The Oklahoma City Thunder, an organization that knows a little something about successful launches, [recently] unveiled an initiative designed to boost technological innovation through local entrepreneurship. Thunder Launchpad is a business accelerator program designed in collaboration with the organization StitchCrew. The program is designed to help founders conceive, design and scale business ventures in Oklahoma.
“From day one, we’ve always believed the Thunder can be an additive to OKC,” said Brian Byrnes, Thunder senior vice president of sales and marketing. “It’s always been at the forefront of what we do, and it’s from that lens we looked at this opportunity.”
The Launchpad will host two 12-week batches of startups a year to help owners grow from good idea to successful business. Each batch will have up to 10 ventures. Those selected to participate in the program will receive free space and shared services to help get their company running.
At the end of the program, founders present their company to investors and stakeholders. The Thunder Launchpad has particular interest in ventures in industries such as agriculture, energy, health, government and financial services throughout the Midwest.
“Investors were already working in the Midwest, but not in Oklahoma,” Lucas said. “We started to ask ourselves, ‘What’s happening? Why are we not seeing more activity?’”
In examining these questions, a need for more collaboration, the ability for entrepreneurs not to work in silos and providing a coordination of resources were deemed important to help turn Oklahoma into a place desirable for successful startups. She described the need for a change in thinking — instead of pursuing other companies to relocate to Oklahoma, why not help them originate here instead?
“The biggest challenge is to build collaborative culture,” Lucas said. “We need to stop saying no to crazy ideas.”
Greater Oklahoma City Chamber President & CEO Roy Williams believes this type of concept goes beyond helping just the startups, but is of assistance to Oklahoma City as a whole.
“It’s really complementary relative to the innovation district,” Williams said. “What you want is a vibrant place that offers entrepreneurs multiple options about how to take their idea and turn it into a successful business.”