Crawl, Walk, Run: The Birth Of Tulsa’s Center Of Gravity Group
Why SENTIR and STI-TEC Chose Tulsa, OK
It all started with a question of location — which city’s emerging tech economy shows the greatest potential for collaborative growth? As the CEO of STI-TEC and its research division, SENTIR Research Labs, my organizations embarked on a quest for growth. After investigating the potential of the tech ecosystem of Tulsa — this city nestled in Northeastern Oklahoma once deemed “The Oil Capital of the World” — appeared to be a perfect place to expand our reach. Still, some additional research needed to be completed — especially in terms of evaluating local support in the form of motivated, like-minded people — folks with expertise, big dreams, integrity and of course a collaborative spirit. The more people we interviewed in the Tulsa Metro area, the more motivated we became. Ultimately, this exercise solidified our resolve to establish SENTIR Research Labs in Tulsa, OK.
One question persisted: how would we get all of these bright minds and commercialization professionals into one room? The answer came in the form of the Tulsa Center of Gravity — The COG Group.
The Tulsa Center of Gravity is Born
Since its inception, there was nothing complicated about the Tulsa Center of Gravity (COG) Group mission — getting like-minded individuals — people who believe in the potential of Tulsa’s tech economy — in a room together. SENTIR Research Labs developed the initial vision for the COG Group in coordination with a wide variety of partners seeking to foster cooperation within Tulsa’s emerging tech economy. Working together, the partners pulled off something that hasn’t happened in Tulsa’s recent history — unbridled collaboration within the local science and technology ecosystem.
Innovators Assemble: Tulsa COG Group’s Beginnings
The initial framework to build out the COG Group was largely possible thanks to what we hoped to foster — social capital. The more research we performed, the more we started to see how interrelated each of these entities were. We also began to see how much organic overlap was already taking place. As the number of interested partners started to grow, a common expression kept emerging – “We need to get this coordinated so that we can move in the same direction.”
Stepping back, we began to see the mosaic of Tulsa-based innovators focused on their individual missions. The aha moment was when we put everything on the table — seeing how their specialties and needs overlapped. Many of these smaller companies, innovators, and supportive organizations were barely aware of the existence of these potential collaborators. As initial COG Group partners began swapping ideas, we at SENTIR Research Labs and STI-TEC saw value in helping tie together the common threads. This process wove a picture of what a collaborative Tulsa tech economy could be. While exciting, the amount of energy and momentum required to get such a group off of the ground would require a groundswell of support. Fortunately, the COG Group partners delivered.
What a Tulsa COG Group Member Looks Like
Even though we’ve internally broken down the profile of ideal a COG Group member, they are basically anyone who is a leader in their industry. For the sake of brevity, we can break these members down into three main categories.
1. Researchers & Inventors
These researchers, inventors, or engineers range from established research professionals at the top of their field to those hammering out an idea in their garage on the weekend. Anyone trying to develop a solution to a problem facing any industry falls into this category. Aerospace, medical, biological, energy, private or public and beyond, any problem solver is included.
2. Business Builder
A COG Group Business Builder is someone that hasn’t found the opportunity to start a business or has possibly encountered their share of “learning experiences” — still, they have the spirit to continue looking for the right opportunities and resources to be successful.
Investors within the COG Group can range from individual to institutional investors, angel investors, or venture capitalist (VC) investors. These are financiers usually looking to invest in low-risk, locally-sourced innovations with integrity-driven individuals or institutions.
COG Group members are people with their own individual drive — whether they are an inventor or a business builder. The group exists to help these driven individuals or organizations collaborate with other entities within the science and technology economy of Tulsa and beyond. The hope is that collaboration of these driven entities will result in prosperous organizations supplying innovative solutions to the free market, government, or both.
