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Mike Beckham, CEO of Simple Modern
by Dennis Spielman
Simple Modern, an Oklahoma-based company, is well-known for its stylish and high-quality drinkware products. Despite being in a highly competitive market, the company has managed to work with major brands such as Marvel, Disney, and Target, which Mike Beckham attributes to a combination of vision, execution, and a bit of luck.
“There's a long story about how we got our very first license,” said Mike Beckham, CEO of Simple Modern. “If you look at all the licenses we have, the very first one was I had to get what's called a local license with the University of Oklahoma. And I thought that would be a piece of cake, because I'd had some success in the business world, and I was an alumni of OU. And I was wrong. It was not a piece of cake. I had to really fight for it and work for it to convince OU that I was somebody that they wanted to license.”
Mike Beckham shared that his journey into entrepreneurship wasn't a typical one. With a background in finance and nonprofit work, he lacked initially confidence in pursuing business ventures until his younger brother brought up the idea of starting a company together in 2009. This experience transformed his perspective, helping him realize his skills were well-suited for building businesses. Although Simple Modern has grown significantly, Beckham still considers it a startup, showcasing his ongoing passion for entrepreneurship.
“I think it was the way that I first got vision and the confidence that entrepreneurship was something that I could do, and that my skills could actually really work in building a business, and so I caught the bug, I think,” said Beckham.
Beckham’s experience working for a cause-oriented organization allowed him to develop a strong sense of purpose and commitment to giving back, which became the foundation for Simple Modern's mission-driven culture. By integrating philanthropic values into the company's core strategy, Beckham has been able to create a business that not only focuses on generating profits but also actively contributes to the betterment of society.
"Our goal at Simple Modern is to create a business that is about more than just generating profits, but also about giving back and making the world a better place,” said Beckham.
Mike Beckham emphasizes the importance of defining success as learning and cultivating a growth mindset. He believes that skilled experimentation accelerates learning and leads to innovative solutions. Despite increasing automation, Beckham remains optimistic about the future of entrepreneurship as a career choice.
“One of the best pieces of advices that I can offer to somebody that's a young entrepreneur, is that if you develop a growth mindset and you become very good at experimentation, it almost inevitably will lead to value creation, because you start to learn really rapidly about customers and what they want, and their needs, and how to fix it, and what works and what doesn't, and how to pivot, and as you pivot, how to learn more,” said Beckham.
In the upcoming Oklahoma Venture Forum Awards Show, Beckham will be the keynote speaker. He plans to share more about Simple Modern's story and focus on the importance of mission-driven leadership in entrepreneurship. Additionally, Beckham aims to share some of the lessons he's learned throughout his 14-year journey in the world of startups.
“I love being a part of supporting this community, and I love what OVF is all about,” said Beckham.
Attend the OVF Awards
As my term as Chair of the Oklahoma Venture Forum comes to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you. It has been an immense honor and privilege to serve our community and work alongside such dedicated, talented individuals. Together, we have made significant strides in fostering entrepreneurship, driving innovation, and creating a supportive ecosystem for business growth in our great state.
During my tenure, I have had the pleasure of witnessing our members' unwavering commitment to Oklahoma's entrepreneurial spirit. Your passion and hard work have had a profound impact, and I am confident that our organization will continue to thrive.
As we celebrate our accomplishments, I would like to cordially invite you all to OVF Awards Luncheon, taking place on May 18th. This event will honor our outstanding entrepreneurs, startups, and organizations that have made remarkable contributions. We will also be announcing the winners of this year's prestigious OVF awards, which celebrate exceptional innovation and economic impact.
Once again, thank you for allowing me to serve as your Chair. I look forward to seeing you at the Awards Event and continuing to support the Oklahoma Venture Forum in the years to come.
OVF Chair, 2022-2023
Register to attend 2023 OVF Awards Event
OKLAHOMA VENTURE FORUM ANNOUNCES FINALISTS FOR 2023 VENTURE OF THE YEAR AND MOST PROMISING NEW VENTURE AWARDS
Featuring Keynote Speaker Mike Beckham, Chief Executive Officer of Simple Modern
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 5th, 2023) – Oklahoma Venture Forum will host the 2023 OVF Awards ceremony on May 18th, 2023, at the Oklahoma History Center. This year’s awards ceremony features keynote speaker Mike Beckham, Chief Executive Officer of Simple Modern.
