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  • February 21, 2022 8:49 PM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    Laura Phillips
    Director of Connectivity
    Factory Obscura

    Laura Phillips, Director of Connectivity, is interested in development of next-big-things for OKC.  From Elemental Coffee to H&8th Night Market to OKCPS School Board to Factory Obscura, she focuses on collaboration, community, and culture.  Laura manages connectivity within the organization through HR, culture building and community partnerships, and develops strategic relationships for our business growth.

    Collaborating around the belief that Oklahoma City needed an art playground that would be as much fun for adults as for kids, founders Tammy Greenman, Kelsey Karper, Laura Phillips, Laurent Massenat and Hugh Meade, gathered a team of artists to begin building in 2017. In order to avoid competing with existing arts organizations, Factory Obscura, Inc was founded as a B-Corporation, existing to create fully immersive art environments and events that awaken joy and wonder, while supporting artists and arts education. Mix-Tape operates under an LLC owned by Factory Obscura, Inc and Mason Realty Investors.

    Register to attend March OVF Power Lunch

  • February 21, 2022 8:26 PM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)


    Connecting Assets in the Innovation District

    by Dennis Spielman

    In April 2017, The Bookings Institution released a report based on an 18-month study about how the area now known as the Innovation District was ripe for an innovation district. The information inspired Katy Boren to start The Innovation District, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

    “There are innovation districts across the globe, certainly across the country, and Brookings did an assessment,” said Katy Boren, Founder/CEO of The Innovation District. “What Brookings kind of foreshadowed was the success we could have if we focused on creating an ecosystem in Oklahoma City around our knowledge-based economies, STEM economies, that would make us more competitive nationally and globally.”

    The borders of the Innovation District are 4th Street to 13th Street, Lottie to the east, and Robinson to the west, with the core being Harrison and 10th, right next to the Beacon of Hope in Stiles Park. Since the district sits in Northeast Oklahoma City, Boren is connected to the neighborhoods in big and small ways, from volunteering to co-programming.

    “We are also working hard to make sure that as jobs are created out of this initiative in these next few years, residents of Northeast Oklahoma City are in the pipeline for STEM careers,” said Boren. “That’s working with K through 12, working with adult workforce for upskilling and reskilling, but really focusing some of our efforts to make sure that everyone benefits from this economic growth.”

    One of Boren’s missions for the district is creating an ecosystem to strengthen the city’s STEM economies, making Oklahoma City more competitive. 

    “Everyone was working in silos inside universities, inside enterprise-level industry businesses, and entrepreneurs had a lot of resources here but could have even more, so pulling all of those assets that we have together, and convening them in different ways,” said Boren. “For example, we have 120 post-docs doing research in our physical area here. About 78% of all NIH funding for the state comes to this physical area as well, and so we have a lot of really great things happening in academics and research, which is where entrepreneurs and investors want to be, and in the industry as well, and so we have a great recipe.”

    The Innovation District hosts over 50 events a year, despite not having a building of their own yet. Construction is set to begin in April, and Boren said they will do even more programming and convening of people and ideas. People can get involved by visiting the website okcinnovation.com.

    Katy Boren will be presenting at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The event will be open to guests both in-person and virtually via ZOOM. 

    “Our outcomes are determined by how much people participate,” said Boren. “The more ideas we get and the more vision we have from the network and the ecosystem, it creates a better outcome.”

    Register to attend March OVF Power Lunch

  • February 21, 2022 8:18 PM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    Lawrence McKinney
    President and CEO
    Norman Economic Development Coalition

    Lawrence McKinney is President and CEO of the Norman Economic Development Coalition in Norman, Oklahoma. He leads a team of economic and community development professionals responsible for facilitating the creation of jobs and an improved quality of life for the citizens of Norman and Cleveland County.

    Born on Hill Air Force Base, Utah as the third child of Air Force veterans he has traveled throughout the world his entire life and career, affording him a unique perspective on community growth and development.

