The Most Optimistic Hallway in Oklahoma
Author: Justin Wilson
In my first blog post a few weeks ago, I talked about the history of Plains Ventures and how it was born – not out of an explicit desire to be a VC, but out of a single-minded focus on serving entrepreneurs and building valuable companies. I take pride in that because it fits the idea of a “blue collar” approach to venture investing that I believe is appropriate for a firm intentionally headquartered in Oklahoma, and if I’m honest, because I’m a little uncomfortable with the bravado of the Venture Capital community as it seems to exist on the national stage.
As such, it probably wouldn’t be a surprise to know that Plains takes a pretty spartan view toward office space – both our OKC and Tulsa offices are modest in scope and located near some critical mass of founder activity. In OKC, it happens that our office is on an unassuming hallway in an unassuming building in Research Park near The OU Health Sciences Center. We sit on the 2nd floor, and our only neighbor is the OU Health Physicians Reproductive Medicine unit, which has led me to the habit of telling people that we office on “the most optimistic hallway in Oklahoma.”
Every day that I walk this hallway, I see people carrying their hopes and dreams heavily, yet brightly on their faces. The hopeful parents-to-be who are here to visit our neighbors, and the determined and compassionate medical staff working to facilitate their patient’s dreams; the founders who bring their inspiration to us at Plains, and the staff here focused on helping them make it a reality. Frequently, I’ll stop to think about what it means to be one of the visitors to our hallway – whether you are here for the dream of adding new life to the world or for the dream of building on your idea that can change the world in some way, it humbles me to think of the courage, optimism and hope needed to even step foot into the building. They know it’s not going to be easy – the doctors down the hall might give bad news, or our team may tell them their idea isn’t the right fit for our Funds. Still, they come anyway, because they are brave, eager, and maybe a little delusional (in a good way!). For them, the possibility that the world can be a better place tomorrow than it was yesterday is ample justification for the high risk of failure.
In the days ahead, my goal for this blog is to focus on markets and investing. But since it is the holiday season, which always makes me a little more introspective than usual, this coincidence of commercial real estate is especially front of mind. Moreover, I see these first few blog posts as an introduction to who we are as an organization, and it’s important to me that readers know why we do what we do at Plains, and what motivates our team to work so hard at this every day.
One of my favorite $5 words is “teleology,” which is rooted in Greek and is important to people that study business ethics. It can, more or less, be thought of to mean “the reason that something exists,” or even “the fundamental virtue” of a profession. Many days, it’s easy to get lost in the tasks at hand and work just feels like, well, work. But it’s useful to stop occasionally to remember why you do what you do. In VC, we are focused on driving risk-adjusted returns for our investors and supporting the founders we invest in, but I think the “teleology” of this profession can be found on the faces of those intrepid visitors here on the most optimistic hallway in Oklahoma.
Our team here at Plains Ventures hopes you have a warm and happy holiday season, and despite any reason to the contrary, look ahead with hope and optimism for the coming New Year.