The Oklahoma Venture Forum is a non-profit organization formed in 1987 to encourage economic development in Oklahoma. The organization provides opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs, and others to exchange ideas and experiences to grow new and existing small businesses.
The OVF Awards are among the most prestigious recognitions an Oklahoma company can receive. They represent the triumph of the entrepreneurial dream and spirit. Evaluation criteria for the Venture of the Year and Most Promising New Venture awards is based on product or service innovation, market potential, potential economic impact, and more.
The Oklahoma Venture Forum has announced the finalists for this year’s OVF Awards. The 2023 Venture of the Year finalists include: Martin Bionics, Simple Modern, and MaxQ Research, LLC. The 2023 finalists for the Most Promising New Venture include IV Ensure, Volt, and Totem Technologies, LLC. Please join us at the ceremony to find out who this year’s award recipients will be.
These awards along with additional categories of Incubator Tenant, Entrepreneurial Champion and Economic Impact will be presented at this year’s OVF Awards luncheon. Sponsors for these recognitions and for the event include Moore Norman Technology Center, Oklahoma Business Incubator Association (OKBIA), Oklahoma Innovative Technology Association (OITA), Cortado Ventures, AXIS at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, and Standards IT.
“The OVF Awards play a significant role in boosting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Oklahoma. The annual event recognizes and celebrates the innovative ideas and accomplishments of our own startups. By highlighting the success of these entrepreneurs, the OVF awards help to inspire and motivate others in the community to pursue their own entrepreneurial endeavors. “explains Jennifer McGrail, Chair of Oklahoma Venture Forum.
The 2023 OVF Awards will be hosted on May 18th, 2023, at the Oklahoma History Center. This event is open to the public and registration is $125 for non-members. Registration is required and can be done online through the website: www.ovf.org. For any inquiries about the awards event, please contact Che’ Loessberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register to Attend
Jennifer McGrail, Executive Director
Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology
From the shopping cart to the parking meter, through some of the most recent lifesaving treatments, innovation is no April Fool’s joke in Oklahoma! I am thrilled to invite you all to the upcoming April Power Pitch Lunch of the Oklahoma Venture Forum. Our April event brings a great lineup of companies currently solving complex problems and bring disruptive technologies to market.
Finally, I want to remind our members that our entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing rapidly, and we are always looking for new ways to add value and support to our community. If you have any feedback, ideas, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or any member of our board. You can also submit ideas via the OVF Wishlist.
I look forward to seeing you all on April 12th for another exciting Oklahoma Venture Forum lunch!
Tim BurgEconomic DeveloperMoore Norman Technology Center
Timothy A. Burg currently serves as the Economic Developer for the Moore Norman Technology Center, a position he has held since August of 2021.
Prior to that he was the Economic Development Director for Shawnee Forward, a business alliance formed by the merger of the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation, (SEDF) and the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce.
In his role as an economic developer his duties often include new Business and Industry Attraction, Retail Recruitment, and oversight of the Business Retention and Expansion program. He is also active in areas of Workforce Development, Economic Development Marketing, Property Management, Research and analyzing data used in the economic development profession.
Prior to assuming his duties with Moore Norman and Shawnee Forward, for a decade Burg was the Executive Director for the SEDF where he was managed a team of local business leaders that has been credited with assisting local manufacturers in making new capital investments, through facility expansions and modernization, which has led to significantly increased employment levels. In addition, during the ten years with the SEDF, that organization was a catalyst for recruitment of new industries, the development of several large retail projects, and attracting numerous national retailers to the community.
Prior to joining the SEDF, for seven years Burg served as the Assistant Director for the Ponca City Development Authority, (PCDA) - a stand-alone 501-C3 public trust. In this capacity, he was recognized for his outstanding business expansion and retention initiatives by Governor Brad Henry, and in 2007 was the recipient of the International Economic Development Council’s Private Public partnership Award.
