Propelling the OKC Tech Ecosystem

For Oklahoma City to indeed serve as a hub for innovation, both high-quality training and attractive jobs must exist. This scenario requires skill development among professionals as well as investment from organizations in the local community. But how do qualified tech specialists discover the opportunities? And how do companies build the teams they need using local individuals? Lucas Watson, a partner at StarSpace46, is helping lead the way throughout all stages of the OKC business ecosystem.

Lucas Watson is the Division Director of Permanent Placement for Robert Half Technology. He manages a team of direct hire IT recruiters, connecting people with full-time jobs in areas such as software development and the entire technology space. “I like helping companies build great teams and helping the great people in OKC find new jobs,” Lucas said. He loves to see candidates “get raises and move up in their careers. I’ve been here for more than seven years, and I love my day job!”

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Because of his recruitment experience, he’s well acquainted with the needs of local companies, and the skills of the central Oklahoma workforce. Having studied commerce and enterprise at the University of Oklahoma adds to his ability to analyze the landscape and use his unique perspective to help develop the community. As a StarSpace46 partner, he bridges the gap between education, incubation, new ideas, and established business institutions. “I love helping people and raising the profile of OKC and the great companies here,” Lucas affirmed.

He also serves on the Board of Directors for Techlahoma, a network of more than 4,000 IT enthusiasts. The organization develops programs and training on the skills needed to succeed in today's increasingly tech-focused workforce. The training facilitated by Techlahoma programming keeps professionals on the leading edge of the career landscape, and ready to fulfill the needs of the growing local tech industry. Lucas explained that “The impact of Techlahoma and SS46 has been enormous – the community that’s grown around those two organizations is incredible and actually gets things done.”

A part of StarSpace46 since the beginning, Lucas connected with the coworking space just as the previous incarnation, The 404, was expanding. “It made sense for a group of partners from Techlahoma and the local tech scene to build and open a new, larger co-working space with room for Techlahoma to hold meetups and be kind of a landing spot for the OKC tech/entrepreneurship community. I had the opportunity to be part of the team that would build SS46, and I was excited to jump in!” he said.

The dream of SS46 being OKC’s hub for innovation and entrepreneurship is a big part of what motivates him. “I’m passionate about bringing new people and organizations into SS46 to see what a great community we have and how they can join and grow as part of that community. There are so many great collaborations cooking because of introductions and random collisions at SS46. I can’t wait to see what other great companies and endeavors come next!”

Mike Slack: StarSpace46 Partner Profile

The tech sector is revolutionary because, for the first time in history, people from all corners of the earth have the opportunity to take part in entrepreneurship. Many of the most valuable and influential companies today were developed in garages with minimal investment. The technology created by these companies has played an even broader role by breaking away from traditional models and allowing for unconventional systems of collaboration and marketing. This idea of bringing people with independent backgrounds and ideas together for the greater good is a passion for Mike Slack, one of the partners at StarSpace46.

Mike Slack became a part of SS46 through his fundraising work with Techlahoma. Through a project he began in the winter of 2015, Slack got plugged into the grassroots technology community in Oklahoma City. “The 404, what we sometimes refer to as the predecessor of StarSpace46, was a tech-oriented coworking space of limited square footage.  Some of the principal parties involved in the 404 and the Techlahoma campaign got together to establish the plan for StarSpace46.”

Outside of his involvement with SS46 and Techlahoma, Slack spends his days helping corporate teams navigate the sometimes complicated path of custom applications and software. He is the Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Clevyr, an innovative local company who creates organization products designed to improve community and collaboration. Slack’s team at Clevyr ensures that clients enjoy a smooth experience throughout the sales process, and beyond.

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“Enterprise/Custom software development decisions are fairly complicated, typically involving senior company leadership, marketing and or sales leaders, IT leadership, and software developers,” Slack said. “The enterprise software sales leader is like the conductor of an orchestra.  My job is to help decision makers work through the struggle of buying something big, expensive, and nebulous.”

Slack is recognizable to many people due to his role in a variety of community projects. Each year, he takes on on a select number of nonprofit consulting projects. He is an active volunteer at his church, Grace United Methodist, and on the advisory board of the Downtown YMCA. He’s also influenced several generations of Oklahoma City’s entrepreneurs through his part-time gig in education. Professor Slack is part of the adjunct faculty at Oklahoma City University, teaching a course on Program Evaluation for the Nonprofit Leadership program.

So what is the driving force that keeps him motivated? “I want to be involved in work where I make a measurable impact.  I’d be miserable at a company where my job was to keep the status quo or lead nominal growth. Sales is a perfect fit for my personality because I want the awards of my work to be tied to my achievements.”  

This ceaseless drive seems to have been instilled at a very young age. “One of the more impactful symbols of America that I remember from civics class as a kid is the melting pot.  A place where myriad people, backgrounds, and ideas come together. That amalgamation of diversity in the melting pot is what makes this soup we call America. I believe StarSpace46 is a microcosm of the American experiment - with a particularly strong flavor of technology, entrepreneurship, and startups.  Insofar as OKC is interested in having a thriving startup ecosystem, StarSpace46 will be here, making our soup, and sharing it with all who wish to partake.”

A Look Back: 2017-2018 Year in Review

A couple of months ago, the StarSpace46 team celebrated our 2nd company annual. StarSpace46 is two years old now and it is mind blowing just how far StarSpace46 has come along and the impact we’ve created in the two years we’ve been around. I’m absolutely humbled by the talent and dedication of my fellow partners in StarSpace46 and most importantly, the drive and dedication of our members. Without our members, StarSpace46 wouldn’t be what it is today and I believe that StarSpace46 and our members are an important part of Oklahoma City’s entrepreneurial renaissance.

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For the company annual, I had put together a deck looking back on 2018 and going back to where we started in 2016. I believe a picture is worth a thousand words and we all voted to share the deck to the public and our members. I’ve uploaded it to SlideShare

Just as a highlight of bullet points of things that have happened in the last two years:

  • After months of construction with the blood and sweat of our members, StarSpace46 opens it’s doors October 31, 2016.

  • Expands reach to include over 35 usergroups, professional networking meetups, entrepreneurial meetups and bootcamps. Over 1,000 people attending various meetups and usergroups in the StarSpace46 event space monthly!

  • Expanded to include dog memberships. WE LOVE DOGGOS!

  • Expanded the team from 5 board members to 9 with the addition of Douglas Sorocco in 2018.

  • Expanded our fractional services as part of our Decentralized Entrepreneurship Model.

  • Initiated conversations with various partners in regards to the Oklahoma entrepreneurship ecosystem.

  • Debut of the Creativity Beta conference.

  • Expanded to the 2nd floor!

If you want to view the slide deck, you can view it here on SlideShare

Thank you all for an incredible 2018 and letting us be a part of the journey with you. We’ve had some help along the way with some of the best partners and sponsors. If you think 2018 was great, just wait till you see what’s in store for 2019.

On behalf of the entire StarSpace46 team, we wish you a happy new year!

Tommy Yi,
Co-founder and President of StarSpace46, Inc.