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  • February 01, 2024 6:35 PM | Anonymous

    Sharing the Love for OVF
    An interview with Cara Evans

    by Dennis Spielman

    As a board member of the Oklahoma Venture Forum, Cara Evans uses her background in entrepreneurship to enhance the community. After completing her studies in Stillwater, she entered the commercial construction field, actively engaging with various subcontractors and gaining experience in freelance work.

    In 2008, Cara embarked on her entrepreneurial journey by starting her own company and becoming the first tenant in an Enid-based incubator. Her involvement with an angel fund and graduate work in entrepreneurship further solidified her passion for creating opportunities and bringing ideas to life. While working in the career tech system, Cara continued to pursue her self-employed endeavors, primarily in professional services.

    Over the past 11 years, Cara Evans played a significant role in supporting entrepreneurs in an incubator and entrepreneurial support position. She has accumulated diverse experiences working with numerous clients and contributing to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. According to Evans, the Oklahoma Venture Forum is a pivotal hub in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

    She believes OVF fosters a dynamic community of service providers, founders, VCs, funders, angels, banks, and educational institutions. This diverse demographic slice creates a unique networking experience that attendees can leverage through targeted introductions from the OVF board or in-person power lunches.

    The emphasis on building relationships is complemented by intentional programming that exposes attendees to new company pitches, regulatory and technological advancements, and subject matter experts. Additionally, the OVF's podcast provides a valuable resource to those interested in a deeper dive into relevant topics within the entrepreneurial sphere.

    Evans said that, when compared to other networking events, "there's something different from actually sitting down at a table and sharing a meal and having dedicated time to converse and solidify those types of relationships that OVF offers.”

    With the next Power Lunch falling on Valentine's Day, the Share the Love event aims to celebrate the collaborative spirit within the entrepreneurial community, particularly focusing on inclusivity and breaking down barriers for newcomers. Drawing inspiration from a recent startup census that gathered data across the state, the Share the Love event highlights the ecosystem's interconnected nature, emphasizing how the forum has facilitated meaningful connections.

    The event will feature a diverse panel representing various OVF member types, from founders to sole proprietors, corporates to incubators, showcasing the accessibility and versatility of the community. Attendees can anticipate discussions on the benefits of OVF membership, personal experiences in the ecosystem, and insights on how different members contribute to the thriving entrepreneurial landscape.

    "We want to drive home that the community is accessible and full of people that want to support your venture and your dreams and just why being involved matters," said Evans. "There are so many ways to get plugged into OVF. No matter what level, it's accessible.”

    While methods like cold calls and emails may yield results, Evans said OVF provides a unique platform where a community of like-minded individuals is ready to facilitate connections. This tight-knit community doesn't guarantee immediate outcomes, but it allows for the planting of seeds that may flourish over time. In a realm where faces become familiar and events transform into opportunities to discover individuals who can address specific needs, the OVF stands as a bridge, connecting people and fostering relationships.

    "It's nice to be like, 'Oh, hey, I've never had this particular need before, but now I know who handles that,'' said Evans. "Relationships make the world go round. That's really what it is. A lot of times in entrepreneurship, you're investing in the person.”

    Cara Evans will speak alongside other panel discussion participants at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, February 14, 2024. The event will be open to members and guests in person at the Metro Tech Spring Lake Campus (1900 Springlake Drive in Oklahoma City) and via ZOOM.

    Established in 1987, Evans said the Oklahoma Venture Forum stands as one of the longest-standing organized groups in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, offering reliability, consistency, and a valuable network that transcends time, fostering enduring relationships and providing a consistent platform for engagement every second Wednesday.

    Register for the February 14, 2024 OVF Power Lunch

  • February 01, 2024 6:28 PM | Anonymous

    Kristin Garcia
    Executive Director
    The Verge OKC

    Kristin Garcia serves as the Executive Director at The Verge OKC, a 501(3)(c), that connects our rising entrepreneurial community to the people and resources they need to progress their vision and transform great ideas into impactful businesses. Kristin has served as an entrepreneurship and tech ecosystem builder in the Oklahoma City area since moving to Oklahoma in 2017 to serve as the Code Lab Manager supporting startup program development and community tech development programs. Previously, Kristin worked at a tech startup, Purepost, focused on solving Veteran hiring problems where her brother and father serve as co-founders with their team on the West Coast. She currently serves as the Global Entrepreneurship Week State Coordinator for Oklahoma, a member of the organizing team for 1 Million Cups Oklahoma City, an Adjunct for the OU Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Department and formerly for an Intro to MIS course, and former Board Member of Techlahoma.

    Kristin calls San Antonio, TX home and is a proud Army Brat who has traveled the world. She currently lives in Norman, OK with her husband Chris and their 3 dogs.

