Founder and Managing Director
Venture Development Associates, LLC
Michael Moradi is often described as a successful serial entrepreneur. He has founded or been a principal in several nanotech and biotech startups. Moradi was co-founder and vice president of SouthWest NanoTechnologies where he developed and managed strategic partnerships with industry leaders including ConocoPhillips and Zyvex. He was also Vice President of Business Development for NanoSource Technologies where he led the company's acquisition by DuPont, widely considered the first major liquidity event in the nanotechnology community. In 2003, Moradi was awarded a community service commendation from Congress for his voluntary efforts in technology-based economic development.
Moradi founded Venture Development Associates in 2004, a specialized technology commercialization firm that provides business development, merger and acquisition advisory, and related financial services to help drive the growth of early-stage technology companies. The company's current and past clients include companies in the nanotechnology, advanced materials, specialty chemicals, traditional and corporate venture capital, pharmaceuticals and therapeutics, and diversified financial services industries.
Where did the idea for your company originate?
I am a truly a "serial" entrepreneur. I have founded several nanotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, so starting a venture fund was a natural extension of my operating expertise in these startup companies. Some of the companies have far exceeded my expectations while some have failed. I suppose your average entrepreneur has their fair share of "hits and misses," but I've been fortunate to work with some of Oklahoma's best and brightest and success is imminent under those circumstances.
How did you initially finance your company?
Like many in the venture community, I dipped into personal savings and financed several of my early companies with credit cards and angel capital. I also took advantage of i2E's technology business finance program (TBFP) and grants from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). I know that my companies would not have survived without their support.
How have you grown your business?
It has been by traditional means - one customer at a time. We have also benefited from strong research and development partnerships, angel investors, and support from a multitude of federal agencies.
What makes the Greater Oklahoma City area a good place to start and grow a business?
Though cost is often cited as a reason for starting or growing a business in the Oklahoma City area, I think many people are missing the point. Oklahoma City has a vibrant and focused technology venture community. There are pockets of activity at Presbyterian Health Foundation and the OU Health Sciences Center for the life sciences. Norman has become a central location for weather and energy companies. Edmond and the Perimeter Center are great for networking and software companies and there is a fantastic focus on sensors in Stillwater. The value of these communities far exceeds the sum of their respective parts.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Having created new jobs, and more importantly, careers for several of our state's brightest and talented graduates to keep them in Oklahoma. It's a tremendous feeling to hire talented people, challenge them with the impossible task of building a successful company and then watch them grow personally and professionally.
What are some of the challenges that keep you up at night?
Balancing my relationships and time with friends, family, and my professional life.
What is your "if I'd known then what I know now?"
If someone would've told me that I'd be making a living as a technology entrepreneur in 1995, I would've thought they were crazy. If only I had known that entrepreneurship could be a viable career path I would have thrown caution to the wind in my first startup.
What do you find personally rewarding about being an entrepreneur?
Again, it has to be hiring great talents when they graduate and watching them grow in a dynamic industry and to be a part of their personal and professional success.
What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Be prepared to live a modest lifestyle while you build your business. Be honest in your dealings, work hard, and find the right people to help you achieve your goals. Before you know it, the world will open up in ways you never imagined.