    Mr. McKinney graduated from Augusta College (Georgia) with an undergraduate degree in Economics and Finance and from Georgia State University (Atlanta) with an MBA in International Business. He later earned Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) credentials from the International Economic Development Council, Organizational Management (IOM) credentials from the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Certified Chamber Executive (CCE) credentials from the American Chamber of Commerce, one of only 11 executives nationwide to simultaneously hold these prestigious credentials. He is a graduate of numerous advanced leadership programs, including the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs, the Ford Fellowship program through the Ford Foundation, and the Master Economic Development Practitioner (MEDP) program hosted jointly by Clemson University, the University of New Mexico, Texas Christian University, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

    His 35-year career has spanned the continent, serving as a regional Chamber of Commerce or Development Authority CEO in Augusta, Savannah, Atlanta, and Athens Georgia, as well as Daytona Beach, Florida. Prior to coming to Norman, he served as Chief Operating Officer for a national fundraising firm and as co-founder and Principal of Economic Strategy Professionals, LLC. Mr. McKinney is married to Army veteran Elizabeth Hennen McKinney, Ed. S, CEO of Economic Strategy Professionals, and they have five children and two grandchildren.

    EDUCATION

    • Center for Creative Leadership, Colorado Springs, Colorado
    • American Chamber of Commerce Executives Association, Washington DC
    • Certified Chamber Executive (CCE)
    • International Economic Development Council, Chicago, Illinois
    • Certified Economic Developer (CEcD)
    • Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia
    • MBA in International Business
    • University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
    • Institute for Organization Management (IOM)
    • Georgia Regents University, Augusta, Georgia
    • BBA with dual majors in Economics and Finance

    CAREER

    • 2021 - Present, PRESIDENT AND CEO, Norman Economic Development Coalition (Norman, Oklahoma)
    • 2014 - 2020, PRINCIPAL and CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions (Atlanta, Georgia)
    • 2013 - 2020, PRINCIPAL and CO-FOUNDER, Economic Strategy Professionals LLC (Port Orange, Florida)
    • 2006 - 2013, PRESIDENT, Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce and EDO (Daytona Beach, Florida)
    • 2002 - 2006, PRESIDENT, Impact Athens Regional Chamber of Commerce and EDO (Athens, Georgia)
    • 1999 - 2002, PRESIDENT, Partners for Tomorrow Public/Private EDO and Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce (Atlanta, Georgia)
    • 1995 - 1999, CEO, Meriwether County Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce (Warm Springs, Georgia)
    • 1992 - 1995, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, Bryan County Development Authority, Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau (Savannah, Georgia)
    • 1990 – 1992, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, Columbia County Chamber of Commerce (Evans, Georgia)
    • 1986 - 1992, DIRECTOR OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce and Columbia County Development Authority (Augusta, Georgia)

    AWARDS

    “Best of the Best”, American Chamber of Commerce Executives Association

    “Top 20 Best Practice for EDOs”, Georgia Tech

    “Mayor’s Community Spirit Award”, Conyers, Georgia

    “Most Influential Floridian”, Florida Magazine

    “Businessperson of the Year”, Athens, Georgia

    “Kentucky Colonel”, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

    PUBLICATIONS

    “Does a Rising Tide Really Lift All Boats?”, August 2018, IEDC ED Now Feature

    “Talent: The Currency of the 21st Century Economic Developer”, January 2019, ACCE

    “How to Show Short-Term ROI to Your EDO Investors”, May 2019, IEDC ED Now Feature

    “Strategic Planning for Development Authorities”, 2006, University of Georgia Fanning Institute

    VOLUNTEER BOARD SERVICE

    American Chamber of Commerce Executives

    U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board of Regents

    Georgia and Florida Chamber Executive Associations

    Daytona 500 Checkered Flag Committee, Augusta National Gallery Guards, and numerous civic clubs

    Register to attend the March OVF Power Lunch


  • January 26, 2022 11:55 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)


    What better way to design a toy-line than to let kids be the creators? That's the idea behind Wristworld.

    Wristworlis an augmented reality puzzle RPG using wristbands. Created by students who are participating in the Loveworks Leadership, a Program designed to empower the creativity, resourcefulness, and potential within each student in an effort to develop their character, academic, and leadership abilities to ensure future success.

    Register to Attend


  • January 26, 2022 11:29 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

                     

    Loveworks and Wrist World: Leveling Up Talented Kids
    Augment Reality Gaming on your Wrist

    by Dennis Spielman

    Having celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021, Loveworks Leadership helps middle school students develop personal character, install leadership, and learn entrepreneurship skills. While attending Lovework’s summer camp program, Brent Wheelbarger and his daughter, Emma, learned about Lovework’s first student-started business, Real Kitchen Salsa. 

