital format complete with main speakers, pitch presentations, and networking breakouts, very similar to normal in-person events. The product has been successful in allowing OVF to expand statewide allowing access to the many new members who are outside the OKC Metro. This puts us one step closer to making Oklahoma a greater entrepreneurial hub.
Having the opportunity to Chair OVF has been a delight. I can’t say enough about how hard the Executive Committee works and how important the Board of Directors is to make it all possible. I would be remis if I didn’t mention that the single most impressive part of OVF is Ché Loessberg’s ability to will her way through the multitude of challenges faced by a non-profit. Executive Directors are special people and she is among the very best.
Danny J. Slusarchuk
ATTEND OVF AWARDS
OVF Awards Keynote Speaker: Sean Kouplen, Growing Business in Oklahoma
Written by Dennis Spielman
For over two years, Sean Kouplen was the Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development under Governor Kevin Stitt. Under this position, Kouplen was in charge of economic development for Oklahoma, which involved bringing new businesses and helping the existing businesses grow. During his tenure, he brought in 100 new companies.
“We had some really high profile recruitment efforts,” said Sean Kouplen. “You may have seen the Tesla effort. I led that effort and initially recruited them here.”
Although in the end, Tesla went to Austin, Texas, Kouplen learned Oklahoma could compete in the electric vehicle manufacturing world. He began to market to electric vehicle manufacturers and said there are “some big, big, big ones that are looking at this state now.”
While recruitment efforts were one aspect of Kouplen’s job, he learned Oklahoma’s major companies were founded and grew here, and so he began asking, “What programs can we use to help our businesses grow?” One of the projects Kouplen put together was a venture capital advisory council, which includes people like Rick Nagel with Acorn Group and Erica Lucas with Thunder LaunchPad, to name a few. They would put together monthly investment calls, where they would feature companies and have investors calling in.
One of the surprising facts Kouplen learned as Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development was that Oklahoma could compete with anybody on a global scale in business.
“We are a very low-cost state. We have excellent educational institutions, excellent training,” said Kouplen. “We have excellent incentives for businesses that are either growing or wanting to move into the state. We’ve got a great location, great abundant natural resources, very flat organizational structure. I could get a company that was going to bring a hundred jobs to Oklahoma, in to visit with the governor in a matter of days. And you go to Texas, and they wouldn’t even talk to you if you don’t have a thousand jobs. And so I think that was a tremendous advantage.”
Kouplen believes one of the challenges the state faces in helping businesses is getting the word out about the available resources. He’s worked to centralize all those in one place at okcommerce.gov. The website features both incentive and non-cash programs to help entrepreneurs. Some of the tools for entrepreneurs in Oklahoma Kouplen mentioned include 36 Degrees North, Love’s Innovation Group, Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, and Thunder LaunchPad.
“I visited with a company in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, in my banking role, and they are expanding, building a big building. And they mentioned having a manufacturing plant in California, where they were very frustrated,” said Kouplen. “I laid out some of the things that the state could do to help them relocate to Oklahoma, and they had no idea. And I think they’re going to move hundreds of jobs here based upon one conversation. So that’s what I’m saying, in my opinion, we have the ingredients. We just have to continue doing a better job of packaging those and getting the word out through avenues like this.”
Sean Kouplen will be the featured keynote speaker for Oklahoma Venture Forum Annual Award Event on Wednesday, May 12th, 2021. Kouplen said he is excited to come to speak to Oklahoma Venture Forum about what he’s learned and what he sees in Oklahoma’s future.
The 2021 OVF Awards will be a hybrid ceremony hosted online on May 12th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The live ceremony will be held at the OU Health Science PHF Conference Center. The live portion of the event is open to OVF members and sponsors, with limited capacity. Guests are asked to view the event online via Zoom. Please register online through the website: www.ovf.org to receive the Zoom link and please invite a guest. For inquiries about the awards event, please contact Che’ Loessberg at email@example.com.
Written by Henry Dumas
Business Coach, Moore Norman Technology Center
An elevator pitch is a conversation, or an ice breaker, that will (hopefully) lead into a deeper dialogue about what you and your company can offer. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20-30 seconds—hence the name—and focuses on what are you doing now. It should be simple enough that someone could reel it off at any time—and memorable enough that people will listen. To improve, or create, an elevator speech follow these tips:
• Answer the right question. The typical starting point for giving your elevator pitch is the question, “What do you do?” Don’t answer that question, at least not directly. Instead, assume you have been asked the question “Tell me what you do for your customers.” That’s what they really want to know, and it’s the best way to show what you do, vs. describing how you do it.
