Spann: Diversity endowment good for Oklahoma business

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James Spann

Everyone deserves a seat at the table, but in the competitive world of venture capital investing and funding, minority groups and women can struggle to break through.

That’s an unfortunate oversight because diversity is a proven key to success in business. In fact, the World Economic Forum says companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to increased innovation.

When it comes to solving problems, we’re better off attacking issues with a range of potential solutions rather than just one or two. And you can bet that teams comprising varied racial, ethnic and gender backgrounds will come to the table with all kinds of perspectives. No wonder the business world is now embracing the importance of diversity in the workplace.

When we started Boyd Street Ventures as a private venture capital investment firm focused on the many technology startups emerging from the University of Oklahoma, leveraging the strength of diversity was part of our plan. To that end, we established the Boyd Street Endowment Fund to help raise additional capital for viable startups owned by women and minorities.

In addition to the endowment fund, we are raising millions in investment capital from OU’s vast pool of alumni as well as institutional investors to support promising startups born on campuses in Norman, Stillwater, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Meanwhile, our startup founders receive guidance and coaching from seasoned corporate managers associated with our advisory board as well as OU’s Ronnie K. Irani Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth, OU’s Office of Innovation and Corporate Sponsorships, and the Tom Love Innovation Hub.

In other words, we’re not just evaluating commercial viability and writing checks. We’re also providing women, minorities, and other founders with free consultation on business operations, market strategy, hiring, accounting, capital planning and other business fields.

The way we see it, our founders are brilliant people who have spent most of their careers in research labs, in classrooms or other university functions. Capital support is a key, but they also need partners to guide them through the labyrinth of running businesses.

We feel like that sets us apart from other venture capital firms, just like our Boyd Street Endowment Fund does. By enriching our pool of startups with business education as well as cultural, racial and gender diversity, BSV can provide investors with an edge not available through other firms.

Our endowment is set up as a nonprofit, enabling investors to make donations as charitable contributions that are part of their tax strategies and long-term financial plans. Alternatively, investors can use a split interest gift approach and take tax benefits as well as receive investment returns.

Largely overlooked by venture capital investors on the East and West coasts, OU is producing a virtual powder keg of technology, just waiting for doors to be opened. BSV is clearing those pathways to success, stimulating Oklahoma’s economy with home-grown innovation, and enriching the diversity of our commercial landscape. That’s not only good for business in the Sooner State, but it’s also the right thing to do.

OU alumnus James Spann is founder and managing partner of Norman-based Boyd Street Ventures. He is also a Marine Corps veteran and a career executive in the health care and life sciences industry.



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