Ep. #1087 - Oklahoma’s VC Scene
In this Startup Hustle episode, join Lauren Conaway and Susan Moring, Principal of Cortado Ventures, as they talk about Oklahoma’s venture capital scene. Additionally, hear them discuss how Oklahoma is shifting into an entrepreneurial economy and how great entrepreneurial ecosystems are built through supportive business environments.
Covered In This Episode
Let’s talk about Oklahoma’s VC scene. Oklahoma has always been known for its oil, natural gas, and agriculture. However, these days, it is starting to get popular amongst entrepreneurs for its great entrepreneurial ecosystem. This Midwest city is attracting founders from all over the country. But how did Oklahoma become a rising startup destination in the country?
To find out, Lauren welcomes Susan Moring to discuss Oklahoma’s VC scene. In addition, they explore how Cortado Ventures, other investors, and the government helped foster entrepreneurship in the area. They also share how other cities can improve their business ecosystems to encourage and attract more startups.
Tune into this Startup Hustle episode to learn more about Oklahoma’s VC scene.
- Susan’s journey (1:27)
- Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? (4:31)
- Impact begets impact (8:25)
- What change in Oklahoma deal flow? (10:36)
- What does Cortado Ventures do? (13:44)
- The state of Oklahoma business space (18:01)
- Investing in mid-con (Mid-continent) tech ventures and startup ecosystem (21:57)
- What do cities need to do to attract more startups? (25:16)
- How can entrepreneurs experience the Oklahoma ecosystem? (27:04)
- The charms of cities like Kansas and Oklahoma (28:22)
- What is your dream for the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oklahoma as a whole? (31:24)
- Cortado Ventures in the future (34:51)
- What is Cortado Ventures looking for in early-stage companies? (37:26)
- Finally, what is Susan’s favorite startup? (39:26)
In ecosystem development, entrepreneurial ecosystem development, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that impact begets impact. It’s like you have to almost exponentially grow your potential, like when you’re talking about things like funding and the events and programming and support. Often, once you get, like, a little foot in the door, just a little bit, you see more people start to take notice and feel more confident about investing in the area and within the community.Lauren Conaway
I think, you know, there’s something really important about deploying capital in, you know, historically underserved regions and entrepreneurs that may not have otherwise had the chance to build their dream. So yeah, I mean, I think that’s super important. And hopefully, we’re, you know, making a small dent in the number of entrepreneurs that deserve that chance.Susan Moring
One of the reasons that I love seeing women operating in the investment space so much is because I know, as someone who’s done the pitch thing, sitting in front of a panel of people who don’t look, think and act like you. They might not understand the journey that you’ve taken to get there. As a result, that can be a really disconcerting part of the process. And so being able to, like, I just know that as a female founder, being able to look across the table and know that someone is going to be able to understand implicit parts of our journey and advocate, that’s really exciting to me.Lauren Conaway
One of the things that we’ve done really well is in both of our major cities in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, creating the “No wrong front door” for entrepreneurs, right? So, I think it’s so important for a city to have a space where anyone that is interested in tech or entrepreneurship. And, if they make it through that door, like, they’re going to get pointed in the right direction.Susan Moring
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Lauren Conaway 0:00
And we are back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host, Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHer KC. And I gotta tell you about today’s episode sponsors. Today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by fullscale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult. We all know that. But Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And they have the platform to help you manage that team. Visit fullscale.io. To learn more. Now, I am thrilled to have I always love seeing women get involved in venture capital and asset management and it all of these really, really beautiful things because the fact of the matter is as entrepreneurs access to capital is one of the most difficult challenges and barriers that we deal with. And so having these conversations with incredible leaders in this space is one of my favorite favorite things to do. So we have with us today, Susan Moring and Susan is principal at Cortado Ventures. We’re going to have a really fantastic conversation here. But first things first. Susan, thank you so much for joining us today on Startup Hustle.
Susan Moring 1:10
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I am thrilled to be here.
Lauren Conaway 1:14
All right, well, well, let’s hop right into it. Because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. I can tell already. I’m gonna ask the perennial question. Tell us about your journey. Here. It was coming.
