James Spann, Founder, Boyd Street Ventures
After 30 years working in life sciences and more than a decade working around the University of Oklahoma, James Spann realized the problem in technology and innovation growth wasn’t a lack of ideas or research. It was a lack of money to get these ideas and innovations to become actualities.
“I was looking at how to be able to take these innovations that OU students and faculty were building and getting them launched,” Spann said. “The biggest gap was capital.”
So, he took matters into his own hands: This past year, he founded Boyd Street Ventures, a venture capital investment firm for OU alumni to support OU by investing in affiliated early-stage businesses.
“We’ve got a lot of innovation and technology and facilities and staff,” he said. “Whether it is an early-stage company still doing research or one that is ready to launch and needs to just hire a CEO, they need capital to get it going. But there hasn’t been an outlet to bring in capital to get these things going.”
And now there is. Boyd Street Ventures is looking to raise $50 million in capital in the next five years.
“Within five years, we will have help 10-to-15 operating companies we’re developing off the OU ecosystem,” he said. “We’ll have two-to-three companies a year – from those still in the labs developing cancer research to things like people working on unmanned weather drones.”
He said all of this is a win for OU, and it is a win for Oklahoma.
“We’re doing this to support OU and to support the economic development of Oklahoma,” he said. “Let’s keep these entrepreneurs and founders in Oklahoma. I am just being the catalyst for that. We want the state – all the assets we have with energy and weather and health sciences – to stay in the state and help it grow.”
For Spann, Oklahoma has all the right components for growth and adding the just funding piece could provide the accelerant to push past cities of similar size.
“We’ve got great ideas inside Oklahoma,” he said. “We could totally crush cities like Austin and Denver, Colorado, if we could all just work together.”