Tulsa is in the middle of an entrepreneurial revolution. With a quick filing fee and some determination, anyone can start a new business.
And right now, Tulsa is the place to do it. Even online publications like NerdWallet.com cite Tulsa as “the best city for young entrepreneurs.”
It’s easy to write off these headlines as pandering for social media clicks. But, it is a mistake to write off Tulsa’s entrepreneurial community.
Is Tulsa the next Silicon Valley? No. The next Facebook probably won’t be headquartered in Tulsa. However, too often people use this as justification against supporting, hiring or investing in Tulsa start-ups.
That kind of thinking is poisonous, both to the entrepreneur and to our community. Instead of focusing on what Tulsa is not, we should build on the things Tulsans do well to create our own kind of start-up hub.
Anyone involved in the entrepreneurial community will tell you Tulsa is developing something special. Last spring, more than a dozen organizations came together to host the world’s first energy industry-themed Start-up Weekend in Tulsa. The event brought international attention to our city and highlighted three of Tulsa’s fundamental strengths: pragmatic entrepreneurs, collaborative community organizations and a culture of entrepreneurship.
In addition, family foundations such as the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation and the George Kaiser Family Foundation have invested in entrepreneurial start-up spaces such as 36°North, which was recently recognized by the White House and will open in January. This space will join the rich ecosystem of resources for regional start-up companies that includes for-profit service providers, nonprofit organizations, university and technical institutions and grassroots community groups.
With Tulsa’s entrepreneurial community thriving more than ever, we need to build on these strengths and continue to push ourselves forward, not to become the next Silicon Valley, but to become a better version of Tulsa.
First, we need to move faster. The rest of the world is sprinting ahead, and we are speed walking. We need to push ourselves, our ideas and our start-ups to move faster. That means we also need to embrace failing faster. In entrepreneurship, failure is just a chance to start again with more knowledge. More failures ultimately lead to more successes.
Second, we need more of everything. We need more software developers, more entrepreneurs and more investors. We need more events and more places to collaborate. Tulsa cannot afford a zero-sum mentality. We cannot criticize one group’s attempt to make Tulsa better just because it does not perfectly align with our own vision. We should and we must celebrate every attempt and victory, whether it benefits our interests or not.
Third, we need diverse founders, industries and ideas. Anyone who desires to find creative solutions to real problems is an entrepreneur. There are important lessons the founder of a tech company can learn from the owner of a food truck and vice-versa. We cannot afford for companies to isolate themselves within their own niche. 36°North will provide synergy through similar companies so that by working together, a collaboration is formed. This is something small business can learn from.
Tulsans, you live in the best place to be an entrepreneur. We have talented entrepreneurs, amazing support organizations and a community willing to invest in the future. If you have thought about pursuing your dream, now is the time. Tulsa is the place.
Dustin Curzon is executive director of 36°N.