Susan Moring 1:27
I know it’s such it’s such an open-ended question. Okay, yeah. So like you said, I’m Principal investor at portato ventures, a venture firm in Oklahoma City. So very fitting for our topic today talking about the startup ecosystem in Oklahoma. Some of your listeners are probably like, where’s Oklahoma? What is it then Oklahoma City. So we’ll talk about all of that. You know, I think in terms of my journey, IML lifelong Oklahoman. So I was born and raised here. I went to school at the University of Oklahoma, and have been in the startup ecosystem in and around Oklahoma for really the whole decades since I graduated. So I have, I just love working with startups, that’s just been part of part of, you know, everything I love about my job. And in my career so far. I think, you know, when I was in college, I studied both engineering and then entrepreneurship. And it was just this like recognition for me that I loved, super analytical things. But I also love really creative things. And so startups with this sort of hybrid, or you could do some both, right, it could be like the crazy idea person, and you could, you know, be around people with big visions. But you could also, there’s this level of like, you have to be detail oriented, and you have to be able to execute and, you know, this very analytical side of it as well. So that kind of drew me personal personality wise into the world of entrepreneurship and startups. And then before I jumped into venture, I worked in an entrepreneurial consulting group where we did, anywhere from three to six month engagements with startups at the very earliest stages may be still a piece of technology at a university. Or it could be even an existing company that’s trying to launch a new product, but really kind of helping people think through the very earliest stages of entrepreneurship. So doing customer discovery, trying to understand your value proposition and understanding what potential pathways are there for you, and kind of all that good stuff. So I love working with startups. I loved being exposed to, you know, a different company all the time, like sort of cross industries, knowing what’s going on in terms of innovation and new technologies. And yeah, I got got really involved in the broader ecosystem as well. So
Lauren Conaway 3:42
we have a lot of, we have a lot to talk about there. So I want to kind of take us back a little bit, because I definitely want to talk about cortado ventures, and I want to talk about investment landscape. But first things first, I kind of want to take the 10,000 foot view. And in we were chatting and I shared with you, I think I think this is so cool. But I’d really like to understand it better. So here in Kansas City, we have a pretty strong entrepreneurial ecosystem. And incidentally, we also get that day where people have no idea where we are, and I’m just like, right in the middle. Like, that’s always my answer. We’re just exactly in the middle. And so we’re gonna have to figure out how to do that for Oklahoma because you’re just just west of middle kind of.
Susan Moring 4:26
Yeah, yeah. But Texas
Lauren Conaway 4:31
was, that’s a good one. All right, Oklahoma. Really interesting has happened over the course of the past few years within Kansas City’s ecosystem where we have actually started to see folks from our area from Kansas City migrating to Oklahoma, to avail themselves of resources they’re being offered with as this entrepreneurial ecosystem that you’re building. You know, we were talking about Carolina McKinney, we were talking about who’s the founder You’re about to buy during Casey, you know, she actually took part in an accelerator program out there. And I think she’s applied to a few more. You know, we had Edna Martinson on bottle, we’ve got an upcoming Startup Hustle episode with her. But bottle learning, they got a really interesting opportunity with some investment and some some mentorship. And so they actually ended up relocating. And so I’m really, really curious as the person in Kansas City who keeps seeing what’s happening. Talk to us about the ecosystem. Why do you think people are entrepreneurs are so attracted to the ecosystem? Space?
Susan Moring 5:36
Yeah, great question. Well, first of all, I would say everyone tune in for the episode with Edna for bottle because she’s just amazing. She’s my favorite founders.
Lauren Conaway 5:45
I love her. So every everyone,
Susan Moring 5:46
everyone, check out her episode. And she’s way more interesting than I am. So why don’t you believe? But it’s a good question. I mean, you know, I think there’s been so I guess, at the 10,000 foot level, you know, having been in the ecosystem in Oklahoma for a while, I think there has been so many people sort of laying the groundwork for the past decade. So people trying to build spaces to support entrepreneurs, we’ve had a number of young debaters and accelerators we had, I was part of launching and running the state’s first coding boot camp to like, try to start spring, some more tech activity. About 10 years ago, we had some efforts at Social Impact accelerators. And so there was all of this sort of programming that was really trying to lay the groundwork for creating a more robust startup hub. And then, you know, three to four years ago, all of a sudden, you start to see that work pay off with the launch of several new funds in the state. So we’re talking about we’re only we’re only three years old, and Tinto capital up in Tulsa started around the same time that we did. And so now you have a considerable increase in the amount of funding available for companies. And that really was the was kind of sort of the start of the J curve, I think. So all that work. We’ve been doing, you know, for the past 10 years to lay the groundwork, and to create spaces that were meaningful for entrepreneurs and expertise. You know, once we had that addition of capital into the equation, I think that really caused us to take off. And so now you’re seeing like, really amazing communities like 36 degrees north in Tulsa, where they’ve created an incubator that has access to multiple funds in a number of other resources. And so that’s really attracting entrepreneurs to Tulsa, in addition to programs like Tulsa remote and the recruiting efforts that they can provide entrepreneurs and then, you know, sort of the equivalent equivalent here in Oklahoma City, we’ve got a new space called The Verge. We just actually Oklahoma City just got a generator accelerator. So our Yeah, the first generator location, Oklahoma City is going to be right here in our building in the borough is also located. So there’s just a lot a lot happening. And it’s, we’ve we’ve got sort of these berries, you know, centralized hubs in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and then a lot of connections between the two cities as well. And so a lot of collaboration across the state to sort of continue supporting entrepreneurs and give them the spaces and resources they need to thrive.
