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entrepreneurship

Lessons from entrepreneurship in Tulsa’s Greenwood District

By: Dale G. Caldwell and Amanda Chastang

“Give a person a fish and they eat for a day. Teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime.” This adage provides valuable insight into ways we can implement programs to eliminate urban poverty. Unfortunately, many previous attempts to address this issue have not seen long-term success because organizations mainly focused on “giving people fish” instead of supporting them in developing their own “fishing businesses.” We, as a nation, have a responsibility to learn from our past and refocus initiatives to build upon entrepreneurial strength and highlight the resilient aptitude of underrepresented and economically challenged communities.

The crisis at hand

The United States is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally impacted communities of color and small family-owned businesses. As a result, unemployment has reached record highs, especially in many Black communities and communities of color.

Estimates suggest that 40% of Black businesses in urban communities will or have already closed due to the government shutdown during the pandemic. Federal, state and local governments are faced with the momentous challenge of identifying strategies on how to increase widespread employment and prosperity in communities devastated by low employment.

Black Wall Street: History and inspiration

Insight into how to address this challenge and increase prosperity and employment opportunities can be found in one of the greatest accomplishments within the Black community. In 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson was a landmark Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation.

Black and white photo of the inside of a cafe with tables and chairs and customers
Red Wing Cafe, Greenwood (1920) (Image courtesy of Special Collections, McFarlin Library, TU)

Black communities survived this discriminatory ruling by developing their own towns and districts throughout the U.S. In some cases, this led to Black economic wealth due to prosperous Black-owned businesses within those communities. Black-majority neighborhoods fought against discrimination by developing healthy communities rooted in inventions and entrepreneurship. One of these successful Black communities was the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. This robust community was so economically successful that it was named “Black Wall Street.”

Unfortunately, many local whites and town officials became jealous of the economic success of this community, and on May 31 through June 1, 1921, an angry white mob invaded and bombed Tulsa’s Black Wall Street. Tragically, more than 300 people were killed and over 200 businesses destroyed during the Tulsa Race Massacre simply because Black families in the Greenwood District had created their own thriving and prosperous community out of entrepreneurial success.

One positive lesson we can learn from this tragic illustration of racism is that Black communities, if given the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial businesses, can flourish and generate wealth for local and surrounding communities. This characterization is often true for many communities representing various races and backgrounds.

Supporting entrepreneurship

It is essential for administrations and government officials to prioritize supporting entrepreneurship endeavors in underrepresented communities. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic-related closings of small businesses has reduced tax revenue, which, in turn, limits the money governments have to support the growth of small businesses. The support of businesses, especially within underrepresented communities, must therefore come from stakeholders, individuals, venture capitalists and large corporations.

green and black logo with the words Black Excellence, Education, Employment, EntrepreneurshipThe most effective way to generate private sector monies to support the growth of small businesses is to establish “entrepreneur zones.” With this initiative, investors would receive significant tax credits for investing in businesses in underrepresented neighborhoods located in areas currently designated as “opportunity zones.”

The entrepreneur zone initiative will not only result in millions of private sector dollars invested in businesses in these communities but will also generate thousands of jobs and widespread economic prosperity. Tulsa’s Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street, was an excellent example of an entrepreneur zone. The creation of entrepreneur zones will not only accelerate post-pandemic economic growth and job creation, it will also lead to a national focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.


a man smiling and wearing glasses, an open-collar pink shirt and a dark-colored blazerDale G. Caldwell is a professor and the executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is focused on researching, supporting and promoting entrepreneurship in the United States. He received a BA in economics from Princeton University, an MBA in finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in education administration from Seton Hall University.

 

 

 

a woman smiling and wearing a burgundy blouse and a white cardiganAmanda Chastang (MA ’18) is the diversity officer at The University of Tulsa. Having a passion for equity, social justice and diversity, Amanda received a bachelor’s degree in conflict studies with a focus on race, ethnicity and culture conflict and gender conflict from DePauw University. She then continued her journey in higher education at TU by earning an MA in history with a concentration on the intersections of race, women and gender. During her time as a graduate student working in the Office of Diversity and Engagement (today, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), Amanda became fluent in diversity-related policies and best practices by assisting in the development of the university’s Diversity Action Plan. After graduation, Amanda became the diversity and engagement fellow and later the director of multicultural affairs. Since then, Amanda has continued working at the university in an effort to revitalize and implement diverse initiatives that reflect our ever-changing environment. As a Tulsa native, Amanda is passionate about and committed to using her platform to promote inclusivity, diversity and equality within TU, Tulsa and communities throughout the United States.

Most of America’s “Most Promising” AI Startups Have Immigrant Founders

“Half of Silicon Valley’s startups have at least one foreign-born founder, and immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to start new businesses.” The report’s authors suggest that policy makers should adjust immigration restrictions to encourage entrepreneurship. This report demonstrates an interesting trend that businesses and governments should take into consideration when creating strategies and policies.

https://cset.georgetown.edu/research/most-of-americas-most-promising-ai-startups-have-immigrant-founders/

This blog is a project of the NOVA Fellowship at TU.

