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by Dennis Spielman
Before having a career in venture capital, Kevin Moore, Aaron Webster, and Justin Wilson were pursuing other paths. Moore got a degree in engineering, Webster was a developer, and Wilson studied to be a doctor. While their career path changed, they incorporated their past knowledge into their current venture firms.
Spur Capital Partners specializes in early-stage technology and life science venture capital fund investments. Cameron Ventures is an early-stage venture fund with affiliate operating companies that serve customers across the United States, primarily in insurance, banking, and asset management. Wilson at Plains Ventures says they are sector agnostic, investing from seed to Series A in Oklahoma businesses.
Moore, a partner at Spur Capital, finds their significant diversification a positive for the company.
“The way that our model is set up, we invest in so many different companies with the right firms that we see these effects within the portfolio, where because we’re still investing at the early stages of a company’s life, we’ll see that maybe 20% of all the companies within our portfolio, they will drive about 75% of our performance,” said Kevin Moore. “That’s the power law effect you want to see in venture capital.”
Moore explained that the drawback to Spur’s business model is that some people lose all control. They decide which managers to choose, how much money to invest with each manager, and when to exit those different opportunities. The other potential issue that some people might have is that they only focus on early-stage venture capital.
Webster, Managing Director at Cameron Ventures, sees a benefit to their limited partner base.
“We get to focus on meeting entrepreneurs to focus on looking at the deal mechanics, looking at what the technologies actually do, and then backing the teams that we think are going to make some big changes in the industry,” said Aaron Webster.
Historically, Wilson, Managing Director at Plains Venture Partners, has focused on healthcare and biotech companies because Oklahoma produces outstanding companies in those fields.
“We can invest in really any industry as long as it’s a high growth opportunity with an outstanding founder, and there’s a clear path to value creation and an exit,” said Justin Wilson. “We’re open-minded and willing to dive in and understand something.”
For founders looking for investors, Moore thinks most founders discount the strength of their team.
“I think the team is critical,” said Moore. “However, I think that there’s also this notion that if the product is good enough or the market is large enough... And those things certainly have to be there, but in some of the most successful venture capital firms, what they experience and what I’ve experienced in the past is that the team is what makes the biggest difference. And you look at it as you can have a really good team with an average product that will have a higher probability of success than a great product with an average team.”
Webster advised that entrepreneurs should understand what type of fund they’re pitching to, whether generalist or vertical-specific funds.
“In general funds, you have to find the right partner to pitch to that is interested in your company and interested in your theme,” said Webster. “If you’re pitching to a vertical-specific fund, you actually have to pick the correct vertical. I get so many inbounds from founders, just cold decks to where we are not even focused in on that theme at all.”
Wilson said founders should view investors as a class of your customers.
“Think of investors as a customer and anticipate their needs and know that if you’re pitching a family office or a high net worth individual, what their needs are is likely very different than what a pure financial VC is looking for,” said Wilson. “But in the end, VC’s about value creation. And so if you can communicate that, ‘Listen, I have this really cool idea that creates real value, that solves a real problem for my customers,’ investors are going to find a way to understand it.”
Kevin Moore, Aaron Webster, and Justin Wilson will be part of a special panel discussion at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. The event will be open to members and guests both in-person and virtually via ZOOM.
“I think the fact that this organization exists is a huge positive for Oklahoma and for Oklahoma entrepreneurs,” said Moore. “It provides a good platform for people to present their ideas. And I would say that maybe most of the people in this group probably have some awareness of risk capital and what it means and how it should work. But I certainly encourage members of this group and just Oklahomans, in general, to think about venture capital and early-stage funding as an asset class and to make room for that in your investment appropriation.”
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I'm dedicated to insuring that those who spend time with me feel better about themselves and better equipped to face life's challenges. I spent twelve years in the fitness industry encouraging women to be comfortable in their own skin. I was honored to be the first US Team Captain for Team Red Bowl, a branch of Joint Aid Management that feeds over 1 million African Children each day. I then served four years as the President and CEO of the Guthrie America Chamber of Commerce. I am a Co Founder of an accelerator-backed technology startup called Made Possible By that makes giving easy for Community Minded businesses and provides a better way to share their Stories of Good. I am also the host of a podcast called Conversations Around Good where I highlight (domestic and international) businesses, organizations and individuals who are making a difference in their communities. My newest role is as the Executive Director for Cultivate Venture Accelerator. Creating a redemptive culture in OKC where everyone thrives.
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Chairman's Perspective: April 2022
“Show me the money,” is not just one of the most popular lines from Jerry Maguire, it’s also one of the most commonly listed needs for entrepreneurs starting and growing their businesses. If you enjoyed our engaging January Power Lunch, with the first part of venture capital investors in Oklahoma, you will not want to miss our April Power Lunch. During our April event, Aaron Webster with Cameron Ventures, Justin Wilson with i2E, and Kevin Moore with Spur Capital Partners will discuss what their organizations look for when funding and provide insight into what is currently going on with venture funding in Oklahoma. At the end of the session, Power Luncheon guests will have the opportunity to ask these funders questions.
We look forward to seeing our regular OVF attendees and encourage you to invite those aspiring entrepreneurs or funders to join us for the April Power Luncheon. We also encourage you to come prepared with your most pressing questions for our panelist. We look forward to seeing you at the OVF April Power Lunch.
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Chairman's Perspective: March 2022
Nestled right to the east of downtown Oklahoma City is a small area of about 850 acres that is making a tremendous mark on innovation that impacts the world. The Oklahoma City Innovation District is home to more than 25,000 employees. To put that into perspective, that would make the Innovation District, on any given workday, the equivalent of the 17th largest town in Oklahoma placing it solidly between Jenks and Ardmore. During our March Power Luncheon, we look forward to welcoming our main speaker, Katy Evan Boren, President, and CEO of the Innovation District. Katy will share more on the Innovation District and many of the recent exciting developments for the growth of the district.
As Oklahoma becomes more innovative, this cannot happen without a significant amount of creativity. Our March pitch presenters will feature Laura Philips and Laurent Massenat with Factory Obscura. Laura and Laurent will share how Factory Obscura, as a collaborative company, uses immersive experiences to encourage the creation of art in all forms.
The OVF March Power Luncheon will deliver a dynamic look into innovation and creativity that is going on in our state. This luncheon would be a great time to invite your friends and colleagues that are interested in creativity and innovation. We look forward to seeing you at the OVF March Power Lunch.
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.
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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.”
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.
“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
“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
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.
Loveworks and Wrist World: Leveling Up Talented KidsAugment Reality Gaming on your Wrist
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.
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