Lauren Conaway 8:25
Well, and it’s really interesting, and tell me what you think of this. So So in ecosystem development, entrepreneurial ecosystem development, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that impact begets impact, it’s like you have to almost exponentially grow your potential, like when you’re talking about things like funding when you’re talking about the events and programming and support. Often, once you get like a little foot in the door, just just a little bit, you see more people start to take notice and feel more confident about investing in the in the area, and within the community. Have you found that?
Susan Moring 9:05
Yeah. Oh, for sure. I mean, I think that’s really evident. And, you know, even since cortado, launched, we’ve seen maybe three to five other people start to launch and raise venture funds. And so there definitely is this element of, okay, this can be done here. And so I’m gonna go try as well. And, you know, like, we we consider all of that to be great. It’s not competitive. We, you know, in terms of investment dollars per capita for tech, you know, here in Oklahoma compared to on the coasts, we’re still way under in terms of what you know, in terms of capital that you would actually need to support an ecosystem like that. And so, you know, we love seeing other funds pop up. We love seeing more people investing in tech. I think there was, you know, for a long time, most of the people that created wealth in Oklahoma, a lot of them came from oil and gas industry. I’m like banking. And so for a long time there was this. I don’t know, I think kind of aversion to tech investing, or maybe just people didn’t understand Understand it enough to really get engaged in venture funds or angel investing. And we’re starting to definitely see that shift. And you definitely get some of like, okay, so this, this firm is making it work. And this startup was successful. So why can’t mine be, you know, and more people popping up and trying that? So? Yeah, I love that. And definitely think it’s a crucial factor of, again, hitting sort of that J curve where we can grow exponentially as a ecosystem.
Lauren Conaway 10:36
Yeah. Well, and I definitely I, you’ve mentioned, I mean, of course, we’ve mentioned capital in this conversation a couple of times. But one of the things that you talked about around Startup Hustle is that deal flow. You know, there are things that entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs, and in particular, tech entrepreneurs, startup founders, they have to have in order to succeed, they have to have access to money, they have to have access to talent, they have to have access to resources and support clients and customers, like the list is pretty long. But capital is always kind of number one with a bullet for me. And so you know, you have these accelerator programs, you have these investment funds coming into the area. And I’m hoping that you’re seeing as you’re seeing more deal flow, you’re also seeing more entrepreneurs congregate in the area, what has changed? Or how does the ecosystem look different from, say, a few years ago, before you started seeing those outside firms and those those investments, opportunities arise?
Susan Moring 11:36
Yeah, so from a deal flow perspective, one thing that’s been really interesting is, in the last two years, really, we’ve had a number of new accelerators that are actually attracting startups into Oklahoma from out of state. So we have a TechStars location in Tulsa. Now we have a generator location here in Oklahoma City. We have a an accelerator in Tulsa, called act house that specifically focused on minority founders and is attracting founders from all over the country to come to Tulsa for that. So that’s been really interesting from a deal flow perspective to say, Hey, come here from our programming. But oftentimes, people as they get here, fall in love with the ecosystem and will stay and decide to run their business here, even after the accelerator is over. So that’s been really exciting to watch, especially companies that have anything to do with manufacturing. You know, this is a great place to stand up a manufacturing operation if you need to. And so we’re really kind of able to, if we can get them here for the accelerators, we can showcase everything that Oklahoma has to offer. And then a lot of times people will stay.
Lauren Conaway 12:39
Yeah, well, I have to tell you, again, as someone on the outside looking in, that’s not my favorite, because I’ve definitely seen it happen. And I was like, wait, no, we miss you, we love you. But entrepreneur, startup founders have to go where they’re going to find the opportunity and where they’re going to find the tools, the resources, this, the championship, the support that they need in order to thrive. And so I have to tell you, my hat is off to Oklahoma, whatever you’re doing over there. And you’ve got some really good ideas and really good perspective about what’s happening in Oklahoma. But whatever’s going on over there. I admire it so much thank you for for doing the work that you do to create that strong ecosystem of support for founders. Now, now talk to us about how cortado venture is fits into that landscape. So you’ve talked a little bit about what you do, but I’d like to do a little bit more of a deep dive with you. What, what is the most important thing that cortado ventures does? Yeah, so you can totally say give people money.