    “With Brent’s expertise in augmented reality and technology, he came to Loveworks and presented this idea of what if we did a Silicon Valley-style startup with middle school students,” said Carolyn Le, Associate Director of Loveworks. “From there, we presented it at one of our summer camps, the opportunity to join a Silicon Valley-style startup, where we’re going to create some sort of maybe video game, some sort of technology using this technology for kids.”

    Students submitted a resume, went through an interview process, and then ten students were selected to be part of the team, said Le. This team in 2018 created Wrist World.

    “Wrist World is an augmented reality video game that uses four slap bands, and each of them are different worlds that you can play here and explore,” said Arya Ramineedi, part of the 3D modeling Team. “You can scan the different bands with your App, and the game will pop up. There are two modes to play. There’s game mode and wrist mode. In game mode, you can explore through any four bands, collect items, and fight enemies. And in wrist mode, you can show off your character in 3D on your wrist.”

    With a rough start with makeshift wristbands and buggy software, Wrist World has evolved over time, getting their products in stores such as OnCue and Loves, and in 2020, officially licensed its first character, Hatsune Miku.

    “To give you an idea of kind of who Miku is as the character, she’s a Vocaloid character, and she’s almost like a hologram who does performances on stage and thousands of people will go and watch her just perform,” said Emma Wheelbarger, Chief Marketing Officer of Wrist World. “Miku did a big expo that was online because of COVID, and we got to run an ad during that campaign, and our ad took off, and thousands of fans were super excited to see it and just hopped right on board to the Wrist World fan base.”

    Brad Sparks, part of the marketing team, added they are developing new bands with different characters but weren’t allowed to divulge any further information.

    Brent Wheelbarger, founder and CEO of Trifecta Communications, thinks Wrist World is an example of the Ted Lasso Effect, the idea that you don’t necessarily have to be a complete expert and know all the answers to go out and try something.

    “None of us knew anything about the toy industry or this whole realm that we were going into, and yet we put ourselves out there, and the team put themselves out there,” said Brent Wheelbarger. “We’re willing to stumble, try, fix, improve, get better, learn and in a way almost stumbled their way to a successful outcome because we could never have dreamed when we first started that we would be making deals with Japanese companies to license their characters on these bands and selling all over the world.”

    The Wrist World team will be presenting at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, February 9, 2022. The event will be open to guests both in-person and virtually via ZOOM. 

    “I think that being here in Oklahoma and part of this community has been a huge help to our company,” said Katie Sparks. “Just the fact that we live in a place that’s so supportive like alone, but especially when it comes to business and when it comes to kids trying to do something that’s never been done before.”

    Register to Attend

  • January 26, 2022 11:23 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    Tracy Poole
    Founder and Managing Director
    FortySix Venture Capital LLC

    Tracy Poole is a Founder and Managing Director of FortySix, where he focuses on investments in the Energy, Materials, Healthcare and Digital Transformation sectors. Prior to founding FortySix, Tracy was an attorney with McAfee & Taft, Oklahoma’s largest commercial law firm, where he focused on M&A, Corporate and Securities transactions, including fund investments and startup representation.

    Tracy has served as General Counsel for a $4B AUM hedge fund (Ritchie Capital) and as the founder and President of an upstream oil and gas producer (New Gulf Energy) which had multiple successful exits, in some cases achieving over 10X returns on capital invested.

    A long-time angel investor, Tracy is active in several investment networks including Cowboy Technology Angels and Seed Step Angels. Tracy serves on the board of 36 Degrees North, Tulsa’s base camp for entrepreneurs and was instrumental in developing its high growth incubator, where the firm has its offices.

    Tracy received a Bachelor of Science from Oklahoma State University and his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Oklahoma. Tracy is a board member of the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University and frequent guest lecturer. Tracy is also a member of the Oklahoma State University Board of Governors.

    Tracy has served in a fiduciary capacity throughout his 28-year career and has closed thousands of transactions for billions of dollars in notional value across multiple verticals, giving him a unique perspective of what works, and what doesn’t, and the toolkit to help move the latter to the former.

    Register to Attend February OVF Power Lunch

  • January 26, 2022 11:07 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    Chairman's Perspective: February 2022

    As we enter February, Oklahoma Venture Forum would like to thank Henry Dumas for his service to Oklahoma Venture Forum and entrepreneurs and small businesses in our area. Henry is embarking on a new and well-earned chapter of retirement, and we wish him well as he embarks on new adventures. Henry worked diligently to ensure a smooth transition for Oklahoma Venture Forum, and we are excited to continue with a phenomenal slate of presenters for the remainder of the year.