 

No Outside Developer Had Worked In OKC’s East Side For 35 Years. Then, An Unlikely Team Stepped Up.

Oklahoma City is finding new ways to actively build and support its East Side community.

https://timesofe.com/miracle-in-oklahoma-city/

This blog is a project of the NOVA Fellowship at TU.  

 

The NOVA Fellowship at The University of Tulsa (TU) has a mission to build and support the culture of innovation on campus and in our communities. We do this by providing small grants to help innovative student projects, faculty involved in innovative programs, and curating content related to current trends and recent developments in technology and innovation. This content includes topics relevant to the entire campus, including health sciences, economics, arts management, biology, computer science, finance, artificial intelligence (AI), communication, engineering, and global issues. Because NOVA students are studying in a variety of TU majors, our interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving is one of our great strengths.

NOVA also helps provide training to students and faculty in creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We offer training on the TU campus in meetings and workshops, and through an exciting partnership with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Every year since 2015, NOVA has sent several TU students and faculty to Stanford for 4-5 days of training with experts and interaction with fellow scholars from around the world. The student program is University Innovation Fellows (www.universityinnovationfellows.org) and the program for faculty is the Teaching and Learning Studio Faculty Workshop (http://universityinnovationfellows.org/teachingandlearningstudio/).

In these ways, NOVA exposes TU faculty, staff, and students to many processes and tools used in modern companies related to creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. One of these is “design thinking.” It is one of the most well-known problem-solving approaches used around the world today, used to develop concepts for new products, buildings, machines, toys, healthcare services, social enterprises, and more. According to the people who developed this tool, Dave Kelley and Tim Brown of the design firm, IDEO:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success…. Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.” (https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking)

As the innovation field develops, new perspectives are emerging. One promising approach we are beginning to bring into NOVA meetings and workshops is called “systems thinking,” which builds upon the emergent field of complexity research. Systems thinking recognizes the inherent interactivity of the dynamic processes in our world and focuses on problem-solving with that complexity in mind. This approach isn’t completely new, but recent work has made systems thinking more accessible to people interested in solving problems of most any type. For example, Derek Cabrera, Ph.D. (Cornell University) has proposed a useful taxonomy designed to improve systems thinking called DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives). He defines it as: “The recursive distinguishing of things and their interrelationships and part-whole organization from various perspectives” (https://blog.cabreraresearch.org/what-is-a-system-what-is-systems-thinking). Elsewhere, DSRP has been described as a particular way to think about problems, and that the use of these four patterns notably improves people’s problem-solving abilities – demonstrated in sessions with Kindergartners all the way to CEOs. The complex, adaptive mental models that are formed during systems thinking attempt to identify the most approachable and simplest explanations for phenomena. In his book with Laura Cabrera, Systems Thinking Made Simple, examples of the simplicity that drives complexity include: the interaction of CMYK colors in our world, the amazing biodiversity derived from combinations of DNA’s core nucleotides ATCG, the fundamentals of martial arts which practitioners use together to improvise during sparring matches, the almost infinite variety of models that can be built with modular Lego blocks, and the billions of possible moves in a chess match with just 6 unique pieces.

We invite you to join us and collaborate as we learn more about effective ways to solve problems that you and others care about in the community, in corporations, and on campus! Please visit www.novafellowship.org or email Dr. Charles M. Wood, Professor of Marketing at TU: charles-wood@utulsa.edu.

 

Entrepreneurs in Crisis: COVID-19 and Beyond

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Start Us Up found in recent polling data that the majority of entrepreneurs are disillusioned with policy makers.

The survey examines the opinions of current entrepreneurs, wantrapreneurs, and general election voters. 

https://www.startusupnow.org/entrepreneurship-data

This blog is a project of the NOVA Fellowship at TU.  

 

The NOVA Fellowship at The University of Tulsa (TU) has a mission to build and support the culture of innovation on campus and in our communities. We do this by providing small grants to help innovative student projects, faculty involved in innovative programs, and curating content related to current trends and recent developments in technology and innovation. This content includes topics relevant to the entire campus, including health sciences, economics, arts management, biology, computer science, finance, artificial intelligence (AI), communication, engineering, and global issues. Because NOVA students are studying in a variety of TU majors, our interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving is one of our great strengths.

NOVA also helps provide training to students and faculty in creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We offer training on the TU campus in meetings and workshops, and through an exciting partnership with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Every year since 2015, NOVA has sent several TU students and faculty to Stanford for 4-5 days of training with experts and interaction with fellow scholars from around the world. The student program is University Innovation Fellows (www.universityinnovationfellows.org) and the program for faculty is the Teaching and Learning Studio Faculty Workshop (http://universityinnovationfellows.org/teachingandlearningstudio/).

