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Accelerating others' success
Immigrant leads launch of OKC program as 'way of giving back'

Piyush Patel has worked in a variety of fields, and now he's running a wine company and an accelerator program for startup firms. [BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Piyush Patel has worked in a variety of fields, and now he's running a wine company and an accelerator program for startup firms. [BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

Piyush Patel was 4 years old when his parents, immigrants from England, moved the family to El Reno. They were “pretty poor,” he recalled in an interview with The Oklahoman.

By the time he entered high school, he had started up his own business DJing dances with $100 seed funding for lights provided by his father. That first dance cleared a $100 profit.

“My parents always encouraged both my brother (and me) to invent and build things and start businesses,” Patel said. “So, they were pretty supportive folks.”

In one interview with The Oklahoman, Patel shared how his immigrant parents’ support was matched by expectations of hard work — a mix that led to his success as an adult.

“I was a 'Star Wars' kid growing up, so 'Star Wars' video games, sci-fi movies,” Patel said. “If you really want to know, it was when I was in the fourth grade, my parents said if you bring home straight A's, we'll buy you an Atari. I brought home all A's and an A-, and my parents were like “Nope, that's not all A's.”

Patel said looking back, his parents couldn’t really afford an Atari, “but they didn’t want to say that to me.”

“They were like, 'You didn't work hard enough.' So I just kind of had this long urge that I'm going to be in the video game industry. If I can't have one now, then I'm going to be in it all the way.”

He started Digital Tutors, an e-learning business for video game creators and special effects artists, for $54 in 2000. He had no investors and started with no debt. In 2014, he sold it to Pluralsight, a publicly traded company with a valuation of $1.7 billion.

“It was like a bootstrap world,” Patel said. “Now, if you have an internet idea, people are throwing money at you. Back then, we were just trying to figure it out.”

Now, Patel said he is even busier than before as an author, speaker, member of the Entrepreneurs' Organization and founder of Conclusion Wines, which donates its proceeds to Oklahoma nonprofits.

His book “Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters” was released in 2018, and in it he shares the importance of relationships and respect.

“You can really treat people differently and still grow your business like crazy,” Patel said. “We had 42 full-time employees, 500 contractors, and we only turned over 12 people in 14 years.”

“I'm a big believer in companies of tomorrow needing to become employers of choice. So forever, it has been 'I'm going to bring in all the resumes, and I'm going to pick who I want to work in this company.' That's no longer going to be the reality. The reality is 'Will you work for our company? Because you now have lots of choices, too.' "

Patel continues to invest in Oklahoma City, with ventures including the recently opened Angry Scottsman brewery along Film Row.

He is leading Oklahoma City's launch of the Entrepreneurs' Organization Accelerator program, which matches owners and founders of businesses with $250,000 to $800,000 in revenue with members of the organization as mentors.

Patel also told The Oklahoman he has a personal goal of turning five strangers into millionaires.

The goal of the program is to help participants grow their businesses to more than $1 million in sales through education and accountability. Organization members, who are owners or founders of businesses with $1 million or more in revenue, do not take any of the equity.

“Oh my gosh, it's hard to run a company by yourself,” Patel said. “You just don't have anybody to talk to who understands what you're going through. ... Ten years in it, my way of giving back is to create the Accelerator program.”