• Be conversational. The goal is not to talk at someone but with someone. Pause after the first few sentences for the other person to comment or ask questions. A successful pitch is where the other person relaxes and says, “Interesting. Tell me more.”
• Use simple, everyday language. The goal is to have the listener understand your company. Avoid jargon and industry-specific terms. A good exercise when you think you have the perfect elevator speech is to re-read and cross out every word that sounds remotely like a buzz word and replace it with a more simple, direct word.
• Start with an introduction of the company and then talk about what it can mean for the listener. Avoid starting the conversation with bragging points or product features -- “We are the leading provider with 54 offices in 29 countries.” Reserve that information for the end of the elevator speech, after the customer is interested in the conversation.
• Provide relevant examples. Have at least two or three different examples of a current or past customers and what you achieved for them in quantifiable terms. Choose one example that would be the most meaningful to the listener. This will bring your value proposition to life and make it real.
• Practice, practice and then practice some more. Test it on someone who is not intimate with the company and will give your honest feedback. Remember the goal is to make someone else understand your company.
• Make eye contact, smile, be energetic and be engaged. Pull them in with your words, as well as your physical reaction and emotions as you tell your story. (This is where practice pays off.)
• Follow the golden rule. An easy way to test your elevator speech is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Would you enjoy talking to someone if they used the same approach about a different company, or would you push the button for the closest floor? Better yet, recall when this has happened to you and be determined not to repeat the same mistake.
• Make your elevator speech evolve. Modify the speech based on feedback, verbal and nonverbal, and engagement. If the listener’s eyes glaze over or they walk away, your elevator speech needs work. Evaluate if it was the introduction, explanation, example or delivery and continue to modify your speech. You will see and feel it when your customer is engaged and know that you have created a great elevator speech.
ATTEND The April Power Lunch
Otos Wealth Systems
Robert W Gay founded RWG Investment Counsel in 2013 to provide investor clients with access to the superior investment returns created from proprietary corporate performance metrics. Identifying changes in company fundamentals related to growth, financial condition, cash flow and investing is the key to stock performance.
Bob created the OTOS team in 2013 to create an opportunity for people to gain access to the tremendous investment value of keeping up with company fundamentals. By aggregating into portfolios associated with mutual funds, exchange traded funds and private accounts, these metrics can be deployed to make asset allocation, mutual fund selection and ETF selection decisions.
The OTOS development team is creating a whole new realm of financial management. Through the dynamic visualization of the historical company data record, investors create strategies and play what-if games in the stock market. Experience, education and insight gleaned from this game-play empower people to take more control of their investments.
Managing Partner, Cortado Ventures
Cortado Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm investing in ambitious growth-driven companies to define a new generation of economic prosperity in Oklahoma.
We exist to build a legacy of great technology companies that will add to Oklahoma’s economic renaissance. The companies we invest in on Day 1 will look very different on Day 2. We believe in investing in smart and ambitious entrepreneurs who leverage technology to scale quickly. We target specific industries based on Oklahoma's historical strengths, including Insurtech, Fintech, Biotech, Aerospace, Ag Tech, Medical Devices, Energy Tech, and Weather.
We believe Cortado Ventures is ideally positioned to help entrepreneurs create shared wins. Our greatest strength is our seasoned CEO leadership with each member of the General Partner having successfully led innovative companies through transformation.
Nathaniel Harding is Managing Partner of Cortado Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm investing in growth-driven technology companies. He is also Board Member for Antioch Energy. He is an accomplished senior executive, entrepreneur, technologist, thought leader, and community advocate. Nathaniel was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and a Most Admired CEO in Oklahoma by the Journal Record. Previously, he and his partner developed a midcontinent resource play which they sold in 2013 for $120M. His broad areas of expertise include operational strategy, financial modeling, statistical analysis, leveraging big data, connecting science with commercial strategy, energy, fundraising, and public speaking.
Nathaniel graduated cum laude from the University of Oklahoma with Russian Language and Mechanical Engineering degrees, and earned an MBA from Oklahoma City University. Before turning 30, he was selected to all three “40 under 40” outstanding achiever lists in the state. He is a decorated Air Force Captain and veteran of Afghanistan, where he was embedded with the US/NATO headquarters in collaboration with the Afghan government. Nathaniel has published in multiple industry publications in the US and China, the latter as part of his Beijing-based joint venture with major Chinese companies.
