TYPROS Archives - Collins College of Business


New Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to fund future Tulsa startups

The city of Tulsa has been immersed in efforts to establish itself as a leader in the region for entrepreneurial activity, a goal that is getting a significant boost from a new endeavor in The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business.

On Wednesday, TU announced the establishment of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, with a goal of raising $10 million to help the campus community commercialize intellectual property, create new ventures and attain venture capital funding. The university aims to provide seed capital for the next 100 companies started by TU students, alumni and faculty.

The announcement came during TU’s monthly Friends of Finance luncheon, which supports scholarships for business students.

Left to right: Sean Kouplen, Kathy Taylor, Chris Wright and Scott Asbjornson

The center will be led by Chris Wright, a TU graduate and local entrepreneur with a history of creating new, technology-driven enterprises.

Kathy Taylor, dean of the Collins College of Business, said that 220 TU alumni have started more than 130 companies and raised more than $1.7 billion in venture capital funding during the past decade. “It’s an amazing achievement for these alumni founders and companies,” she said. “But going forward, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at TU is going to cultivate and seed-fund the next 100 start-ups.”

This focus stems from the fact that of the scores of companies started by TU alumni, only a few are based in Oklahoma. The center is on a mission to change that.

“For the next 100 companies that are started by TU students, faculty and alumni, we are going to be a part of that journey,” Wright said. “We will cultivate those businesses right here on TU’s campus. We’re going to seed-fund these entrepreneurial ventures and keep those businesses and jobs here in Tulsa and in Oklahoma to drive economic development.”

What’s more, there is an appetite among TU students for the school to take a more active role in encouraging startups. A recent survey of TU students revealed:

  • 81% believe TU needs a clear strategy for cultivating innovation
  • 78% believe TU needs to help students and faculty commercialize their innovations
  • 90% believe it’s important for TU to support student entrepreneurship
  • 80% believe it’s important for TU to have a dedicated center to support innovation and entrepreneurship

“The students were clear, the data is clear, and TU and the Collins College of Business are responding by launching the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” Taylor said.

Initiatives that are part of the center’s launch include:

  • Enhanced curriculum and opportunities – Students will have more opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship and venture capital and develop the skills they need to be successful.
  • Hurricane Venture Fund – Entrepreneurs will have access to funding through our partnership with 46VC, a Tulsa-based venture capital firm. A portion of the fund will also be carved for student-led venture investing.
  • Venture studio/accelerator – The center will develop an on-campus startup accelerator that will involve programming, hands-on support and access to mentorship and capital.
  • Nova Fellows Program – A one-on-one mentorship program to help founders grow their ideas into sustainable businesses.
  • Commercialization support – The center and Hurricane Ventures will work together to commercialize intellectual property and ideas developed within the TU ecosystem.

Wright has been a cofounder or investor in numerous Tulsa-based tech companies including Reliant, Medefy, MeIn3 and Plannly. He has been an adjunct faculty member at TU for more than 10 years, teaching courses in leadership, entrepreneurship, human resources, marketing and research methods.

Wright was a founding member of TYPros and The Forge – Tulsa’s first business incubator program – and has served on numerous professional and advisory boards throughout the Tulsa community.

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship already has secured $500,000 in pledges toward the $10 million goal with $250,000 apiece pledged by Scott Asbjornson (BSBA ’91, MBA ’95) and Regent Bank.

“Regent Bank is so excited to partner with The University of Tulsa on the new TU Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. We believe fully in the new venture and tech ecosystem that is exploding here in Tulsa, and we applaud President Brad Carson, Dean Kathy Taylor and Dr. Chris Wright for their vision and boldness to take this exciting step to bridge the gap between brilliant ideas and commercializing them to start up successful businesses. Regent Bank is honored to partner with TU to make this vision a reality, and we will do our part to help this exciting ecosystem continue to flourish,” said Sean Kouplen, bank chairman and CEO.

“When I served as secretary of commerce for the state of Oklahoma, we spent a lot of time studying our state’s most successful companies and what they had in common. With very few exceptions, we learned that these companies started in Oklahoma and decided to stay and grow here. I believe the key to Oklahoma’s economic future is ‘growing our own’ and Regent Bank wants to do our part to help make this happen,” he said.

Asbjornson will chair the center’s advisory board, which comprises a number of representatives from Tulsa’s business and civic communities as well as from the university. The board held its first meeting Wednesday afternoon. Asbjornson, former chief financial offer for Aaon Inc., said he is eager to get started preparing TU students to take the first step in starting their own businesses.

