Dollars from the State Small Business Credit Initiative are allowing a whole new cohort of institutional investors, angel investors, and high-net-worth individuals in Oklahoma to dip their toe in venture capital. Over 40 million dollars have been allocated to groups like 46Venture Capital, OLSF Ventures, and TEDC Creative Capital, to invest in businesses.
Tracy Poole’s journey into entrepreneurship began as a transactional lawyer, spending 30 years working with law firms and corporations. His early investments in disruptive technologies within the energy sector while at Williams Energy Marketing and Trading ignited his passion for startups. After leaving Williams, he continued his entrepreneurial endeavors, eventually forming 46 Venture Capital.
Before his time with OLSF Ventures, Sean Templemore-Finlayson worked for Jefferies Group LLC in the Energy Group, focusing on public mergers and acquisitions. While at Jefferies, Sean worked on $3 billion in successful deals. After his time with Jefferies, Sean co-founded a London-based financial intermediary focused on direct investment in startup companies. After building the firm’s revenue, product offerings, and client base, Sean moved on to OLSF Ventures.
Rose Washington-Jones’s career path started in banking and finance at Mississippi State University and Trustmark National Bank. Her journey took her into higher education at Jackson State University and later to Los Angeles, where she worked at the University of Southern California in community and government relations. After the events of 9/11, she moved to Tulsa and has since led TEDC, focusing on fostering economic development through supporting startups and growing businesses.
“What the SSBCI funds did for every state, including Oklahoma, is they incentivized the funds that are there to actually take a deep hard look and try hard to find the great deals that are local,” said Sean Templemore-Finlayson, Vice President of OLSF Ventures. “There’s definitely a lot of qualification screening stuff we have to do, but in terms of the actual dollars that they can use and how they use them and what it means for the business, it’s an unbelievable opportunity.”
“SSBCI has been a really good catalyst to get things done and make sure that teams in Oklahoma are getting funded for those things that we feel are strategic for the state,” said Tracey Poole, Managing Partner for 46Venture Capital.
While there are two branches of funds within the program, one for venture investments and one for lending, TEDC Creative Capital operates as a lender, distinguishing itself from venture capitalists by not seeking ownership in the companies it supports.
“However, someone who has received venture backing from SSBCI can also qualify for loan funds,” said Rose Washington-Jones, CEO and Executive Director of TEDC Creative Capital. “Many times, companies can’t get all the funding from a bank or venture firm, and we’re here to fill that gap.
This funding aims to support high-growth businesses in specific sectors such as life sciences, energy tech, and aerospace. Poole emphasized that venture capital suits businesses with significant growth potential and a focus on disruptive technologies. Washington-Jones added that SSBCI funding isn’t limited to large healthcare or aerospace industries. Rather, it caters to a variety of businesses based on their alignment with the priority sectors or supply chain relationships with them.
Tracey Poole, Sean Templemore-Finlayson, and Rose Washington-Jones will be part of a panel discussion at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, October 11, 2023. Attendees can expect to gain invaluable insights into the impact of SSBCI funds on fostering innovation, promoting economic development, and nurturing innovative technologies in Oklahoma. With the state’s venture capital ecosystem evolving remarkably, this panel discussion promises to be an essential event for entrepreneurs, investors, and anyone interested in the future of the state’s economy. The event will be open to members and guests in person at 36 Degrees North (36 E. Cameron Street in Tulsa) and via ZOOM.
“Now is one of the best times to be raising capital in Oklahoma period,” said Templemore-Finlayson. “And by coming to the panel, you get to see who got SSBCI dollars, and so who’s able to write some of those checks.”
While entrepreneurs may not need funding right now, Washington-Jones said understanding all the resources available when trying to launch or grow a company will be worth their time. They may need these services in a month or two or next year.
“If you don’t go, you won’t know,” said Poole. “People need to get involved in this ecosystem to understand the upside and the upside.”