    Entrepreneurship and innovation have no age requirement. Our February speaker, Michael Hirsch with Loveworks Leadership, and pitch presenter group Wristworld will show us what youth in our community are capable of when provided with mentorship and encouragement. Loveworks Leadership has spent more than a decade encouraging and mentoring students and we look forward to hearing more about their program at our February Power Lunch.

    We encourage you to look through your network and invite those that would find inspiration in youth entrepreneurship and innovation. We look forward to seeing you at the February 9th Power Lunch.  If you are unsure how to make this happen easily, please reach out to our Executive Director, Che’ Loessberg and she will help to get your guest registered.

    Kind Regards,

    Jennifer McGrail

    Register to Attend

  • December 31, 2021 11:14 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    The Future of Oklahoma’s Venture Ecosystem
    Michael Basch, Nathaniel Harding, and Matt Wilson  

    by Dennis Spielman 

    Atento Capital, Cortado Ventures, and Victorum Capital Club each have their criteria and types of companies for investments. Atento’s focus is on generating excellent risk-adjusted returns and making a lasting economic impact through stimulating entrepreneurial activity in the community. Cortado invests in capital-efficient businesses that leverage technology to scale in the Fintech, Biotech, Aerospace, Ag Tech, Energy Tech, Manufacturing, and Logistics sectors. The Victorum Capital Club is a membership network of accredited investors focused on entrepreneurship, investment, and business development to generate a return on investment and promote community and economic development. 

    Basch’s advice is cash is a relative commodity for companies looking for investors.  

    “I think, doing the work to understand your customer and the problem you're solving before you raise any money where you would completely understand the problem and the willingness to pay,” said Michael Basch, Managing Partner at Atento Capital. “I think it's doing the work on customer discovery ahead of time and not raising money for the sake of raising money but raising money. Cause you have to raise money. Not every business needs to raise money.”  

    Over at Cortado Ventures, Harding said they invest in business-to-business technology that “you can put a moat around.” 

    “That's defendable where that company can either have an advantage because they have patents or either intellectual property that's difficult to, to replicate, or their strategy involves, a key partnership with a large company that can help them scale very quickly,” said Nathaniel Harding, Managing Partner at Cortado Ventures. “There's other ways of having a moat, besides having patents or trade secrets, but we look for defendable, unique, novel technology.” 

    Victorum Capital Club works the same way as any other venture capital firm, but while they don’t currently fund, they have a network of investors from across the country they pool together. 

    “Each of those investors gets to decide if they want to invest and if not, and if they do how much they want to invest, then when we have everybody's commitments, we just group everybody together into a single entity and make an investment,” said Matt Wilson, Managing Partner at Victorum Capital Club. “Historically, venture capital has only been available to the wealthy elite pension funds, insurance companies, things like that. And what our business model does is it brings access to high-quality investment opportunities to everybody that is an accredited investor.” 

    Wilson said a venture capital firm will generically tell potential companies that they look for are “team, team, team, market size, and traction.” 

    “It's a joke, but it's a very serious point that the people are arguably the most important thing,” said Wilson. “One of the unique things about it that is particularly interesting to us and where we’ve found ourselves gravitating to is a CEO that has a real reason, like a real differentiated reason to be successful. So somebody that grew up in the industry or was the market already, like they have some unique reason that differentiates themselves from just any other guy off the street to be successful in their industry, focused on their customers, with their product, things like that.”  

    People who are trying to make a quick buck, who don't have a good sense of why they're building their business, and don't want to collaborate are some red flags in a CEO Basch said. Basch also watches for how they take feedback, how they respond to adversity, and how they problem-solve.  

    “Don’t start a company or raise money because you want to, but do it because you have to,” said Basch. 

    Harding said one of the benefits of doing business in Oklahoma is fewer gatekeepers here. 

    “If you're a first-time founder, you may not have a track record,” said Harding. “You may not have like the network or the keys to the city, but you can get meetings with the people that are going to help you, and they're going to be willing to help you. That's really special and powerful. I think if that is embraced and that entrepreneurs and founders know that, then they should be not afraid to reach out to people that may be able to give them great advice or they've had experienced that sector. If we all leverage that as a community, we can scale and grow the venture capital and entrepreneurial community much faster.”  

    Michael Basch, Nathaniel Harding, and Matt Wilson will be part of a special panel discussion at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, January 12, 2022. The event will be open to guests both in-person and virtually via ZOOM.  