Friends of Finance Featured Speaker

Beverly Carmichael

Collins College of Business also hosted Beverly Carmichael, current Blue Apron board member and formerly of Southwest Airlines, Ticketmaster and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, during the monthly Friends of Finance luncheon.

Carmichael, a Tulsa resident, attorney and corporate executive, detailed her rise to leadership positions in the business world as well as her views on how companies can be more successful by focusing on their workforce. Business leaders should be open to new ways their employees work, and to pay attention to new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, she said.

Carmichael also noted the strategic importance of committing to diversity, equity and inclusion, saying diverse workforces get better results. “Statistic after statistic say that the more diverse your organization is, the better it will perform,” she said. “That’s easy to understand because you get diverse perspectives you otherwise wouldn’t have.

“If you don’t have diversity, it’s like talking to yourself.”

Please join us for the next Executive Speaker Series event, which features Sid McAnnally, president and chief executive officer of ONE Gas, on March 22, 2023.

Business administration graduate named chair of TYPROS

Making Tulsa an awesome city for young professionals to live, work and play. That’s the mission of TYPROS, one of the country’s leading young professionals groups. In January, University of Tulsa alumnus David Tollette (BSBA ’10) became chair of this dynamic organization.

Bearded man wearing a grey blazer smiling towards the cameraTollette’s first exposure to TYPROS came while he was a management major at TU. With the encouragement of his professors Charles Wood and Ralph Jackson, Tollette and other members of the Marketing Club pitched in to help promote a new TYPROS networking event by distributing fliers and helping to spread the word through career services. In its second year, now with funding from the Office of Student Life, the club was able to work with TYPROS to organize, plan and co-host the networking event on Chapman Commons – complete with a stage and band. “It was a great time!”, recalled Tollette.

After graduating from TU, Tollette took a marketing job at a local manufacturing company. However, his role soon transitioned to sales in order to grow a budget for his marketing efforts. “In the process,” he remarked, “I discovered a love of sales and I now consider myself a sales professional.”

With over 10 years of experience in sales, Tollette is now an account manager with Vector Controls and Automation: “My key belief is that sales are all about taking care of your customers. If you take good care of your customers, the sales will take care of themselves. Orders are a byproduct of having supported your customer well.”

“TYPROS has provided a place to learn, serve and grow over time. This organization guided me from attending meetings to helping on projects already in progress. It encouraged me to go from ideas without action to working with others to make our concepts a reality. Most importantly, TYPROS has introduced me to a whole family of like-motivated people who, despite their different perspectives and experiences, are willing to work collectively to help others and drive progress in our region.” (David Tollette)

A focus on others

The same customer focus has driven Tollette’s involvement with TYPROS. “My biggest growth opportunities at TYPROS have come when I focused on serving others and delivering value to my fellow members,” he noted.

Bearded man in a grey blazer speaking at a podium
2021 TYPROS Chair David Tollette addresses young professionals and business leaders at All Access, TYPROS’ vertical networking event held annually at the Summit Club

As chair, Tollette will direct this vision and energy to working in conjunction with an executive committee to develop and guide the organization’s activities and initiatives. “While the majority of our meetings, events and initiatives will remain virtual due to concerns around COVID-19, it’s our resounding desire to reestablish the sense of community we shared through in-person gatherings.”

Experimenting with new ways to connect people, develop leaders and build community in Tulsa will include the following five main tactics:

  1. Experimenting with different types of virtual meetings
  2. Mixing in safe in-person experience options when available
  3. Pulling in experts from other communities to provide wider perspectives
  4. Expanding to other social media platforms
  5. New initiatives designed to serve our members in the digital world

“TU students: This is the perfect time in your life to try things. Start that small business, take that internship, find something you are passionate about and offer to work or volunteer for free if you must. Be willing to serve others! You are compensated by what you learn and the connections you create. These experiences will help you with the next job or opportunity. Learning what you do not want to do is valuable too. The threshold of consequences for failure will never be lower for you than right now. Try new things, test ideas quickly, fail small and improve as you learn.” (David Tollette)

Get involved this year!

For any TU students considering getting involved in TYPROS, Tollette offers a hearty welcome: “If there’s one’ thing you do during your time in Tulsa (besides taking care of your course work), make sure to get involved with TYPROS!”

The organization has an active Facebook and LinkedIn presence, with more platforms coming soon. Prospective members can also attend a 360 to learn about the whole organization, attend several crew meetings, find a crew or initiative that resonates with them and volunteer to help out. “A little bit of effort with consistency can take you a long way with TYPROS,” Tollette enthused. “And don’t forget that TYPROS leaders are always glad to be invited to campus to speak to student groups!”

Management majors at TU can focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, business law, human resource management or sport management. Chart your unique path with us!