Interview with Chamber's innovation expert Evan Fay: 'We need to be a bridge builder'

Published: Monday, February 8, 2021 By: Marcus Elwell Source: VeloCity

For several years, momentum around Oklahoma City’s entrepreneurship community has been growing. Every month it seems new resources become available, new initiatives are launched and local companies are being put on the national stage.

Recently, VeloCity sat down with Evan Fay, manager of innovation and entrepreneurship for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Fay is the Chamber’s point person when it comes to connecting with entrepreneurs in OKC and has been involved with the launch of several new initiatives to help keep the community’s momentum going.

Editor’s note: This will be a two-part series. Part one, below, focuses on how the pandemic impacted our local entrepreneurship community and the 2021 Regional Startup Census. Part two will run later this month and focus on new initiatives that have launched this year and next steps that need to be taken by the larger community to help local innovation thrive.

VeloCity: The current pandemic has dominated everything this year. How do you feel like it has affected Oklahoma City’s startup community?

Fay: It has been interesting because the last two years have felt like a lot of momentum had been building for our startup ecosystem. Despite COVID, our startup community in Oklahoma City became even more connected. I think the pandemic created more desire from local founders for organizations like us to play a role and help get even more people connected.

I think we were naturally headed in that direction and there were a lot of things that led up to that. Regular meetups and new programs, like the Thunder Launchpad, are hitting their stride which has created real energy in our community.

Then COVID hit and honestly, if anything, the momentum has done nothing but grow. Entrepreneurship is a lonely sport to begin with. Now everybody is working from home and so we all kind of had to default to a founder's mentality of I've got to really go out of my way to communicate with my teammates. I have to really go out of my way to find and build community. As a result, a lot more of these “Zoom meetups” have started popping up like Entrepreneurs in Tech. As bad as this past year has been, it has been exciting to see Oklahoma City’s entrepreneurial community come together and use it as an opportunity for growth.

What role do you think the Chamber should play in helping build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem?

We need to be a bridge builder between entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, corporate innovation teams and entrepreneur support organizations to achieve results that no single entity can by itself. We have the power of being a convener. I talk to founders and ecosystem builders all the time who just want to meet others like them, who are interested in what they’re interested in, and who want to build with them. We are seen as a resource to help connect those dots and to find the right resources and people to help scale a business in the most frictionless way possible.

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