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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.
Register to Attend
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
Moore Norman Technology Center
Workforce & Economic Development Coordinator and OVF Chairman
Have you noticed how many films are being made in Oklahoma these days? The state has increased its new film incentive to a $30 million rolling annual cap.
Our main speaker is Matt Payne, CEO of Prairie Surf Media. Based in the old “Cox Convention Center” building, it has been transformed into the largest sound stage in the Midwest with a 1.3 million square foot facility, 5 stages and ceiling heights from 25 to 65 feet high!
Prairie Surf Media (PSM) is an Oklahoma City-based global production company focused on multi-platform content creation. Through its innovative and transformative leadership team, the company is poised to kick start the growth of streaming, television, and motion picture production in Oklahoma. With decades of combined experience in the entertainment industry, PSM is the undisputed category leader in the state. PSM is co-founded by Oklahoma natives, Rachel Cannon and Matt Payne.
Oklahoma native Matt Payne, co-founder and co-CEO of Prairie Surf Media, a locally based production studio focused on multi-platform content creation, is a filmmaker to his core, with an impressive list of credits and achievements across a multitude of creative businesses.
During a 15-year stint in Los Angeles, where he worked in both television and film, Emmy award-winning Payne racked up credits as a writer, a documentary filmmaker, an award-winning travel photographer and writer, public speaker, and adventurer.
Please look through your personal contacts and invite a prospective new founder, funder, or associated service provider to attend our December 8th power lunch as your guest. 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 easily!
Luke is an Oklahoma native and third-time startup founder whose dream is to enable everyone to reap the advantages of machine learning and AI. He has been writing software for 12 years and most recently worked at Oseberg, Inc, where he led the AI team before departing to found AnnoLab. Luke is a veteran and worked as a medical professional in the Air Force prior to discovering his love of building software.
Luke believes that the future of machine learning and AI will empower people rather than replace them.
AnnoLab automates data extraction from documents and images using our propriety software and machine learning models, creating structured data in the process. Our software can additionally speed up time-consuming document analysis and data entry tasks, often done by highly paid subject matter experts.
Devon LaneyPresident and CEO36 Degrees North
Coming from Birmingham, Alabama as the co-founder of Innovation Depot, one of the largest entrepreneurial support organizations in America, Devon Laney now resides in Tulsa as President and CEO of 36 Degrees North with a plan to grow entrepreneurs in the Tulsa region. Known as Tulsa’s base camp for entrepreneurs, innovators, and startups, 36 Degrees North is an entrepreneurial support organization focused on providing the resources, the community, and the programs needed to support entrepreneurs as they build, grow and scale businesses.
“When I got in Tulsa, we had two locations,” said Devon Laney. “We had about a 12,000 square foot co-working space, and then we had about an 8,000 square foot hybrid of co-working and small office space. I got here, and we put together a five-year plan and began to think about what we were going to be down the road.”
The first piece of that plan involved building and launching a large technology incubator focused on supporting early-stage technology startup companies and companies making a technology product or service that they can scale and grow and raise capital. In September 2021, 36 Degrees North opened its 50,000 square foot high-tech incubator.
While co-working spaces are an essential piece of the ecosystem, Laney said it’s not the only thing one should have in an ecosystem. While co-working is excellent for individuals, co-working spaces aren’t conducive to people trying to grow a business.
“An incubator is built for growing businesses, to support growing businesses,” said Laney. “It’s not just about one individual membership, and I’m going to charge you every time you have a new member. It’s about, this company applied, we accepted them into the program, and this company is going to pay for an office, and the office is $1,000 a month, as an example. And I don’t care how many people you put in that office. I don’t care if you put two people or seven people. It’s the same price. It’s $1,000, and that $1,000 covers utilities, internet, janitorial, security, conference rooms, phone booths, Zoom rooms, all our programming, all our workshops, all our mentors, all the different things. And the company then, as an entrepreneur, the company doesn’t have to worry about, ‘Well, if I hire two more people, my monthly bill’s going to be higher.’ They don’t have to worry about that. They can focus on growing their business and know that it’s all-inclusive, all the spaces are furnished, and it’s built to support them as they’re growing their businesses.”
On the subject of economic development, Laney said that historically everybody thinks of economic development as two things: recruitment and retention. Laney cited the example of Oklahoma trying to get Tesla to come to the state. The second way most communities have done economic development is through retention. Groups work to retain the businesses that are already in Oklahoma and keep them from going somewhere else.
“I think there’s a third,” said Laney. “I’m a big believer in the third, which is let’s grow new businesses. Let’s make sure we’re supporting the growth of new industries and new businesses here. We don’t just have to recruit them here; let’s grow them here. But it requires the same kind of investment in terms of infrastructure, resources, workforce, capital, tax incentives, all those same things.”
Laney clarified that we should continue the other two ways and add the third piece to support the growth of new businesses.
Devon Laney will be speaking at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. The event will be open to guests both in-person and virtually via ZOOM. Laney is excited for the opportunity to be able to share a success story from a community perspective.
“36 Degrees North is a non-profit, 501C3, and it would not exist without the public and the private partnership together,” said Laney. “In 2017, when 36 Degrees North launched, you had philanthropic community, public, private, chamber. They all came together to create this thing, and it’s a success story. It’s a win, and that’s what has enabled us to even evolve and to think about what we’re going to be in five years from now. If they hadn’t been successful at doing that, we wouldn’t be in a position to think about how to evolve it and be better and bigger going forward. So I love the opportunity to share about a success from a public-private partnership.”
Register now for the event to learn more from Devon Laney and to connect with other Oklahoma entrepreneurs.
OVF Member Highlight
Oklahoma National Stockyards
Kelli Payne is a proud fifth generation farmer and rancher from Mustang, Oklahoma. She attended high school at Amber-Pocasset and went to college at Oklahoma State University. Choosing a random path through college, she took advantage of a number of internships in the agriculture industry and served on the OSU Dairy Judging Team. Additionally, she served on a number of student organizations and committees which allowed her to take advantage of learning opportunities throughout the United States. An avid reader, she jokes she is a lifelong learner as it took her over fourteen years to get her bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. She was named a top ten Senior in Animal Science her final year of college.
She has had the opportunity to serve as an assistant to former Congressman Wes Watkins prior to his retirement and to serve as an Executive Director for a number of Main Street organizations in Oklahoma. This experience has instilled a passion for both tourism and economic development. Combining her dedication for promoting the agricultural industry and her current position as President for the Oklahoma National Stockyards, she strives to share her personal story along with the wonderful heritage of agriculture’s role in Oklahoma City’s history. Payne is the first female to hold the position of President, and only the sixth person in the history of the Stockyards.
Kelli is very active in her community serving as President of the Stockyards City Main Street Association, District Director for the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, member of Oklahoma Cattlewomen’s Association, Cattlemen’s Leadership Academy Class XXVI, Fundraising Coordinator for West OKC Rotary Club, Ag In The Classroom Advisory Council Member, Stockyards Urban Design Committee Member, and was awarded the Hometown Heroes Award from the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2019. Kelli served on the steering committee to fund the David Jones Dairy Judging Team Endowed Scholarship at OSU and she and her partner Dave funded the first ever Veterans in Agriculture Scholarship for a master’s Student at OSU. Kelli was a recipient of the Oklahoma State University Ferguson College of Agriculture Early Career Achievement Award in 2020.
Attend OVF Power Lunch: November
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