Nonprofit i2E Helps Hopeful Oklahoma Entrepreneurs
OKLAHOMA CITY - Have a brilliant idea and want to get your new product or service on the market? i2E is a nonprofit ready to help set you on your path to entrepreneurship.
"We help grow new companies in Oklahoma," said Scott Meacham, President and CEO of i2E.
It's a simple business plan Meacham came up with almost 20 years ago.
"I talk about where we help people is basically all the way from startup to bankable," he said.
He started i2E to offer advice and funding through investment partners to hopeful entrepreneurs. However, it first starts with an idea.
"Rather than creating a joint bank account you can create one of these cards and easily split expenses," said Yusuf Shurbaji, who pitched his product Toucan Pay during the Venture Assessment Program at i2E.
Through VAP, entrepreneurs spend three weeks testing their innovations, whether it's a service or a product, to see if it fits into the market and more importantly will someone pay for it.
"One of the most difficult things that people have to get past is in their mind they've built a better mousetrap. The real question is will the market really see that as such and will they pay them for that," Meacham said.
i2E has helped turn hundreds of visions into successful ventures, like DateBox.
"We want to make date night simple for couples," said Brett Kolomyjec, Co-Founder of DateBox. "Every month we plan something different for you so this here is a sushi making course, so it's a roll your own sushi experience. Their date will actually be created based upon who they are as a couple."
Kolomyjec used the nonprofit to help tap into a new market with his "date in a box" concept.
"The nature of the business model really was conducive to the problem couples were feeling which is they just don't have much time, they're not as creative as they once were and their dating life once they're in a serious relationship or a marriage becomes really inconsistent," Kolomyjec said.
Originally from Seattle, Brett and his wife Devon moved their headquarters to Oklahoma City. i2E helped provide $2.6 million in growth capital for them to expand their business.
"The startup community here is really growing, it's in its infancy and so we're excited to be part of that," he said.
i2e manages more than $50 dollars to invest in Oklahoma companies, many of those companies are based inside OU's Research Center just east of downtown, everything from medical breakthroughs to tech startups.
"I had a friend that wanted to purchase a high end projector on eBay but thought that the seller was misrepresenting it he said 'I wish I had someone to go look at that for me,'" said Robin Smith, CEO of WeGoLook.
Smith created WeGoLook, a company that allows you to hire, on demand, a person to go look at something before you buy it.
"It took about a year and I launched with about 4,500 lookers," she said.
Headquartered in downtown Oklahoma City, she enlisted help from i2E.
"Our initial advice to them was think bigger," said Meacham
She secured just over $4 million and now has a network of 30,000 lookers across the country.
"There is a small thriving technology community and I think a lot of people kind of overlook that but they're starting to surface and that just provides more opportunity for other companies like mine," Smith said.
Using some state appropriated funds, i2E provides half the funding a company needs to startup or expand and then finds private investors to match it.