Susan Moring 13:44
Today, that’s for sure. Generate generate excellent returns for our investors.
Lauren Conaway 13:50
See, now, that’s a diplomatic answer, right there.
Susan Moring 13:54
No, I mean, I think you’re spot on. It’s, you know, with cortado, we’re investing in very early stage companies precede seed stage, you know, some Series A, and I think, you know, for us, that’s the opportunity to deploy capital to entrepreneurs that may not otherwise have the opportunity to launch a business or create wealth for their families. So I think, you know, there’s something really important about deploying capital in, you know, historically underserved regions and entrepreneurs that may not have otherwise had the chance to build their dream. So yeah, I mean, I think that’s super important. And hopefully, we’re, you know, making a small dent in the number of entrepreneurs that deserve that chance. So
Lauren Conaway 14:37
well, and you mentioned like you had mentioned in pre show prep, I’m curious, what is cortado ventures doing to support underestimated historically excluded, marginalized, whatever term you like to use, but but entrepreneurs who have been historically excluded from the entrepreneurial process, what are you doing in that space?
Susan Moring 14:59
You Yeah, well, I mean, I think to some extent, you could really say, the entire, like any entrepreneur in the state of Oklahoma, and it’s historically been underserved. Just because there would have been such a lack of capital here for a long time. And so I think, you know, that’s part of it. But you know, on the flip side, we also love investing in diverse founders and diverse management teams, actually just ran these numbers for another project. But I think like 77% of our zones are over over three fourths of our portfolio companies have a woman or ethnic minority as part of their like C suite management team, which is just really incredible. And so that’s, you know, I wouldn’t say that, like, we’re not a Social Impact Fund, right. Like, we want to do good business and generate great returns for our investors. But that’s been a really exciting part of some of the, you know, what we’ve seen among the really talented entrepreneurs herein
Lauren Conaway 15:58
Oklahoma. Yeah. Well, that that’s, that’s incredible. I just, I love that. And I, one of the reasons that I love seeing women operating in the investment space so much is because I know, as someone who’s you know, done the pitch thing, sitting in front of a panel of people who don’t look, think and act like you and might not understand the journey that you’ve taken to get there, like, that can be a really disconcerting part of the process. And so being able to like, I just know that as a female founder, being able to look across the table and know that someone is going to be able to understand implicit parts of our journey, and advocate AI, that’s really exciting to me. And so again, I just want to, you know, thank you for doing what you do, it can’t be, can’t be easy. You know, anytime I’ve been involved in like investment, I’m always like, I want to give everybody all the money. And they’re like, Yeah, you could never be a venture capitalist. But just knowing that there are people who are, you know, on the side of right, and advocating for these really phenomenal entrepreneurs is super cool. Now, one of the things that I’m really, really interested about, you know, I was doing some reading on Oklahoma, I’m gonna go back to Oklahoma now, but one of the things that struck me was how supportive Oklahoma is as as a state to business. And so I wanted to talk to you a little bit about that, you know, I keep on hearing about the low taxes. That’s, that’s a big, you know, they’re they have friendly regulatory environments there. They got some pro business policies. And as you said, and I and this is interesting, historically, Oklahoma has been that gas and that oil. That’s what Oklahoma is known for. Like, I literally have a postcard from Oklahoma that shows that man that’s shaped like the oil dyke man, do you know what? Yes. Yeah. Like, I’ve got that. And like, that’s kind of what I’ve always thought of. But I’m curious, like, talk a little bit about the business space in Oklahoma, because I feel like that has to be yet another draw?
Susan Moring 18:01
Yeah, that’s a great question. Yeah, I mean, I think it’s for the last five or six years, you will regularly see Oklahoma pop up on those national list of great places to start a business. And I think that mostly does have to do with sort of regulatory environment and tax environment, and, you know, resources available to young entrepreneurs. One thing that’s really interesting is Oklahoma has great tax incentives for businesses that started an incubator, I think it’s like, you know, pay. I don’t want to I don’t want to get this wrong way. Great incentives for companies that launch in Oklahoma certified business incubator, which is really exciting, and has drawn businesses into the incubators around the state for for many years now. So that’s really exciting. You know, I think on the on the tech side, specifically, we do have a ways to go in terms of one of the things that you really need to start a tech startup in Oklahoma is, you know, to your point, access to talent. And we’re still at a point where workforce wise, you know, we are starting new workforce development programs all the time, but our companies are still having to do a lot of hiring from out of state for that tech talent. So it has kind of been an effort to reduce brain drain. So the college students that graduate computer science degrees for so long, they were immediately going to the COLAs for jobs at big tech. And so that’s an important question for us is how do we get those people to stay and work here for tech startups?