    Register for the February 14, 2024 OVF Power Lunch
  • December 28, 2023 11:05 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    Tulsa’s Tech Hub Advantage
    An interview with
    Tori Burris

    Manager of Strategic Initiatives
    Tulsa Innovation Labs

    by Dennis Spielman 

    Before Tori Burris became the manager of strategic initiatives at Tulsa Innovation Labs, she was a vital member of the early team at Holbert and Tulsa, the city’s vocational software engineering school. Burris played a pivotal role for three and a half years, contributing to the growth from a startup with the first five people to a thriving institution with over a hundred alums, 250 students, and a staff of over 30. During her tenure, she lived the entrepreneurial

    journey, oversaw the career services department, and collaborated with startups seeking to hire junior technical talent.

    Tulsa Innovation Labs is pivotal in catalyzing the leadership of Tulsa’s future innovation sectors. Burris said the organization focuses on four key sectors—virtual health, energy technology, advanced mobility, and cyber and analytics. Through an extensive study, Tulsa Innovation Labs identifies areas where the city’s assets align with future industry needs. Working at a systems level, the organization takes a strategic approach to economic development, intentionally coordinating efforts to ensure the city’s growth and stability. Rather than delving into day-to-day operations, Tulsa Innovation Labs operates at a higher level, aiming to position the city strategically through thoughtful initiatives in technology-based economic development.

    “Outside of those verticals, people might know Tulsa Innovation Labs for our grants and policy team or some of our big grant wins,” said Tori Burris. “Tulsa Innovation Labs led the Build Back Better Regional Challenge win that we had about a year ago, and that was a great opportunity for us to establish ourselves with the EDA, the Economic Development Administration, and to give Tulsa some intentionally coordinated investment in how we grow the advanced mobility in cyber industries.”

    Earlier in October, President Biden announced Tulsa was one of 31 tech hubs nationwide. According to the White House press release, Tulsa Hub for Equitable & Trustworthy Autonomy (THETA), led by Tulsa Innovation Labs, aims to become a global leader in developing and commercializing autonomous systems for use cases ranging from agriculture and pipeline inspections to regional transportation.

    “With the Tech Hubs distinction, the Greater Tulsa Region is set to capture $4 billion of the $1.36 trillion global autonomous systems market,” said Burris.

    Burris emphasized that becoming a Tech Hub not only signifies the city’s current trajectory but also presents a unique opportunity for startups and investors to play a pivotal role in shaping Tulsa’s future as a global player in autonomy and cybersecurity industries, with the potential to create significant economic impact and generate up to 200,000 new jobs over the next decade.

    Entrepreneurs and investors eager to leverage Tulsa’s emergence as a Tech Hub have a unique opportunity to participate in the city’s growing tech ecosystem. Burris encourages startups to explore the possibilities within the advanced mobility and cybersecurity sectors. The upcoming Phase Two application submission on February 29 will outline the diverse and robust suite of projects to foster new businesses and commercialization in Tulsa’s tech landscape.

    “This is a validation that if you’re in Tulsa if you’re in Oklahoma, it’s really about the region,” said Burris. “If you’re in the region doing this work and helping build our tech ecosystem, then this is a validation that we are on the right track.”

    Tori Burris will speak at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, January 10, 2024. The event will be open to members and guests in person at 36 Degrees North (36 E. Cameron St. in Tulsa) and via ZOOM. Burris will share valuable insights into the future of Tulsa’s tech sector and the opportunities ahead.

    “Investors will have better visibility on deal flow, both startups and IP being developed in the area, than your VC peers outside of the region,” said Burris. “This is an opportunity to gain more insight into what is developing so venture capitalists regionally can take advantage of this opportunity.”

     ATTEND THE JANUARY POWER LUNCH

  • December 28, 2023 11:00 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    Cara Evans
    Francis Tuttle Technology Center 

    Hello

    2023 is coming to a close and 2024 is upon us!

    In January we will be back in Tulsa for the live power lunch where we will be learning about Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL). They were recently recognized as a regional 

    technology and innovation hub (Tech Hub) by the US Economic Development Administration (EDA). The Tulsa Hub for Equitable & Trustworthy Autonomy (THETA) aims to become a global leader in developing and commercializing autonomous systems in order to strengthen national and economic security while connecting small manufacturers across the region with opportunities in the autonomous systems supply chain. Use cases ranging from agriculture and pipeline inspections to regional transportation occur across the entire Greater Tulsa Region. Leveraging strong university-based research institutes in unmanned systems and cyber technologies, the Skyway Range flight corridor testing facility and existing capital investments, THETA will develop and innovate autonomous systems applications while increasing their security and integrity. THETA serves Cherokee, Creek, Mayes, Okmulgee, Osage, Pawnee, Payne, Rogers, Tulsa, Wagoner, and Washington counties. Tulsa’s presence as an urban hub in a rural region ensures that small, rural, and under served communities both influence the development of Autonomous Systems and significantly benefit from Tech Hubs EDA investment. So…that’s super exciting and I can’t wait to learn more.