His blend of expertise and perspective in economic development can be traced to three significant experiences in his career. For eight years, he owned and operated his own general contracting firm and for over twenty-five years, he has been a recognized leader in the field of construction and engineering. Burg was acknowledged nationally for his design/build work.
Burg’s hands on career has allowed him to develop a unique perspective and insight into business operations, manufacturing, real estate development, construction, and renovation processes, along with the inner workings of economic development, from both the volunteer and practitioner outlook. He has over 30 years of experience in economic development, 20 as a paid professional and 10 as a volunteer.
Immediately prior to involvement in economic development, he was the Director of Engineering for Via Christi Oklahoma Regional Medical Center, a 160-bed medical/trauma center in Ponca City. While serving in this position, Burg received national recognition by the American Society of Healthcare Engineers, (ASHE) for his work.
In his tenure, Burg has been exceedingly active in workforce development serving on a state, regional and local level for over seventeen years. Burg also played a key role with the Ponca City Planning Commission board for a period of over ten years. In addition to his numerous civic and professional positions, Burg was awarded recognition as the Chamber of Commerce Ambassador for the Year in 1994 and served as the Chairman/President of the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce in 1996, while continuing to operate his own general contracting firm.
Burg is a 2005 graduate of the Economic Development Institute of the University of Oklahoma, (OU/EDI). He earned designation as Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) in 2006 and is one of only 1200 certified economic developers in the world.
Burg was a board member with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, for seven years and served on the Oklahoma Baptist University’s College of Business, Board of Executives. For six years he served on the faculty of University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute and for several years served as an instructor at the Community Development Institute with the University of Central Arkansas, in Conway AR.
He and his wife Linda have been married for 38 years, have two grown children, five grandchildren.
Chief Technology Officer
Bobby Rockers is the Chief Technology Officer of Bison Technologies, a software-enabled service company that digitizes oilfield logistics. Starting in 2019 to solve the problem of using paper ticket books to keep track of work orders, Bison Technologies has since added dispatching, price booking, and integration to ERPs, growing the company to over 200 employees, including 50 engineers. Rockers is passionate about building the technology ecosystem in Oklahoma and believes the lack of experienced tech startups that can scale is a problem.
“One of the problems that we continually run into is the lack of experienced tech startups that have been able to scale and to get to that point where they get approached for external funding and actually just take off,” said Bobby Rockers. “And the reason for that is usually not the reason that people think.”
Rockers explained the state needs experienced fast-growing startups that can act as force multipliers for the next generation of startups. Many other communities with thriving tech ecosystems began with a company that was able to grow and scale fast. The experience gained from those companies created a culture of mentorship and development for future tech startups. Although Oklahoma has had some successful tech startups, the lack of mentorship and development opportunities means a gap in the state’s tech ecosystem. Rockers believes Bison Technologies has gained significant experience and can help mentor and develop future tech companies in Oklahoma.
“It’s incumbent upon us, people like the Bison Technologies of the world, to get involved and to just help people not run into the same roadblocks, to push them to move quickly, to understand the trade-offs of the things they’re doing so that they’ve got the opportunity to know that what they’re doing will actually work and that they can be successful at it.”
To build a flourishing tech ecosystem, Rockers said it’s essential for startups to expand and connect with people in other markets. However, the startup culture in Oklahoma can be isolating.
“Collectively, we have those resources,” said Rockers. “It’s just a matter of opening ourselves up as a whole to those resources so that the developers have the chance to be successful.”
Rockers said OVF could be a catalyst for the change we need to see in Oklahoma, but we’re going to be hamstrung by our ability to grow if we can’t grow a vibrant, specifically tech-focused startup culture.
“The group that’s there has the collective resources to be the mentors and the gatekeepers and the resources to make that community vibrant and successful. And that’s what I hope to get out of it is that the people who come out of there come away with the passion and the desire and the intensity to say, ‘Hey, we can do this, and this is something that can change the skyline of Oklahoma for the next hundred years.’”
Bobby Rockers will speak to Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch members on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. The event will be held at The Venue at Crew Work Space in Downtown Oklahoma City from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm and will be open to members and guests both in-person and virtually via ZOOM. Rockers said communities such as OVF are essential, and we should leverage each other.