Lauren Conaway 19:36
Well, it you know, speaking to that, that hiring pipeline has remote work helps that at all. Like I feel like in the in particularly in the tech sector. remote work has kind of democratized access to talent, because it because we don’t have to be quite as concerned about geography. So have you seen any changes taking place in the landscape as a result of that?
Susan Moring 19:58
Yeah. Oh, for sure. So remote Work is definitely causing sort of the tech workforce to even out I think that goes both ways a little bit. So Oklahoma companies can hire developers on the west coast. But on the flip side, and Oklahoma developer can also get hired by a company on the West Coast and make a San Francisco developer salary while they’re living in Oakland. A’s, but I think overall, it’s been it’s been beneficial for our companies, if they can just open up the market in terms of where they’re looking for their talent.
Lauren Conaway 20:34
Yeah. Okay. Well, I gotta tell you, friends, if you’re looking for talent, we know that it is not the easiest thing to do. But finding experts, software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit full scale.io where you can build a soccer team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and then see what available developers, testers and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit full scale.io to learn more. Folks, we are with Susan mooring principle with cortado ventures. And we’re talking about a lot of different things like there’s just so much ground to cover here. But really, we’re talking about Oklahoma. And I feel like we’re trying to break some some misconceptions that might be out there at Kansas City deals with that, too. Everybody’s like, Yeah, you’re a cow town. And I’m like, we have more than cows.
Susan Moring 21:27
Yeah, don’t drive to work who don’t?
Lauren Conaway 21:31
Yeah. If I never see the word flyover, or the phrase flyover country, again, I will be the happiest person ever. But
Susan Moring 21:40
you know, what I love I was I was in Kansas City a couple of months ago for a conference that flyover Capitol hosted and I love that they sort of like taking that. I love that they sort of taking that and like Yes. Oh, you know,
Lauren Conaway 21:57
creating this word. continually use it, we’re gonna change the meaning. And I love that. Exactly. I know. Well, you when we were doing prep, you had mentioned that talking about that mid con thing. Talk to us about that a little bit. To you?
Susan Moring 22:14
Oh, yeah. So at cortado, we talk a lot about venture and startup ecosystem to the mid continent or the mid con. So that’s kind of how we define the region that we invest in, and basically is Oklahoma surrounding states. But it’s a term that unless you’re familiar with the oil and gas industry, you’ve probably never heard. So it’s very common to have gas, the VidCon sort of that’s where most oil and gas operations in the US happen. So that’s, that’s also sort of a term that we’re trying to take back. Yeah. And, and use it now to define sort of our transition into more of a tech ecosystem.
Lauren Conaway 22:54
That is so interesting. And
Susan Moring 22:56
one of the, one of the the, one of the lovely things that will come city has to offer as an NBA team now. So we got the thunder several, several years ago. But I think it’s such a fun metaphor that the thunder used to play in the Chesapeake Energy arena with some of the big oil and gas companies here in town. And then a few years ago, it got renamed by PAYCOM, which is like Oklahoma City’s biggest tech success so far. So they’ve been on public markets for a long time. So the the changing of their arena from an oil and gas company to a tech company is just sort of a great metaphor for where Yeah, really.
Lauren Conaway 23:36
deeper meaning from the universe. They’re like, give the world a whole new world.