Throughout his career, Nathaniel has collaborated across diverse community networks to solve local challenges. The Governor appointed him Chair of the Council on Workforce and Economic Development, managing $20M/year to train and connect the most vulnerable Oklahomans to employment. In 2010 the Mayor appointed Nathaniel to oversee $777M in city infrastructure and quality-of-life projects. He is a trustee for several organizations impacting education, economic opportunity, health and social equity, in addition to mentoring students in STEM fields. He has been a Miss Oklahoma judge, track national champion, Russian orphanage translator, political party National Vice Chairman, and local TV talk show host.
Improving Comfort and Lives in Prosthetics
Written by Dennis Spielman
During Jay Martin’s early days of his clinical work in prosthetics, he learned his patients’ functional abilities were limited not as much by their amputation as by the lack of technology available in the field. With his love of inventing, Martin saw an opportunity to advance the field of prosthetics to provide more comfort, more functional abilities, and quality of life back to amputees.
“We think of prosthetics as being a very high-tech field, there are some great advancements have been made in recent years, artificial intelligence and new control systems and robotic devices, but prosthetics, in my opinion, has really been a very stagnant field, and it’s very much in its infancy still,” said Jay Martin, founder of Martin Bionics. “I’d argue the vast majority of amputees, quality of life with prosthetics is but a shadow of what it could or should be if technology were further along.”
While Martin believes features like better control systems and better sensors are significant, the greater good revolves around socket comfort. The socket is the part of the prosthetic that the body interfaces with, and Martin compares conventional sockets to feeling like wooden clogs.
As Martin set out to improve the quality of life aspects in the prosthetics field, he got an opportunity to work with NASA on three different exoskeleton programs. One was an Iron Man suit for special ops SEAL Team Six, another was a fabric-based exoskeleton, and the third was an exoskeleton for astronauts.
“With all three programs, they were all very challenging in their own regards,” said Martin. “We created kind of what became the foundation for what we have now as the socket-less socket technology, which is our main product line. And really what I developed was I developed an understanding and awareness of how to connect man and machine with compliant, dynamic materials in a way that would achieve maximum comfort, but also maximum control and stability within the device.”
Compared to conventional prosthetics, the technology at Martin Bionics more modular. Their modular sub-components can be assembled with simple hand tools to fit and match the user. Martin said this bypass much of the fabrication processes needed to make conventional prosthetics, allowing them to fit their sockets faster, more efficiently, and effectively.
“We have a new generation of technology that we’re working on right now that expedites that process even further,” said Martin. “We’re already leaps and bounds faster than conventional fitting methods to achieve and can achieve greater results, but where we’re going is making it just faster and more efficient.”
One of Martin’s main goals for the company is an outreach program to serve patients in developing nations who don’t have access to prosthetics. Martin explained the problem is threefold. Most parts of the world don’t have a trained clinician who has years of experience fitting a hard piece of plastic to the human body. They also don’t have the tools or resources, or lab equipment to fabricate a conventional prosthetic. Lastly, they don’t have the funding to support buying the components.
“Our technology overcomes all three of those,” said Martin. “The hard cost of making our technology is very scalable. We can train a layperson anywhere in the world to fit our prosthetic technology and to provide a long-lasting, comfortable prosthetic, and we only need simple hand tools. We don’t need expensive fabrication lab equipment. Missionaries will backpack into villages and fit our socket technology on amputees in real-time with simple hand tools and have amazing results.”
Jay Martin will be speaking at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Martin said he is excited to share with the community some of what’s unfolding for them at Martin Bionics. Be sure to register for the online ZOOM event to learn more about turning around a business, asking your questions, and networking with entrepreneurs in Oklahoma.
OKLAHOMA VENTURE FORUM ANNOUNCES THE 2021 ECONOMIC IMPACT, VENTURE OF THE YEAR, AND MOST PROMISING NEW VENTURE AWARD FINALISTS
Winners to be announced during hybrid awards ceremony.
Oklahoma Venture Forum will host Oklahoma’s 17th OVF Awards ceremony on May 12th, 2021 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in a hybrid event that will be viewable statewide. This year’s award ceremony features a keynote presentation by Sean Kouplen, Chairman & CEO of Regent Bank, and Immediate Past Secretary of Commerce.
The OVF Awards incorporate three of the most prestigious recognitions a company can receive because they represent the triumph of the entrepreneurial dream and spirit. Evaluation criteria for the Economic Impact Award, the Venture of the Year Award, and the Most Promising New Venture award is based on: product or service innovation, market potential, potential economic impact, and more.
