Building blocks: Innovation Institute partners with KC-based program


By: Molly M. Fleming, Journal Record Writer
The Journal Record, July 5, 2016

TULSA – Scholarlyy founder Daniel Segalo thought he had a perfect idea for how to improve the textbook selling and buying process.

In spring 2015, he went through the BetaBlox program. The Kansas-City-based six-month process helps entrepreneurs go from an idea to an operating company.

“We had built this big prototype, and about two months into the program, it tanked,” Segalo said. “The education we received through (BetaBlox) was just the best thing that could have happened to us.”

Now, Scholarlyy is on 10 college campuses in the Midwest, and Segalo expects to expand to 30 by December.

Scholarlyy is one of 110 startup companies that BetaBlox has mentored in the last four years. Entrepreneurs in Oklahoma can soon join the portfolio through the company’s partnership with the Oklahoma Innovation Institute, based in Tulsa.

Applications opened July 1. Only 10 companies will be chosen to participate at no cost. But BetaBlox does get a 5-percent stake in the company if it becomes successful. BetaBlox defines that as the point when the startup is acquired by another company, starts paying dividends or goes public.

OII Executive Director David Greer said his nonprofit organization sought out BetaBlox because it helps fill a gap in the Tulsa market. He said there wasn’t an entity that was helping entrepreneurs before starting their companies. Instead of building a resource itself, OII sought out BetaBlox. They started talking last summer.

There is a wide range of companies in the BetaBlox portfolio. One develops virtual reality technology, and another business mails high-protein, low-fat meals to customers. Some businesses are making more than $1 million in revenue a year.

“It’s really across the board,” Greer said. “They look for the capability of the entrepreneur, the quality of the idea, and the scalability of the customer.”

BetaBox wants to make sure the company has the potential to create jobs. Segalo started with himself delivering books between buyers and owners. He employs about 40 people part-time now.

Greer said the program could provide an opportunity for displaced energy employees to start a new career. OII also works with researchers in different industries, so it can help someone test an idea, or it can partner that researcher with an entrepreneur.

He said BetaBlox sees a lot of potential in Tulsa. When applicants were first accepted in Kansas City, six people applied. This past spring, there were 110 people applying to fill 10 slots. The partnership provides a link to Kansas City investors as well. In addition, BetaBlox alumni could come to Tulsa.

“Tulsa is right where Kansas City was when it started in Kansas City,” Greer said. “We have all of these great resources and all of this kind of support.”

Molly M. Fleming

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