The cover photograph of the winter issue of i&E — the magazine that i2E publishes to highlight entrepreneurs and startups from across Oklahoma — features a sunrise shot of a pump jack.

It’s a familiar vision to virtually any Oklahoman. The oil and gas industry, along with agriculture, is the lifeblood of our state.

I’ve written here and have repeatedly made the case about the economic importance of Oklahoma diversifying beyond oil and gas and the need to invest more, not less, through the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology in building startups in software, biotech, and advanced manufacturing.

The i&E cover illustrates why. The story is about Well Checked Systems, an i2E client company that solves a big problem for oil well operators with a high-tech remote monitoring system that helps well sites be more safe, secure, and productive

When oil and gas and entrepreneurship intersect like this, they create unique, Oklahoma-specific opportunities for new jobs and revenue in our state

Technology has been a game-changer for the oil and gas energy.

“The control booth for some of the larger drilling rigs looks more like the cockpit of a NASA flight simulator,” said James Randall, manager of corporate development at a Fortune 200 energy company and former venture advisor at i2E.

“Oil and gas companies are implementing lean manufacturing techniques and new technologies throughout the organization,” Randall said. “As a competitor in the space, you have to use technology to your advantage.

Also, like all businesses, energy companies are constantly looking for business development opportunities — new customers, new pipeline connections, new companies, or other sources of revenue.

That can be a challenge.

“The organizations are structured and very process driven,” Randall said. “That’s because investments are in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and last decades. A startup can go in many different directions. They can pivot quickly. That’s the very nature of early stage technology. They are hyper-nimble. It’s much more challenging for a large energy company.”

I have a proposition for oil and gas companies in Oklahoma.

Let’s find ways to more deliberately explore how Oklahoma startups can help reduce costs or seize new opportunities in oil and gas. Let’s help our entrepreneurs find the industry’s problems that need solving.

If we could parlay the entrepreneurship that’s in the oil and gas industry’s DNA into helping startups find applications for their technologies inside some of Oklahoma’s largest companies, imagine the impact.

The oil and gas industry needs technology to open new revenue streams and reduce costs. Startup companies need problems to solve and beta customers.

Oklahoma needs job and revenue growth.

That makes a sunrise shot of an oil rig more than just a pretty picture.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at

Did You Know? Venture capital activity reached $47.3 billion across 3,617 deals in 2014, the highest since 2000, with 71 percent and 79 percent, respectively, going to technology deals. SOURCE: CB Insights


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