“It’s the serendipity of people from different backgrounds and stuff running into each other and coming up with new ideas and making those connections and saying, ‘Hey, I know a guy that does social media stuff. You probably should talk to them.’ Or, ‘Hey, I know somebody who’s been able to get auto-scaling for ten million+ customers at a reasonable price.” Or, ‘Oh, I know somebody who’s had problems with product market fit in this particular thing. Let me hook you up with somebody that’s got product experience.’ And so I think that that’s important. And initiatives like OVF and the Tech Plus Plus events and some of the work that Techlahoma is doing is super important, and we need to expand that, and in some cases professionalize that.”
CEO & Founder
BaB (Big Ass Bag)
Jenae Goodin is the founder and CEO of Big Ass Bag, which instills confidence in the online shopping experience through a universal shopping bag that allows users to add different items, from different stores, all in one place, a Big Ass Bag. She was inspired in December 2021 when online shopping online for her youngest daughter.
After owning her own boutique fitness studio and then spending 5 years working in IT alongside the Chief Information Officer, Jenae began working with University STEM students to turn their research into a business. She then had the idea to apply her expertise to solving her own problem and founded her own startup Big Ass Bag.
Jenae was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but is a native of Oklahoma, and has attended University of Tulsa and University Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, aerial arts, listening to podcasts, and of course, shopping online.
Bab instills confidence in the online shopping experience through a universal shopping cart that allows users to add different items from different stores, all in one place, in a Big Ass Bag. Those making purchasing decisions can compare products, curate a collection, and save selections when shopping online. Since launch in May 2022, Bab has organically acquired 150 beta downloads.
Attend the Power Lunch
Chief Product and Technology Officer
Accomplished visionary and technology leader with 15+ years in product development, scaling technical teams, and implementing large scale SaaS applications. A results-oriented executive, enthusiastic about improving organizations’ market presence. Endorsed for a democratic leadership style, keen eye for the big picture vision, and the ability to execute. A proven leader with a passion for helping people solve complex problems with software solutions.
I excel at consulting with senior business leaders to create and refine a technical vision then dissect that with my teams to execute on the vision. I have extensive experience managing multiple large-scale applications and infrastructures, teams of product managers, developers, and IT experts. Over the course of my career, my responsibilities have included formulating, scheduling, assisting and reviewing team members’ progress, creation of product lines, maintenance of multi-million-dollar budgets, implementing complex enhancements, and releasing updated versions of software packages.
Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology
Our calendars are soon set to turn to March. Of course, as someone with that last name of McGrail, that quickly reminds me that St. Patrick’s Day is soon around the bend. When I think of this observance, my mind immediately starts to ponder the word luck. For our entrepreneurs and innovators, we often hear them describe successful journeys with this word thrown into the mix. Yet, every time I hear the phrase, I like to say I believe in luck in the manner Thomas Jefferson described it and that is, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
Our March OVF Power lunch will be full of descriptions of this kind of luck, and you won’t want to miss it. Bobby Rockers with Bison Technologies will join us to describe how they are actively working to build a technology startup ecosystem here in Oklahoma and Jeane Goodin with BaB will tell you how she is disrupting the online shopping industry by simplifying the shopping process. We look forward to seeing you on March 8, 2023.
Make sure to get your reservation in while seats are still open. Also, please invite anyone you know that might be interested in seeing how local entrepreneurs are creating luck through their hard work building innovation here in Oklahoma.
May 18th, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 1:30 PM | Oklahoma History Center
The OVF Awards are prestigious entrepreneurial recognition that represent the triumph of the Oklahoma entrepreneurial dream and spirit.
The Oklahoma Venture Forum, as a means of publicly recognizing the achievements of successful Oklahoma businesses, has produced
the awards since 1989.
Mike Beckham, Chief Executive Officer of Simple Modern
Categories & Participating Sponsors
Venture of the Year
Most Promising New Venture | Presented by
Oklahoma Business Incubator Association
Entrepreneurial Champion | Presented by
Oklahoma Innovative Technology Alliance (OITA)
Incubator Tenant | Presented by
Oklahoma Business Incubator Association
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