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February 2019: Bryan Byrnes Talks Entrepreneurship

April 01, 2020 4:11 PM | Anonymous

Bryan Byrnes talks Entrepreneurship

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.” 

So that’s part of the value we see in the program, that the Thunder is strengthening its relationship with the business community through mentorship.  

There are other valuable takeaways from this Thunder initiative, both in validation and in lessons learned “In December of 2018,” says Byrnes, “I heard the incoming chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce state their four objectives for 2019. One goal centers on stimulating new business growth in Oklahoma.” 

“I was encouraged when he cited the Thunder Launchpad as an example of local businesses giving back by building an infrastructure to help entrepreneurial start-ups take risks.”  

As Byrnes and the team at StitchCrew help the founders take calculated risks, they are also learning more about the entrepreneurial process. “Going into this, we thought it would be a very linear a to b to c kind of process,” reflects Byrnes. “What we’ve learned is that it takes much longer than we anticipated.”  

“During the twelve week program, we help the founders identify where they have growth potential. At the end of the course, we bring the founders to their presentation day and connect them to potential investors and financial backers.” 

“But although the funding and financial backing has happened really well, it takes place three, six, or nine months after the founders go through the program.” 

What does that mean for the next group who will launch their businesses this year? “We’re learning to have more patience,” says Brian Byrnes. “And now we see the post-graduation window as a very critical time to nurture and support the founders.”  

“But we’re also very attentive to the fact that this is elevating our brand. It continues to showcase that the Thunder is progressive. And it is helping to address and support broader objectives for our city and state beyond just the Thunder enterprise.”  

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