Bentzy Goldman : South African tech entrepreneur suggests ways to make Tulsa a part of ‘start-up land.

By Michael Overall | Tulsa World

Bentzy Goldman wanted to leave South Africa to start a new business in the United States, where investors and customers would both be easier to find. But where exactly in America?

“I had never heard of Tulsa, that’s for sure,” says Goldman, a 27-year-old entrepreneur from an ultra-orthodox Jewish family in Johannesburg.

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A friend last summer mentioned Tulsa Tomorrow, a non-profit group that recruits young professionals from all over the world to live in the city. And after some online research, a brief visit last September convinced Goldman to come here instead of moving to New York, Los Angeles or another metropolis.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Goldman says. “My first impression was that the people are really nice. Very nice people. Everyone was very supportive and helpful.”

He secured an investment from a venture capital firm related to the George Kaiser Family Foundation, then moved permanently to Tulsa less than a month ago, taking “a beautiful, beautiful” apartment in the downtown Arts District.

His start-up company, Perflo, develops software to help corporations manage team projects more efficiently. But more importantly for the rest of Tulsa, Goldman’s venture represents a sort of pilot project in a wider effort to lure high-tech innovators to the city.

GKFF is pouring $50 million into the new Tulsa Innovation Labs, which will have the mission of turning the city into a “technology hub” for virtual health, drones, cyber security and other 21st century industries.

Goldman, if he succeeds here, will become an example that Tulsa can use to convince others to follow in his footsteps.

“Right now, people don’t generally associate Tulsa with ‘start-up land,’ ” he says. “But hopefully that’s going to change.”

He has some advice on how to make sure it does.

First, the city’s talented workforce needs to be more willing to work for a start-up firm even if means taking a lower salary for a while, Goldman says.

“If you get in early, you can grow with the company” and ultimately reap even higher rewards, he says. “But some people are risk-averse and want the security of working for a more established company.”

Secondly, local investors need to be more willing to take chances on a start-up.null

“If you see yourself as an early-stage investor, then you can’t say ‘come back when there’s revenue. Come back when there’s volume,’ ” Goldman says. “You have to be willing to take a leap.”

Finally, the city itself could offer grants for entrepreneurs to relocate. Tulsa Tomorrow and GKFF’s own Tulsa Remote program, which offers $10,000 for people to live in the city for a year, do a good job of creating networking opportunities, Goldman says.

“But what a start-up really needs initially is capital,” he says. “If you offered $50,000 to start a business in Tulsa, you would have people lined up to move here.”

Of course, some of those start ups would fail. Maybe most of them would.

But a $1 million investment would bring 20 new businesses to the city, and if only two or three grow into thriving companies, it would still pay off big for Tulsa in terms of new jobs and tax revenues, Goldman says.

“It would be a huge deal,” he says. “It would be a great investment.”

Read from source Tulsa World

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