Award for Economic Impact
“Each year we are impressed by the submissions and look forward to the interview process where we dig deep to learn of each company’s achievements and to get a glimpse at what future innovations they have planned. It is exciting to see impressive new innovations from right here in Oklahoma. Each year the selection process reveals a new group of entrepreneurial pioneers who deserve to be publicly recognized for their achievements. OVF is proud to be the organization who gets to highlight these talents.” explains Che’ Loessberg, Executive Director of Oklahoma Venture Forum.
The Oklahoma Venture Forum is a non-profit organization formed in 1987. OVF is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurial ecosystems and economic development in Oklahoma. The organization provides opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs, and others to exchange business ideas and experiences to foster growth of new and existing small businesses.
The 2021 OVF Awards will be a hybrid ceremony hosted online on May 12th, 2021 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The live ceremony will be held at the OU Health Science PHF Conference Center. The live portion of the event is open to OVF members and sponsors, with limited capacity. Guests are asked to view the event online via Zoom. Please register online through the website: www.ovf.org to receive the Zoom link and please invite a guest. For inquiries about the awards event, please contact Che’ Loessberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the OVF After Hours Pitch Event
This online event will feature pitch presentations from three Oklahoma startups.
The event is online from 5:30pm-7:00pm.
Please register for login credentials.
Past Pitch Update: Allison Conti
Incontinence products generate $32 billion each year! There is not currently an Over The Counter solution to that eliminates or reduces leaking WHILE addressing the causes of the problem. According to the Urology Care Foundation, at least ONE in THREE women will suffer from some form of incontinence in their life.
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Exaeris Water Innovations
ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER IS VITAL
Water is essential to everything we do, yet nearly one billion people still don’t have access to clean drinking water. Exaeris has the solution.
SBA Implements PPP Changes for America’s Mom-and-Pop Businesses
SBA Prioritizes Smallest of Small Businesses in the Paycheck Protection Program
Steps to Promote Equitable Relief for Mom-and-Pop Businesses
Contact U.S. Small Business Administration at Press_Office@sba.gov
WASHINGTON – Building on a month of strong results, the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Small Business Administration are taking steps with the Paycheck Protection Program to further promote equitable relief for America’s mom-and-pop businesses.
The latest round of Paycheck Protection Program funding opened one month ago and already the Biden Administration has succeeded in making major improvements to the program’s implementation:
“The SBA is a frontline agency working to create an inclusive economy, focused on reaching women-owned, minority-owned, low- and moderate-income, rural, and other underserved communities in meaningful ways. While reported data illustrates we have made real strides in ensuring these funds are reaching underserved communities, we believe we can still do better,” says SBA Senior Advisor Michael Roth. “The important policy changes we are announcing further ensure inclusivity and integrity by increasing access and much-needed aid to Main Street businesses that anchor our neighborhoods and help families build wealth.”
These simple progressive steps by the Biden-Harris Administration further demonstrate the commitment to racial and gender equity, reaching low and moderate-income, rural, urban, and other underserved areas. The SBA will:
The 14-day exclusivity period will start on Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 9 a.m., while the other four changes will be implemented by the first week of March. The SBA is working on the program changes and will communicate details throughout this week.
These actions will help to lay the foundation for a robust and equitable recovery for small businesses across the country. Small businesses employ nearly half of the American workforce; they create 2 out of 3 net new private-sector jobs; they reinvest 68% of revenues to build and sustain communities. Borrowers can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program by downloading the First Draw PPP loan application or Second Draw PPP loan application and working with a participating PPP lender through the SBA Lender Match tool.
Through SBA’s nationwide district offices, the Agency will work in close partnership with the Administration to further leverage its resource partner network and expand on multilingual access and outreach about the PPP. Updated PPP information, including forms, guidance, and resources is available at www.sba.gov/ppp and www.treasury.gov/cares.
Danny Slusarchuk, Standards IT
Take a look around, Spring is not here yet but it seems like Oklahoma is ready for it and buzzing a bit. I have noticed some of the depression associated with COVID, politics, and weather is subsiding. Finding ways to move beyond these hurdles is great for OVF where we continue to cultivate optimists and dreamers. The Oklahoma economic ecosystem only exists when you get and stay involved. The OVF awards committee is working full speed on all the exciting applications we received this year. The executive committee is hard at work even now preparing and rehearsing for the awards event. Make sure you take the opportunity to invest in OVF by sponsoring this event. It can be critical for some of our entrepreneurs to be recognized in these stages of their businesses. The time and money you put into OVF translates to better quality of life for you and your family. Catch the buzz and make March count big. Bring a guest to OVF and register for the awards event.
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