In these ways, NOVA exposes TU faculty, staff, and students to many processes and tools used in modern companies related to creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. One of these is “design thinking.” It is one of the most well-known problem-solving approaches used around the world today, used to develop concepts for new products, education, buildings, machines, toys, healthcare services, social enterprises, and more. According to the people who developed this tool, Dave Kelley and Tim Brown of the design firm, IDEO:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success…. Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.” (https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking)

As the innovation field develops, new perspectives are emerging. One promising approach we are beginning to bring into NOVA meetings and workshops is called “systems thinking,” which builds upon the emergent field of complexity research. Systems thinking recognizes the inherent interactivity of the dynamic processes in our world and focuses on problem-solving with that complexity in mind. This approach isn’t completely new, but recent work has made systems thinking more accessible to people interested in solving problems of most any type. For example, Derek Cabrera, Ph.D. (Cornell University) has proposed a useful taxonomy designed to improve systems thinking called DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives). He defines it as: “The recursive distinguishing of things and their interrelationships and part-whole organization from various perspectives” (https://blog.cabreraresearch.org/what-is-a-system-what-is-systems-thinking). Elsewhere, DSRP has been described as a particular way to think about problems, and that the use of these four patterns notably improves people’s problem-solving abilities – demonstrated in sessions with Kindergartners all the way to CEOs. The complex, adaptive mental models that are formed during systems thinking attempt to identify the most approachable and simplest explanations for phenomena. In his book with Laura Cabrera, Systems Thinking Made Simple, examples of the simplicity that drives complexity include: the interaction of CMYK colors in our world, the amazing biodiversity derived from combinations of DNA’s core nucleotides ATCG, the fundamentals of martial arts which practitioners use together to improvise during sparring matches, the almost infinite variety of models that can be built with modular Lego blocks, and the billions of possible moves in a chess match with just 6 unique pieces.

We invite you to join us and collaborate as we learn more about effective ways to solve problems that you and others care about in the community, in corporations, and on campus! Please visit www.novafellowship.org or email Dr. Charles M. Wood, Professor of Marketing at TU: charles-wood@utulsa.edu.

 

TU business students triumph in Love’s Cup competition

The Love’s Cup is a statewide business plan competition for college students that simulates the real-world process of researching a market, writing a business plan and making a presentation to potential investors. This year, an undergraduate team – Novel Neuro – and a graduate team – DevCycle – from The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business took first and third place respectively in their divisions.

Novel Neuro

Novel Neuro was led by Brittanie Whitney. Her teammates were Faith Nichols, Lena Schmenn and Sophia Zehentner. Professor Chris Wright served as their adviser.

Members and adviser of Novel Neuro team
The Novel Neuro team and their adviser

“The Love’s Cup was a great introduction to the world of entrepreneurship,” said Whitney. “The competition and Professor Cornell’s course cover every aspect of start-up ventures, from initial market definition all the way to the exit strategy. With a technical product, we were grateful to have the support of a few Tulsa entrepreneurs and TU community members on our advisory board. My teammates and I had a neuroscience 101 crash-course at our first meeting and haven’t stop learning since! As the team leader, I gained experience in project management and I am now better equipped for my career!”

Novel Neuro is a patent-pending cognitive assessment platform that enhances the confidence of providers in the medical, personal injury and insurance industries by accurately identifying falsified (malingering) claims of brain injury. The technology was developed by TU’s Neuropsychology Laboratory with the assistance of Jordan Hoffmeister, a doctoral candidate in psychology. Through their research, the team discovered that 39% of this kind of injury claims are fake or exaggerated. Neuropsychologists need to be able to detect these false claims, especially in light of the fact that related insurance claims average $100,000 each.

At the Love’s Cup competition, the team sought $1.4 million to build the software’s platform, accelerate brand relationships and continue further research and development. In return, the team offered investors a 30% stake in the company while projecting an 11.32x return on investment in three years.

DevCycle

DevCycle comprised Israyil Alakbarov (team leader) and Jamala Talibova. Their faculty adviser was Professor Claire Cornell.

The focus of this team’s work was innovation within the $14 billion embedded software market. Embedded software is used to control machine interface and is built into a diverse array of products, including mobile phones, robotics, electric cars and medical devices. The market is growing by 10% each year.

The DevCycle team and their adviser
The DevCycle team and their adviser

The traditional embedded software development process consists of hardware design and software design. The DevCycle technology was developed by TU alumnus Jonathan Torkelson (BEE ’03, MEE ’04). It has improved the embedded software development process by enabling users to develop software, visualize the hardware, test and debug concurrently. This leads to a 50% decrease in development costs and a 40% drop in hardware development time.

“This was a great experience because we were working with a real project, learned a lot from our mentors and improved our business understanding,” said Alakbarov, a business analytics student. “Even though my background is all about business/economics/marketing, it was still very challenging and informative.”

Similar to Novel Neuro, the DevCycle team sought $1.4 million to start building their brand recognition and to continue research and development as they expand into new markets. For a 30% stake in the firm, they projected a 16x return on investment in three years.


Undergraduate and graduate business studies at TU can lead to so many exciting futures. Discover the path that’s ideal for you.