In 2017, Oklahoma was named one of the best states to start a business. However, Oklahoma's economy was still ranked at number 40 in 2018, showing that the state is not seeing the full benefits of this potential. What's the cause of this? Over half of venture funding goes to California ($23 billion in San Francisco/Oakland alone), with states like Texas, Massachusetts, and New York making up another large portion. The same can be said funding from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, a government program created to provide funding for small businesses conducting research or development. Oklahoma only brought in $7.9 million of the over $2.5 billion available in SBIR awards in 2017. For 2019, the state has made it a goal to grow Oklahoma's economy and SBIR funding is an easily accessible way to do that. There is huge potential for new, innovative technology to emerge from Oklahoma.
Throughout 2018, the Oklahoma Catalyst Programs focused on tapping into this potential. At the beginning of the year, the OK Catalyst Programs had a simple goal: increase entrepreneurship and economic development in Oklahoma, specifically among women and historically-disadvantaged demographic groups. To accomplish this goal, the team implemented a number of targeted programs and events throughout the year.
Through these events and programs, over 3,000 people were reached and over $4,000,000+ in funding was raised for Oklahoma businesses. While the team is excited about these numbers, we know that there is much to more to accomplish in 2019. Our job is far from over as there are still many areas for growth and many more companies and entrepreneurs to support.
Here’s a recap of what 2018 looked like for the OK Catalyst Programs:
OK-WISE Conference: A conference to highlight how Oklahoma women are influencing STEM and entrepreneurship with over 375 people in attendance.
OK Catalyst Researchers: A 10-week program to teach 29 graduate students the basics of entrepreneurship.
Tinker Air Force Base DoD SBIR Workshop: One workshop at Tinker Air Force Base to teach about Department of Defense SBIR funding and connect OK businesses with DoD contacts.
OK Catalyst DoD SBIR Accelerator: Two accelerator programs to help write and submit SBIR proposals. Out of four proposals submitted to DoD in June, three small business won awards totaling over $250,000 in funding.
The OK Catalyst Programs team cannot take all the credit for these accomplishments as we have received a great deal of help from outside companies, partnerships, and individuals. We would like to thank everyone we received support from throughout this past year. We also would like to thank those that helped increase awareness for women in STEM and entrepreneurship, those that participated in our training programs, and everyone who attended our events throughout the year to learn more about SBIR.
It has been a busy year for the OK Catalyst Programs and we know our job is far from over. Around Oklahoma, women-owned businesses are growing and paving the way to increase female representation in business ventures. Researchers and graduate students at major Oklahoma universities are doing incredible work in fields such as medicine, engineering, social science and more. 2019 will be filled with even bigger events, programs, and success for Oklahoma businesses.
The team looks forward to another great year!
-OK Catalyst Programs