A Culture of Integrity
One of the fears of any collaborative effort where money can be made is the abuse of such power and information. From its beginning, the COG Group has been dedicated to maintaining the utmost integrity within its membership and activities. While friendly competition is always present, the goal of the group is to grow as a city-based tech economy collaboratively. We don’t believe in competition within our ranks, but instead against other cities and economies. While tech hubs such as Austin, TX are currently winning the race of innovative ideas and ability to attract top talent, we have infinite faith in the power of Tulsa to be a competitive science and technology economy.
Tulsa COG Group Events
We’re in the process of scheduling monthly Tulsa COG Group meetings. Speaking at these meetings will be thought leaders — each with unique perspectives and experiences within a variety of categories. Some sessions may cover the conditions within the federal market space. Other meetings may include ripple effects within the science and technology industries and whom that will impact. These meetings will ultimately help the Tulsa ecosystem consider how to propel its science and technology economy.
COG2019 at Cain’s Ballroom
In November of 2019, COG2019 — the first Tulsa COG event took place at the historic Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event featured many emerging Tulsa-based technology companies as well as representatives from a wide array of organizations. Speakers in attendance ranged from CEOs to university department heads and representatives from local business initiatives. SENTIR Research Labs debuted two new technology companies — products of our commercialization services. One of the companies was Kanary Alert Systems, a company that develops and manufactures gas-detection technologies for first responders. The other was Stratalytic Technologies, a company that develops and operates analytical tools and services for the energy sector.
In addition to food, drink, and musical entertainment, the event allowed for ample networking opportunities among individuals from all aspects of the Tulsa economy. A similar event is currently in the planning stages for 2020…only bigger.
Video from my introductory speech at COG2019.
SENTIR Research Labs’ Contribution to COG
Each COG Group member individual or entity brings their own strengths and perspectives to the table. For SENTIR Research Labs, one of our primary contributions to the group is the development of a collaboration platform. We are capable of collecting massive, diverse sets of data; from industries, technologies, individuals, research, companies, and known problems that need to be solved. We at SENTIR Research Labs are currently creating a tool that allows us to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) along with various predictive analytics — enabling us to query questions to our local ecosystem. We can use this tool to determine if we have a preferred solution to said problems for the public and private markets. This tool, when used in concert with the COG Group, will allow us as a science and technology economy to develop the best solutions to the most pressing problems. The preferred result is the commercialization of these solutions in the form of new, home-grown tech companies. Such collaborative endeavors have already resulted in the development of several new companies.
The Future of the Tulsa COG Group
My hopes for the future of the Tulsa COG Group is that it will grow and evolve organically — becoming more diverse and increasing momentum for the benefit of the local economy. To express this internally, we use a “crawl, walk, run” mentality.
The “crawl” aspect of this formula was our first event, COG2019 — the first to assemble large swaths of people to help them realize that Tulsa is genuinely unique — that the local entities in their markets are immensely promising.
The “walk” position is obtaining a better understanding of the inventory of intellectual property and asset property right here in Tulsa. Once established, we can begin determining which markets make the most sense based on the current ecosystem. We can also determine the structure of our future ecosystem.
The “run” position is the group using the compiled data and resources to create strategic and operational plans for launching new companies, how we attack different market segments and how we cross-utilize those solutions in each market set.
In Conclusion, We Believe in Tulsa
20 years ago, Tulsa wasn’t on many people’s radar. Fast forward to today, and a tremendous amount of resources have been poured into our beloved “T-Town.” Vision 2025 propositions and revitalizations have helped make Tulsa a world-class city. Organizations such as the George Kaiser Family Foundation and Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation have chosen to invest enormous sums into Tulsa to attract businesses, families, and the world-renowned thought leaders. Ultimately, we believe in the passion of the innovators in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We have already witnessed the immense collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Tulsa.
We look forward to helping facilitate further collaboration in the form of the Tulsa Center of Gravity Group.
If you’re interested in learning more about or joining the Tulsa Center of Gravity Group, you’re invited to visit the page about such on the SENTIR Research Labs’ website. Feel free also to join the official Tulsa COG Facebook Group to stay informed about upcoming events.