    “You don't have to be any particular thing to be involved in this ecosystem system and support founders and support businesses,” said Wilson. “There's a lot of different ways to do that. And so I think everybody should find ways to be active and build the future of our state, build the future businesses that are kind, and going to drive us for the next 50 years.” 

    ATTEND

  • December 31, 2021 11:10 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    OVF Member Highlight: Joe Tippens

    Joe has been on all sides of private equity backed concerns including Founder, CEO, Senior Partner Venture Capital, Private Equity Fund Founder and Managing Partner, Investor and Board Member. He has served as a CEO with direct profit and loss responsibility on 4 occasions, frequently tasked with restructuring operations and positioning complex companies for growth and exit. His diverse industry experience includes: medical devices, medical diagnostics, biotechnology/drug development, industrial technology, transportation, software, AI data management, financial technology, commodity finance, sports marketing and infrastructure, real estate development, oilfield services telecommunications and financial asset management.   

    In early 2020, he founded and is Managing Partner of Swiss American Partners, a specialty venture capital and private equity fund based in Zug CH and Oklahoma City OK.  For the previous 18 years, Joe had been the Founder and CEO of SCG Advisors (Vero Beach, FLToronto and Oklahoma City, OK), a private equity investment management firm. Among his accomplishments, he successfully raised and deployed a $430M private equity firm with capital from European investorsinvested in a European vertically integrated real estate development and investment company.  Concurrently with those activities from 2015 to 2019Joe represented middle market enterprises in M&A mandates totaling over $600 million in transaction value.  He has also represented numerous asset management firms in complex litigation. 

    Previously, Serving as CEO and Chairman of the Board at Commodity Capital Group (New York, NY), Joe was recruited to build the technology and team and prepare the company for an exit. Utilizing innovative securitization vehicles, he ran all aspects of this organization, which focused on providing working capital to commodity producerstraders and merchants. He led the company to become the first organization to achieve an investment grade rating on physical commodity securitizations, (grains, metals, and energy commodities) without the benefit of the owner’s balance sheet or credit capacity. The Company was successful in achieving $400 million in commodity securitizations before being sold to a division of Fletcher Challenge, a New Zealand-based conglomerate. 

    Previous to CCG, Joe was the Co-founder and President of StadiaNet Sports, Inc. (Tulsa, OK), which was sold to Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazersin 1999, 33 months after its 1996 start-up.   

    From 1986 to 1995, he was Managing Director of Capital Markets at Merrill Lynch and Partner at Merrill Lynch Venture Capital (New York, NY)Previously, he was COO at Western Venture Capital Corporation (a bank affiliated SBIC); and Manager (audit division) at Arthur Andersen & Co., LP (Tulsa, OK). He received a BS in Agriculture Economics and Accounting, with honors, from Oklahoma State University in 1979 and is a CPA since 1980. 

    Joe currently serves on the following BoardsSwiss American Partners, NexMuv LLC, Oklahoma State University Research Foundation; and Brightest Orange Ventures (OSU’s technology transfer fund). His prior notable Board Memberships include: Chairman of the Board, Commodity Capital Group, Inc. (sold to Fletcher Challenge); Chairman of the Board, ZymeTx, Inc. (IPO)Board Member, StadiaNet Sports, Inc. (sold to Paul Allen)Board Member, Data Critical Corp. (IPO, sold to GE Medical); Board Member and Urocor, Inc. (IPO).

    ATTEND

  • December 31, 2021 11:00 AM | Ché Loessberg (Administrator)

    Chairman's Perspective: January 2022

    Happy New Year – 2022! Have you ever wondered what peaks the interest of a Venture Capitalist or Private Equity Funder – What makes them want to say “Yes” – What their particular lane or sweet spot is?

    Matt Wilson – Victorum Capital Club

    Michael Bosch – Atento Capital

    Nathaniel Harding – Cortado Ventures

    These Principles will be our Featured Speakers at the January 12th Power Lunch – They will answer the questions above – then we will have an extended Question & Answer Panelist session! So, think about what questions you have – write them down ahead of time – bring them with you – Try to stump the Experts!

    Please review your close contacts & networks – Invite a Founder who could benefit as your guest (Contact Che’ Loessberg, OVF Executive Director, che@ovf.org, if you have questions about how to register a guest in an easy manner).

    Think about other Founders, Funders and Associated Service Providers who would make a great OVF member and invite them – This session will be a Blast – Don’t miss it!

    ATTEND

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