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First Tech Crawl showcases Lincoln startup scene

Though Fuse Coworking isn't scheduled to open until Nov. 1, the new Lincoln coworking space rushed part of its clean up and renovation in order to be a stop on the city's inaugural Tech Crawl on Thursday. "This is exactly what the essence of Fuse Coworking is about," Fuse co-founder Matt Westenburg said. "It's about

Fuse Coworking provides a Tech Crawl stop in Lincoln’s Haymarket District for companies not based downtown.

Though Fuse Coworking isn’t scheduled to open until Nov. 1, the new Lincoln coworking space rushed part of its clean up and renovation in order to be a stop on the city’s inaugural Tech Crawl on Thursday.

“This is exactly what the essence of Fuse Coworking is about,” Fuse co-founder Matt Westenburg said. “It’s about bringing community together.” 

Fuse’s third-floor space in the city’s Haymarket district – an area Westenburg said is “kind of the heart of startup community in Lincoln” – was one of 14 Tech Crawl stops and housed 16 of the 29 participating companies, hosting the companies without offices in the Haymarket.

Organizers of the crawl, which was part of the city’s first Startup Week, echoed Fuse’s enthusiasm. “We needed to highlight a lot of the companies and a lot of what everybody’s doing,” said Matt Sherman of Three Pillars Media. “Some of those aren’t maybe considered a startup anymore but there’s still a startup mentality.”

Rod Armstrong of the AIM Institute helped recruit and organize participating companies. “I’ve even learned of companies I didn’t know existed,” Armstong said following the event.

Armstrong estimated that 75-100 people came out for the event, most of them being university students.

Lincoln Startup Week’s website provides a map of 14 Tech Crawl stops.

Andy Peters of Ninth Division, an Omaha-based mobile app development firm, said he learned about the crawl from event participant and client Ryan Cooper of GolfStatus. “I hadn’t been down here in a while, been hearing cool things,” Peters said. Following the event, he said he’s more aware of what’s going on in Lincoln. “I would love to keep connected with more people than I already know in Lincoln.”

Attendee Ryan Cairns of Lincoln came out with a job hunt on his mind. “One of the places I went through they’re actually looking for somebody that kind of fits my profile so I’ll probably be applying,” Cairns said. “It’s kind of exciting actually.”

Startups also had hiring on their minds. The co-founders of Lincoln startup SectorNow, the maker of the WasteFinder app, were at Fuse looking for talent and aiming to connect with the community and promote their apps.

“This is ideal,” SectorNow co-founder Roger Bartlett (right) said. “In a small town with a lot of great people, why not show yourself off and try to get more people involved in the tech industry? I think we’re always under these umbrellas where there’s nothing going on. Well, there’s a lot going on in the community and here’s proof.”

Bartlett, Peters and Cairns all said they would participate in the event again. Neither Armstrong nor Sherman would say whether or not Lincoln would see a Tech Crawl in 2013, but they said Thursday exceeded their expectations.

“My biggest goal coming into this was, first of all, to make sure we had a good number of companies who were willing to participate, and the response was overwhelming,” Armstrong said. “And then (I wanted) to make sure we could deliver some traffic to them, and I think we succeeded there, as well.”

Here are few a photos of the crawl:

Matt Sherman (from left), Andy Peters and Matt Secoske visit on the patio of a Scooter’s at P and North 8th St., a main intersection of the Haymarket.

Cole Easterday of Don’t Panic Labs serves as one of Nebraska Global’s four tour guides for its crawl stop.

Easterday shows Peters the computers assembled by Elite Form to power its strength training software.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Debra Payne (far left) introduces Ben Pankonin for an impromptu speech to her Introduction to Entrepreneurial Management class.

A Startup Lincoln sign greets crawlers at Ebbeka Design.*

Fuse Coworking’s stop showcases Fuse and 15 other companies.

Fuse’s Matt Westenburg (middle) speaks with Patti Vannoy (left), who was working the GolfStatus booth, and Ben Pankonin (right) of Social Assurance.

Hurrdat Social Media’s Blake Lawrence (middle, left) and Nick Verlaney (middle, right) talk about their company to a group that stopped by their office.


Update Sept. 18 – When published, the photo caption incorrectly stated the sign was at the entrance Fuse Coworking. It is at the entrance of Ebbeka Design.

Credits: Top photo by Bob Hinrichs. Crawl photos by Danny Schreiber.


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