New 'venture accelerator' firm aims to jump-start startups
New Oklahoma City firm VentureSpur plans to help fledgling companies grow fast through “boot camp,” which provides mentors, office space and funding.Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012 By: Don Mecoy
VentureSpur, a firm designed by three entrepreneurs who returned to their roots to nurture early-stage companies seeking to mature and attract capital, launched Wednesday in downtown Oklahoma City.
The venture accelerator company follows a model of firms in other parts of the country that have successfully helped develop fledgling firms that have a business plan and perhaps a prototype, but haven't yet earned their first round of venture capital, VentureSpur co-founder and managing director Kraettli L. Epperson said.
“Getting to the point that the business is ready for venture capital is a big leap for many companies,” Epperson said. “Many promising companies that might produce a great business in a city or region don't get to that point.”
VentureSpur plans to host two groups of three startup companies each year, offering free office space, mentoring from successful Oklahoma entrepreneurs, development and education opportunities and money from a seed fund. Founders of developing companies typically swap equity in their business for early-stage funding.
The company, based in The Exchange building on Film Row, is accepting applications from startup businesses. VentureSpur will winnow down those applicants to two or three companies, which will be selected by late summer to participate in a three-month “boot camp,” Epperson said.
While previous successful venture accelerator firms have focused on software companies, Epperson said VentureSpur won't be limited to that niche.
“We're looking for companies that have large market potential, that are going to be scalable so they are attractive for additional follow-on investment,” he said. “These are companies that are further along than an idea on the back of a napkin.”
Epperson, owner of the Oklahoma City information technology consulting firm Black Mesa Consulting, co-founded VentureSpur with David Matthews and Gabe Bass. Matthews is a partner in the venture capital firm, Trailblazer Capital, and manager of the Oklahoma Opportunity Fund. Bass is managing partner of Bass Law, with offices in Oklahoma City and El Reno.
Matthews said VentureSpur's accelerator model “provides big advantages in emerging venture capital markets like Oklahoma, where the cost of doing business is low and local investors are hungry for homegrown success stories.”
Epperson said the firm hopes and expects to attract some of the area's “best and brightest” entrepreneurs.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand among investors in Oklahoma for the kind of central hub and critical mass we believe an accelerator can bring to state,” Epperson said.