Written by Lori Williams
Is anything bigger than basketball in Oklahoma City? Ask Brian Byrnes, the senior vice president of Sales and Marketing for the Thunder, and the answer might surprise you. “The Thunder has made a community investment play that is beyond basketball,” says Byrnes. “It’s called the Thunder Launchpad.”
Introduced in January of 2018 as part of the Thunder’s 10th season, The Launchpad is an accelerator program located in OKC’s Midtown district. “We are inspired by the other entities that are driving the future of our state’s economy,” says Byrnes, “and we wanted to use the marketing and media power of the Thunder to elevate Oklahoma City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
To make the Launchpad a reality, the Thunder has teamed up with StitchCrew. This is a company that helps technology minded entrepreneurs launch their ideas and obtain venture capital. So far, 18 have passed through the program; another group is being vetted to begin in the spring of 2019. The participants receive a space in which to work as well as other needed resources. They also are matched with mentors.
“The Thunder certainly has terrific relationships with the business community vis-à-vis all of our corporate partnerships and our business to business relations,” says Byrnes. “In many cases we have the opportunity to invite and encourage and validate the applicants who are mentors. Then StitchCrew matches the applicants, who are called founders, with the mentors and develops a customized business program for each one.”