Susan Moring 23:41
Here you go. Exactly. Well, that’s
Lauren Conaway 23:43
really cool. Thank you for pointing that out. Because I never would have been, you know, certainly could show a dawning consciousness about what’s what’s that would I be? We love entrepreneurship here at Startup Hustle, so love to see it. I do want to ask you a little bit more about the the investment space in Oklahoma and what I’m gonna come up with a slightly different angle than I usually do. So usually, when I asked, when I asked for advice from interviewees for guests on the show, I asked for advice that’s directed toward the founders who might be listening. And I’m actually not going to do that here. I mean, I think that you probably have a ton of great advice. But I want to, I actually want to talk about cityhood. And I want to talk about geography. And I want I want to talk to the mayor’s out there, I want to talk to the city council’s I want to talk to those leaders, who help us in our ecosystem development who helped us create spaces in places that are conducive, supportive, and in championing of entrepreneurship and startups. And so I’m going to ask you, what do you think cities need to do to attract more startups? talent and to attract more startups and and to attract that kind of economic driver that entrepreneurship. is I really curious to hear. And I hope you don’t think that I put you on the spot, but I think
Susan Moring 25:16
yeah, well, I mean, we talked to some about that already from the regulatory side. So, you know, I’ll take a different perspective, I think one of the things that we’ve done really well, is in both of our major cities in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, creating, I don’t know, creating the the, the No Wrong front door for entrepreneurs, right. So I think it’s so important for a city to have a space where anyone that is interested in tech, or entrepreneurship, if they make it through that door, like they’re going to get pointed in the right direction, whether that be to a workshop about ideation, or a networking event where they might meet a co founder, or if they already have an idea maybe to a mentor network, where they’re going to get to see where they’re going to get support or an application to an accelerator program where they can get sort of more robust programming to get them moving faster. And I think that we’ve done that really well, both in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. And that is created, I think, a kind of a pull for entrepreneurs, because you know, when you have these very sort of centralized efforts, and centralized spaces where people can come and know, like, they will fit in, and there will be a way for them to get involved, then maybe it’s, you know, a two to five year pathway before that person actually starts their own company, but you really start to see those impacts paying off over time as you create more entrepreneurs. So that’s, that’s one thing. I think that has been really, really huge for us. And you know, of course, citywide support has been really, really important, both in Oklahoma City and Tulsa of these efforts. Yeah,
Lauren Conaway 27:04
okay. Well, no, I mean, those are, those are all great answers. And now, I’m going to take the traditional attack, and I’m going to ask you, talk to us about your best practices and advice for entrepreneurs who want to connect with these really strong ecosystems and, you know, connect with the programs and the people that Oklahoma has to offer.
Susan Moring 27:25
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when I would say, come visit us. So I think, you know, like I just said, in both in both of our major cities, there are physical spaces where if you show up, someone will help you get plugged in to the right events, or programs, or office spaces, or whatever it is. So big one, you know, if you’re out of state and thinking about it come get to know us. The accelerators that I mentioned earlier, there’s there’s several of them now I won’t list them out, are a great way to get plugged in to the mentorship to the corporate partners that we might have here in the state. Um, so yeah, you know, take a look at those apply for one of our accelerators. Um, yeah, I mean, I think people are always surprised by what they’re able to find in Oklahoma when they get here and just take some, you know, effort to seek it out and get to the right place.
Lauren Conaway 28:22
You know, it’s kind of funny about that, because I mean, Kansas City gets that a bit of that as well. People are surprised that we have an art CNN, people are surprised that we have a thriving entrepreneurial community. And it they’re surprised by a lot of things that aren’t barbecue sport, and hunting, I guess, I don’t know, I don’t know what they do here. But. But what’s interesting about that, is sure, like here in Kansas City, like we want to a FIFA World Cup bid, we’re gonna host the NFL draft in 2023. We just got our new airport. Like we have a lot of really exciting things happening in Kansas City. And I’m actually kind of scared because we’re going to be like, over the course of the next few years, we have multiple opportunities to bring in a large global audience to our city. And I’m very happy I’m like, it’s going to be spurring economic growth we’re gonna finally you know, get to show off a little bit. And this is all wonderful. However, I’m nervous because I’m like, once people discover the secret once they find out like how cool we are, are we going to be able to keep like people are gonna start coming are we going to be able to keep our property values as low as they are? Are we going to be able to like keep the sky now live with big city resources thing that we got going on? I’m sure you get that as well. But like, you know, nervous that this great secret is gonna ruin Kansas. I don’t know. Are you concerned about that?
Susan Moring 29:47
Um, I didn’t know about concern. I mean, I think for the most part, any development is good development. But I talk to people on about one of the reasons I love Oklahoma City and I think Kansas City probably fits in this category is Well, is that I can live, you know, a five minute drive from the urban core house with a yard. But, but I can go to an NBA game and be home afterwards in 15 minutes. And like, there’s just a very small sub sub segment of cities in the country that both have sort of that like big league entertainment factor, but also this like very livable environment. Yeah. And I hate sitting in traffic, I could never live in a place. For more than I get, I definitely get where you’re coming from. But there is a certain charm to places like Oklahoma City and Kansas City that converts a lot of people if like, people will come here for a job, it’d be like, what I had no idea like, since you know, I have a great quality
Lauren Conaway 30:51
happening, and I’m like,
Susan Moring 30:54
Lauren Conaway 30:57
There’s always a little element of
Susan Moring 30:58
like, Oh, what am I have to sit in traffic someday?
