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Stranger In A Strange Land



Photo Attribution: US Presswire

Photo Attribution: US Presswire

This is a guest post from friend of the blog (and former OSU intramural all-star) Cam Hardaway. He’s an entrepreneur at heart and wrote a cool post about how Oklahoma State is like that sexy Silicon Valley startup right now. You can follow him on Twitter at @cambronhardaway.

Cowboy Faithful,

I’m a stranger in a strange land.  One year ago, I moved my wife (a die hard Native Texan) and son (we have two now), to the most obscure of places in the minds of Republicans and meat eaters alike, Silicon Valley — I caught the tech bug.

Google is awesome, Facebook sucks, Jobs lived on Waverly Street and Box is making enterprise software sexy. I love it. The inhabitants of our peninsula are entrepreneurial, ridiculously smart (don’t assume that I am) and ambitious. They also love sports, most competitive people do. Some of the most innovative and disruptive ideas are nurtured and developed here, to be shared (hopefully at a profit) with the entire world (see Twitter).

Companies in the Bay Area come and go — running out of venture capital because their ideas suck or the market opportunity wasn’t as big as originally thought, getting gobbled up by Apple, Microsoft, Oracle or Cisco and in rare feats of accomplishment go public and embark to take over the world!  Which brings me to our alma mater.

It’s been a decade (internal voice repeating that fact, “decade”) since I set foot on the campus of Oklahoma State University. My family didn’t settle into Northwest, OK until the early 90’s. Orange Power nor Sooner Magic really took hold of me — I was the kid repping a jacket from The U during football season, switching to the University of Kentucky around Christmas just in time for SEC conference basketball (my parents went to UK).

Nevertheless, I chose Oklahoma State as my college playground. I learned a few things, had a good time, developed way too big of an ego over a few intramural championships, and graduated.

I almost single-handedly set our program back another decade by running over Les Miles in my truck on Hall Of Fame, he had the pedestrian right of way (ask this guy he was there — @lancebradt). Along the way I became an ardent Oklahoma State football fan.

I’ve always drunk the Kook-aid but, I’ve been furiously chugging since the Mizzou win in ’08.  Four years later, we’re the well funded, flashy and fun startup football program that most people didn’t see coming.

Like many of the startups in the Valley and the individuals who start and/or run them, Oklahoma State is striving, planning, and executing a plan to break the ceiling and join the upper crust. The competition is fierce. There’s pressure down market (Baylor, Iowa St.) and up market (OU, Texas).

You have to win on the field, win in the living rooms of recruits, win the media department, win the hearts of the fan base and win over the financial affection of boosters. The parallels between Oklahoma State’s trajectory and that of a young company’s are very similar to me.

I was at the playground a recent Saturday and started chatting up a fellow dad and self-professed college football junkie. As conversations between two guys quickly do, it turned to sports. My new friend went to USC. I, like most people, know exactly what that meant from a college football perspective.

The first words out of his mouth when I told him I went to Oklahoma State were, “isn’t that in the Big 8, did you say Oregon State?”  He proceeded to ask questions about this far off conference and our football program. I told him all about it. What I’ve come to realize is that we’re not that relevant to lots of college football fans in lots of places in the country.

We’ve won a conference championship, a BCS bowl, produced multiple 1st round draft picks and yet this guy was still getting us confused with Oregon State! We’re on the national radar but unfortunately not on modest sports fans minds.

So let this be a lesson from your left coast entrepreneur brethren — we’re not there yet, but you can be sure we’re on our way.

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