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What better way to design a toy-line than to let kids be the creators? That's the idea behind Wristworld.
Wristworld is 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.
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Loveworks and Wrist World: Leveling Up Talented KidsAugment 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.”
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
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.
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.”
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, FL, Toronto 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 investors; invested in a European vertically integrated real estate development and investment company. Concurrently with those activities from 2015 to 2019, Joe 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 producers, traders 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 Trailblazers) in 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 Boards: Swiss 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).
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, email@example.com, 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!
December Pitch Presentation
Heath Pratt is the founder of Splynt, a Healthtech company focused on revolutionizing the care and prevention of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions through A.I. assessment and virtual assessment.
Before devoting his time to Splynt, Heath served as the director of athletic training and sports medicine services for an orthopedic hospital. Under the direction of 10 orthopedic surgeons, Heath oversaw the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of more than 2,000 athletes. Heath was responsible for improving healthcare access and outcomes for athletics by utilizing athletic trainers as physician extenders and outreach providers.
Heath graduated with honors with a Master of Science in Athletic Training from The University of Central Oklahoma, and a Bachelor of Science in Health & Exercise Science from The University of Oklahoma.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO
Prairie Surf Media
Written by: Dennis Spielman
The domino of events for Prairie Surf Media's formation started in 2000 when Gray Frederickson moved back to Oklahoma and started the Oklahoma Film Institute. Rachel Cannon and Matt Payne were among the first of those students. The two pursued film careers outside of Oklahoma, but they eventually found themselves back in the state.
"After a little bit of chat, and discussing perhaps the idea of making a film, or writing something together, [Rachel Cannon and I] decided that maybe it would be more exciting to begin to work to add to the existing infrastructure in Oklahoma so that we could have an even more robust and thriving film community here," said Matt Payne, co-founder and co-CEO of Prairie Surf Media. "And we've been doing it ever since."
On January 1, 2021, Prairie Surf Media took over the venue, formerly known as Cox Convention Center, through a tenant agreement with the City of Oklahoma City. The venue, now known as Prairie Surf Studios, boasts five flexible, state-of-the-art soundstages with all the amenities needed to create new worlds. Payne explained soundstages are soundproof rooms where productions can build their sets, avoid outdoor elements, and shoot in a more cost-efficient way. While the former Convention is ideal for soundstages, the facility has received upgrades to better suit productions over the past several months.
"We pulled 10,000 pounds worth of buzzy lights and old speakers out of the ceiling, replaced it with LED lights," said Payne. "We treated the walls with soundproofing, and we built vestibules on the far end of the building so that we create a barrier, an extra door barrier between the street and the sound-stage."
In addition to building soundstages, Prairie Surf Media worked to build up the state film incentive and the local workforce. With partnerships with OCU, Oklahoma City Community College and several career techs, including Metro Tech and Francis Tuttle, Prairie Surf Media is training people. Students learn how to work and function on an actual film set.
"Since then, about 30 of those individuals have gone on to work on different productions in Oklahoma," said Payne. "It's been a really successful program, and we take a lot of pride in the fact that we're not only bringing an industry here, but we're that industry is creating jobs, and giving paths to kids like Rachel and I, that want to get in the entertainment industry."
Matt Payne will be speaking at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, December 8, 2021. The event will be open to guests both in-person and virtually via ZOOM. Payne said they've been able to pursue this business by "standing on the shoulders of giants" from Oklahoma filmmakers such as Gray Frederickson, Lance McDaniel, and many others, including government officials.
"We've only been able to do this because of our partnerships with, particularly, Oklahoma City, and getting into this facility, and the state for putting an incentive in place, and state leadership, you know, Senator Roger Thompson, Chuck Hall, Representatives Fetgatter and Hill," said Payne. "There were so many leaders that have played a role in getting us here. [Prairie Surf Media] is a very, very small start-up in a very big building, but, really, the truth is that this is a city, state, and community project that we're all sort of proud of. And we think very much of Oklahoma as a whole, as our partner in this project."
Register now for the event to learn more from Matt Payne and to connect with other Oklahoma entrepreneurs.
Dale Hageman, CEO of Spirit HR, founded the organization out of a true passion for serving businesses through high-quality human resources services. As a business owner, he understands the demands of building and operating a successful organization, and he possesses an unwavering confidence in the positive impact a client centric PEO can make in the success of a business. In every aspect, Spirit HR was built to address the HR, Benefits, Risk and Payroll needs of employers in a way that complements organizations and helps them thrive.
Dale’s entrepreneurial spirit and career-long dedication to helping employers grow and succeed make him uniquely suited to guide Spirit Human Resources. As CEO, Dale directs the business development, risk management, marketing and finance aspects toward the goal of empowering and enabling the success of Spirit HR’s clients.
Honors & Awards:
2016 Outstanding CPA in Business and Industry
Oklahoma Society of CPAs
The OSCPA Outstanding CPA in Business and Industry Award recognizes individual achievement, professional examples and practices demonstrated throughout his accounting career and helps to foster the CPA designation as the premier professional credential for financial managers.
Michaeline A. Doyle Award
National Association of Professional Employer Organizations
Recognized as the individual who has provided exemplary leadership and service in devoting his time to association or industry activities on a local or national basis, with little or no previous recognition for his efforts. The award aims to recognize the person whose business philosophy is to improve the industry while improving his own PEO. This award is in memory of Michaeline Doyle who exemplified these characteristics in her relationships with our industry and association.
Attend OVF Power Lunch: December
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