Lauren Conaway 31:03
Like, anytime you are, you bring a lot of people in, like, you have the potential to change the culture. And it’s like, I like the culture here. And, and I’m sure you like, Oklahoma State, one of the things that I love about it, I’ve been to Oklahoma City, and I feel like Oklahoma City and Kansas City are pretty similar in a lot, in a lot of ways. Not, you know, certainly,
Susan Moring 31:22
really amazing street art. Yeah, yeah. No, seriously.
Lauren Conaway 31:28
You know, and I mean, like, we’ve got good restaurants we’ve got, we’ve got all these amazing things. One of the things that I love the most is the fact that our leadership is so accessible, like, I can call my city council person, I can call them I can literally call my mayor and be like, Hey, we got a thing that’s happening here. How do you feel about it?
Susan Moring 31:46
No, absolutely. Yeah. And I think
Lauren Conaway 31:49
I would miss that if that were to change.
Susan Moring 31:53
Yeah, there’s, there’s another thing we talk about sometimes about benefits in Oklahoma is that you’re pretty much one degree of separation from anyone you want to talk to. Yep. It because like we are, you know, it’s a it’s a small town feel it can be. But that can be huge. Like, if you want to talk to the CEO of you know, XYZ company, somebody that you can meet can get in touch with that person. Yeah. And that’s definitely not what they that you get in some really big cities.
Lauren Conaway 32:24
Yeah. Well, I can see a lot of amazing things happening for Oklahoma in the future. How do you how do you feel about that? Like, what is your dream for the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oklahoma as a whole Oklahoma City? You know, what do you see happening? What would you like to see happen?
Susan Moring 32:44
Yeah, I mean, you know, the dream is that we can build enough of a tech startup hub here that those startups become crucial to the diversification of our economy as a state. You know, if you look historically, at the GDP of Oklahoma, like oil and gas is is the bulk of it, and still is incident? Well, yeah, well, sure. That’s, that’s true. But I think, you know, no matter how you feel on the subject, like no one believes it’s going to be around forever, to the same extent that it is now. And so I really see tech entrepreneurship as a mechanism to diversifying our economy is a state to creating new and different kinds of jobs for Oklahomans that are, you know, great, high paying jobs that people can, you know, can do from anywhere with a lot of flexibility. So, I mean, I think that that’s part of the dream for me. I, you know, in terms of industries and sectors, we have a lot of activity in the biotech space, actually here in Oklahoma City. In Tulsa, there’s a lot of activity around cyber around unmanned systems. So I’d like to see us sort of become more of a hub for those specific industries and sectors. That could be really, really interesting to develop some, like nationally known expertise. So yeah, I think you know, all of those things are possible in a 10 to 15 year time horizon for sure.
Lauren Conaway 34:28
Well, how about I’m going to ask the same question again. I feel like I’m kind of like dial I’m not really dialing it in. But I’ve kept on asking questions around around the ecosystem. And then around cortado ventures, I’m just like, doubling up. So but I do want to ask you, what are your dreams for cortado ventures? You know, we’ve talked about the the bird’s eye view. Let’s get specific with you and your journey. Ooh,
Susan Moring 34:51
that’s a good question. Yeah. Oh, man. So there’s a lot of different ways I could See cortado growing from here on out, you know, one of the really exciting things about the last three to five years in Oklahoma is the injection of early stage capital. But as a state, I would say we’re still lacking on later stage capital. And so there is an argument that after, you know, these first five to 10 years of funding really early stage companies, where are they? What are they going to do next, they’re gonna have to go to out of state capital providers for those later rounds of funding. And so thinking about cortado, having a later stage fund is really interesting to be able to continue supporting those companies through their through their entrepreneurial journey. I don’t know, I could see us developing some sector specific funds around some of those industries that our state and cities have decided, like, Hey, these are important to us. And we have expertise here and want to, you know, be hubs for those sectors, I could see us doing, like an aerospace sector specific fund, that could be a really interesting strategy. I think there’s a lot of a lot of ways we could go, I think, you know, anything that we’re doing in in line with deploying capital to early stage entrepreneurs is going to continue being hugely impactful in the community. So bringing in more partners to do more of that, and potentially, you know, developing bigger later stage funds would all be really exciting.
Lauren Conaway 36:31
Yeah. Well, and I, I just love early stage capital investment, because I firmly believe and I think most founders would tell you that one of the most crucial times in a startups trajectory is is that early stage piece, like you cannot keep going if you do not have the capital injection to keep going at it, especially in early days, you don’t have my own way. And you’re probably bootstrapping. And so any organization that can curb the hurt and the heartache, due to that, that x lack of access to capital, you know, that’s a really phenomenal thing to do. But most, especially for me, at least, when we see that happening around early stage, what are some things that early stage companies who might be interested in getting involved with cortado? What are some things that they can do to make themselves attractive to you?