    Awards nominations are now live. Categories include Venture of the Year and Most Promising New Venture. OVF will also recognize Economic Impact, Entrepreneurial Champion, and an Oklahoma incubator tenant. If you would like to sponsor any of these awards, please reach out to Che or myself.

    Have a safe and happy holiday season and don’t forget that you are welcome to attend the OKC watch party held at The Verge if you can’t make it to Tulsa and are zoomed out. We appreciate you and your commitment to OVF! See you on Jan 10th!

     ATTEND THE JANUARY POWER LUNCH 

  • December 28, 2023 10:56 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)


    Natarianto Indrawan
    Founder
    FlexiH

    Dr. Natarianto Indrawan is currently serving as the Founder of FlexiH, applying his industrial, research, entrepreneurial, and manufacturing experience to help guide the company. Dr. Indrawan began his career as a technical support of a power station at a Southeast Asian oil refinery. He is a former researcher of the hydrogen production and gasification technology at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), Department of Energy (DoE).

    Dr. Indrawan is a graduate of Wharton School Executive Program. He received his PhD from Oklahoma State University (OSU) with his main project focused on Biopower Generation via Gasification of Biomass and Municipal Solid Waste. He was involved in the development of a unique gasifier that can process multi types of feedstocks, including biomass and municipal solid waste, into syngas and hydrogen fuel. The gasifier is currently used by the local authority to treat biomass waste into electricity. Approaching his final year of his PhD, he proposed an innovative technology to produce hydrogen with low energy input and his proposal was funded by Sun Grant Program, US Department of Agriculture. FlexiH is currently working with an international collaborator, Green Science Corporation, to construct a clean hydrogen and ammonia manufacturing facility, with Oklahoma as its headquarters.

    ATTEND THE JANUARY POWER LUNCH

  • December 28, 2023 10:49 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    Sharron Glover
    Economic and Workforce Development
    Coordinator

    Metro Tech

    Bio for Sharron D. Jackson-Glover
    Sharron has returned to Metro Technology Center to continue what she loves; working with business owners to run and scale their business. She is CEO of The Glover Group LLC, a consulting business focused on providing assessment,development, implementation, and facilitation of Applied Leadership (AL) programs. The company works with businesses of all sizes and at every level in the organization. The Glover Group has worked with Tribal, Government, and Private sector clients. Their AL programs have proven results in increasing employee engagement at all levels of the
    organizations.
    She also served as President and Board Chair of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Metro OKC from 2011 to 2015. During her leadership, the BCC grew from 80 members to 235. She was a Business Coordinator for Metro Technology Centers’ Business Development Center-North, for the Business and Industry Services Division for over 12 years. Her career at Metro Tech started as a Consultant and Trainer, before accepting the position of Training Coordinator then Director. Her responsibilities have included working with companies on all training and employee development needs
    and also providing business coaching for startup and existing small businesses. Sharron was the host and creator of “The Bis Coach” radio show on AM 1140 and 92.1 FM with Perry Broadcasting Company. The show aired weekly and is podcasted on iTunes and covers the stories of business start-ups and service providers to small business in the black community. She is a strong supporter of community outreach programs and the continued growth of the economy in NE
    Oklahoma City.
    Sharron has a very diverse background in human resources, financial and budgeting management, fund raising, leadership and coaching management, along with sales and marketing. In the past Sharron owned Complete Business Solutions,
    LLC. In 2002 the company was named Minority New Business of the Year during Minority Enterprise Development Week (MED Week) by the Oklahoma Minority Supplier Development Council. The company provided business coaching, business plan writing, strategic planning and marketing /branding services. She has developed a training program entitled “Discovering Your Entrepreneurial Spirit” which she uses to start the business concept conversation in churches in NE Oklahoma City.
    She is a Certified Trainer and Facilitator, Executive Coach, and Certified Program Planner. She has trained as a PREP Trainer for Public Strategies, Inc. the classes are focused on building stronger marriages which impact the economy and strengthen the community. Sharron was the recipient of the 2011 Oklahoma Minority Small Business Champion of the
    Year Award from the SBA, Oklahoma District and one of Perry Publishing & Broadcasting 2011 “Woman of the Year”.
    The Single-Family Support Network gave Sharron the “Eagle Award 2014” for overcoming obstacles and being an example for others. The Urban League of OKC honored her as one of the 2014 “Equal Opportunity Award for 2014”. Sharron is a graduating member of Leadership OKC Class 32.

    ATTEND THE JANUARY POWER LUNCH

  • November 29, 2023 4:41 PM | Anonymous

    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

  • November 29, 2023 4:37 PM | Anonymous

    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!

    Register to attend the December 13th OVF Power Lunch

  • November 29, 2023 4:32 PM | Anonymous

    Daniel Johnson, Director of Innovation
    Startup 405
    NEDC

    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).

  • November 29, 2023 4:27 PM | Anonymous

    J.W. Peters, President & Co-Founder
    Solar 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.  

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