Zach Ferres, Coplex | Tulsa COG2019

by Nov 18, 2021Resources, Thought Leadership, Tulsa COG

Enjoy the video and transcript of the speech given by Zach Ferres of Coplex at COG2019 on November 7th, 2019 in Tulsa, OK.


I’m also a walk-around-the-stage-with-a-microphone guy, so hopefully, I don’t fall off.

It’s an absolute honor to be here. I’m really excited to be a small part of all the great things happening in Tulsa. Funny story about 36 Degrees North: so, about two years ago, one of my good friends and mentors in Phoenix — (inaudible) — his nephew was in town from Tulsa, and he was running this thing called 36 (Degrees) North and came through to tour the galvanized space that we’re in in Phoenix as well as the Coplex HQ and invited me out to Tulsa and said, “You got to come check out what’s going on in Tulsa. We’ll take care of you. We’ll make sure you have a really good dinner. I promise. There’s really good food in Tulsa.” I didn’t think a whole lot of it. A couple of months later, he kept bugging me. And finally, I said, “Alright, I’ll buy a plane ticket and come to Tulsa and check this out.” 

So, I’ve driven through here a couple of times. That was about it on my trek from Columbus to Phoenix, with my mom in the car, driving back and forth to Phoenix a couple of times. And I made the trip, flew out here, met with Dustin and in the last era of the 36 Degrees North leadership team about two years ago. And I landed and from the first moment I landed, I knew something really special about this place. I landed at the airport. They picked me up at the airport. They paid for my — they would not let me pay for the hotel. They set up like two full days of meetings— sent me the agenda ahead of time. I was literally meeting the who’s who of Tulsa. And this was my first time in Tulsa since I drove through with my mother to move her to Phoenix like seven years ago. So, there’s this interesting taste. 

So, I’m thinking, “I wonder if this is just a 36 Degrees North thing or is this is a cultural thing for them.” As you get to meet everyone else, this effect will ripple throughout the community. Everyone was like that. Everyone was really welcoming and did everything they could to connect and make us welcome to be here. So, I was joking that earlier this week, I saw that GKFF was paying 10 grand when people move here. I told Chuck that he’s gonna have to pay me 10 grand to leave here. So, we’ll see what happens. But it’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of all the great things happening here in your Tulsa ecosystem. (In reference to slides) Let’s see if I went backwards or forwards. What did I do here? There we go. 

Okay, so what the heck is Coplex? We are a relatively unique business model in the venture capital space. It’s called a “startup studio for a venture builder.” So, what we actually do every day — we partner with entrepreneurs, industry experts, and corporate innovators to start high growth venture-backed tech companies. So, last year —well, this year, we’ll start just over 50 companies between our Phoenix, LA, and Seattle locations. We actually just broke ground in Tulsa here and started our first company, Kanary (Alert Systems) — shout out to Kanary in the back. I’ll tell you a little bit about them in a moment here. 

So, we’re really excited to be doing our first company here in Tulsa. And the plan for us next year here in the market is to do 10-15 — to start 10-15 new venture-backed technology companies in the market. So, the work we’ve done so far, the company’s been around since 2000. I was hired CEO in 2012. Since our company has been born and started working with startups, we’ve helped support now over 330 technology startup companies that have gone on to raise over $1.5 billion in venture capital. One of our big wins is a company here called Pluto TV that was started in our sales support team LA cohort. It just got acquired by Viacom for $340 million in an all-cash deal back in January. So, we’re excited to take our platform — what we’ve done successfully in other cities around the country and bring them here into the Tulsa market. 

So,  why Tulsa for us? Back to my story at the beginning — the hospitality here has been incredible. We see this as a really good up-and-coming technology ecosystem. We at Coplex, we believe that these flyover states and these flyover cities that tend to be traditional industry hubs will actually be the heartbeat of American technology entrepreneurship in the next decade. So, we’ve created over $70 million in economic impact in Phoenix since 2012 and we want to come here and do exactly the same thing. So, we’re really excited to be a part of the community and everyone here has been super welcoming, including the SENTIR folks to bring us into the market.

So, last but not least, I want to tell you a really quick story about our first company here in Tulsa. 

So, in partnership with SENTIR, we were essentially looking at federal agency intellectual property, and finding ways to commercialize — and dual-path commercialize this IP so that these companies can actually go down the venture capital pathway. So, we’re essentially taking federal IP and turning them into high-growth venture-backed tech companies. So, the first thing we’re doing is called Kanary, and they are represented here today. But they’re essentially an IoT-connected device that can detect different types of flammable gas. We’ve seen some really interesting private market sort of private direction use-cases with the technology. And we will be working with them over the next eight months in our venture-builder program to get them to a C-stage investable technology company. 

So, once again, I really appreciate you guys having me here today. And thank you so much for welcoming us to your beautiful city—Tulsa.

Learn more about the Tulsa Center of Gravity (COG) Group here.