Susan Moring 37:26
Yeah, absolutely. So we always say we want to meet startups before they’re actually raising, so that we have a chance to build a relationship and build rapport in a, I guess, I don’t know, in a way that’s not like you requiring a yes or no from us immediately. So we love that we love to get in touch with early stage entrepreneurs early track their progress work with them. So that’s one thing is just come get to know us in a sort of, you know, low risk environment. And then, and then find, find ways to showcase how gritty you are. So we love entrepreneurs that, you know, teach themselves no code and are able to build mock ups of whatever their product is at a super low cost. I mean, we, you know, we really eat that eat that kind of stuff up. And that’s one thing that we love about entrepreneurs in this part of the country in general is, oh, I’m gonna offend some people with this statement. But I think there’s like, generally less entitlement among entrepreneurs in the middle of the country than maybe on the coasts. And so you really get this sort of this grit. And, you know, I’m gonna, I’m gonna force this into into working or get my way there. And so, you know, we love that guy.
Lauren Conaway 38:44
I’m kind of laughing over here.
Susan Moring 38:51
I mean, I think I think, I think Kansas City probably follows in line with this, but it’s just
Lauren Conaway 38:58
good. I don’t think it can hardworking
Susan Moring 38:59
people with integrity that are just trying to, you know, pursue really exciting things.
Lauren Conaway 39:05
I don’t think it would surprise anybody to know that Midwestern entrepreneurs, we’ve got a lot of obstacles to overcome. And we have some really phenomenal founders who just keep pushing through, you know, we’re gonna keep doing it, right. Just keep doing it. Keep doing it.
Susan Moring 39:24
Just keep going.
Lauren Conaway 39:26
Well, so this isn’t lovely, but I we have come up to human question time. And I’m going to give you another opportunity to piss people off. You’re welcome. I’m gonna ask you talk to her. So do you have like, favorite startups? And disclaimer, folks? Like just doesn’t name you it doesn’t mean she hates you. I would just like Do you have any portfolio companies that you particularly love that you can talk it that you can talk about? Do you have any startups that are just really catching your attention
Susan Moring 39:58
so Obviously, yes, we love all of our portfolio companies and much like babies, you can’t pick favorites. But one of my favorites to talk about is a company in our portfolio called pipe dream lab pipe dream labs, so you should definitely check them
Lauren Conaway 40:17
out. I really liked the game. I’m already in marketing work.
Susan Moring 40:20
It is a pipe dream. They are building underground hyper logistics systems. So 32nd delivery of items via underground tunnels. And so I love talking about them. Because when I say that people’s just like bases,
Lauren Conaway 40:35
I know my my job is crazy. You invested in that. Yeah, but my jaw just dropped. I was like
Susan Moring 40:46
so yes, they are kind of crazy, but they’re, they’re awesome. And they’re having a ton of early success, which is really exciting. So they were actually founded here in Oklahoma City. They moved to Austin, which we’re sad about but I get you still in the mid con. So you know, we still accept them as our own. But everyone check them out. I think you’ve been planning fans.
Lauren Conaway 41:08
Well, I gotta tell you Susan, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. I I’ve loved learning about Oklahoma. I’ve always been very curious about your secret sauce, stop stealing our people. But what we love
Susan Moring 41:22
she’s like, Well, I would love to see more flow of companies and activity and shared deals between us and Kansas City. Kansas, the city to
Lauren Conaway 41:32
that was so sorry, I just want to give you a big hug. Right now we’re doing we’re feeling the love here and I hope that you do the love as well. Friends listening at home. I also hope that you you think about Full Scale from time to time they are our producers are often our episode sponsors we love Full Scale. If you need to hire software engineers, testers or leaders Full Scale can help. They have the people in the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit full scale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions and let the platform match you up with fully vetted, highly experienced software engineers, testers and leaders. At Full Scale. They specialize in building long term teams that work only for you learn more when you visit full scale.io. And friends if you are looking to start a tech company or if you are in the middle of starting a tech company, if you’re in the scaling stage, if you’re you know looking for your succession plan and your exit strategy, no matter what stage you are, I am I want you to listen, Matt DeCoursey and Matt Watson are our Startup Hustle founders and founders of their own startups have produced a beautiful 52 part series on how to start a tech startup and it covers everything from ideation, r&d, scalability, go to market strategy, all of those things that you need to know to bring your tech company to fruition. So definitely check out how to start a tech company series on Startup Hustle, and friends. Once again, we are so grateful that you keep on listening to us that you come back week after week, and we hope to catch you next time.