For the past decade, Tulsa has witnessed a remarkable renaissance that has inspired hundreds of young professionals to build their careers — and new businesses — here.
This is a wonderful time in history to be a young entrepreneur in Tulsa.
How did it start?
Let’s begin with the 2005 creation of TYPros — Tulsa Young Professionals — by the Tulsa Regional Chamber. In the ensuing decade, TYPros has flourished into a spirited, collaborative group of 20-40 year olds determined to shape the future of their city through business development, social networking and activism.
Subsequently, The Forge was launched as an incubator designed to provide low-cost support for entrepreneurs struggling to launch their ventures.
Along came peer support groups such as 1 Million Cups Tulsa and its weekly entrepreneurial presentations, as well as the Cultivate918 and the Tulsa Community College StartUp Cup competition, both sponsored by the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation.
So, what has happened? Scores of vibrant new companies sprung up such as ICEdot, Whiteboard.co, Expert TA, Well Checked Systems, Galley Sink, Nourish Drink Cafe ConsumerAffairs and NewMedio.
And the world noticed. In the past two years, Tulsa has been ranked as the nation’s No. 1 city for young entrepreneurs by Forbes Magazine and as the top-ranked city for young entrepreneurs looking to start a business by NerdWallet.com.
Helping to fuel all of this growth has been public-private partnerships like the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and its affiliates at i2E Inc. and the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance.
State funding sources such as the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund have provided critical capital for early stage startups before they began generating revenue on their own. And business advisory services from both i2E and the OMA provide important guideposts for entrepreneurs along the way.
OCAST programs provide innovators much needed research support funding through its Oklahoma Applied Research Support program and the Oklahoma Health Research Program, while the OCAST Intern Partnership places Oklahoma college students into real world R&D efforts within companies throughout our region.
Tulsa truly has enjoyed a renewal over the past decade. Let’s continue to encourage these bright young people who are willing to diversify our city to launch their business ventures here.
It’s going to require continued legislative commitment to funding STEM education and catalysts such as OCAST to sustain this momentum and build on it for Tulsa and all of Oklahoma. Let’s not let the renaissance fade.
These young entrepreneurs will not appear out of thin air.
Sherri Wise is president and CEO of the Osteopathic Founders Association and an OSTRaD/OCAST board member).