State and local officials celebrated on Tuesday the opening of a tech incubator inside Tulsa City Hall.
There are now 50,000 square feet on the fifth floor of One Technology Center available for entrepreneurs looking to get their ideas off the ground through 36 Degrees North, which also has two coworking spaces in the Tulsa Arts District. CEO Devon Laney said the incubator is more than a place to bounce ideas off of other people.
"This program provides flexibility, resources, programming and the accountability entrepreneurs need to grow startup companies, create jobs and drive economic impact right here in the Tulsa region," Laney said.
Participants in the state-certified incubator meet regularly with mentors to help steer their companies, and they have access to mentorship sessions and venture capital funding after completing the yearlong program. Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell said it’s the kind of thing the state has been missing for many years, and Oklahomans have responded by taking their business ideas elsewhere.
"They go to Dallas, they go to Houston, they go to Kansas City, they go to Denver and other cities where there are incubators and accelerators, where they are investing — those cities are investing in their entrepreneurs young and old," Pinnell said.
36°N received $1.25 million from the city’s share of COVID-19 relief funding to get the incubator off the ground. The city will put rent payments back into pandemic recovery.
Mayor G.T. Bynum said with the lifespan of major companies getting shorter and shorter, Tulsa needs a vibrant startup scene.
"There are people who are going to create businesses on this floor that my kids and other people's kids are going to be working for years from now," Bynum said.
Dominick Ard’is is CEO of ACT House, a venture capital firm investing $70,000 at 0% equity and interest to Black- and brown-led startups in Tulsa. He said he sees a lot of potential.
"Hopefully, one day we'll talk about Bite Way and what's happening with them and how everybody can kind of order from an app and get fresh food delivered to their house without a problem. One day we'll talk about Fresh Fabrics, and I'm pretty sure everybody could use a wash, dry and fold service to take that laundry off of your hands," Ard'is said.
Other startups at the incubator include Enhatch, which is develping software powered by artificial intelligence to help with surgical planning, and Boddle Learning, a math learning tool that adapts content to a student's learning level.
Boddle Learning is among the inaugural winners of a cash prize from Black Ambition, an initiative launched by Pharell Williams to provide a bridge to success for entrepreneurs of color.
According to 36°N, the incubator is already 60% occupied, a figure that includes startups, investors and other resource providers.
The company's 2020 economic impact report claims $375 million in impact on the Tulsa region since 2017, and 349 member companies that in 2020 created or retained 1,575 jobs and generated sales of $66.5 million. Additionally, the companies at 36°N secured over $15 million in external funding, with 70% coming from venture capital investment.