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Omaha startup leaders hope Event Draft takes community to next level

A group of Omaha startup community members hopes a football-like draft for dates will bring a more consistent lineup of gatherings and help create a more unified, empowered startup environment in 2014.

They’re calling it the “Event Draft” because they want startup community members to each take a week for an event they’ll plan and execute, whether it’s a meetup, hackathon or Startup Weekend.

The four organizers—Dusty Reynolds of the Greater Omaha ChamberShane Reiser, who runs One Million Cups Omaha/Lincoln and Startup GenomeDavid Arnold, managing director of the Straight Shot accelerator; and Jeff Slobotski, co-founder of Silicon Prairie News—said they see value in the collaborative nature of the calendar and hope it makes an important statement about how to take the ecosystem to the next level.

The “draft” will be held Feb. 13 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Aromas/402 Arts Collective in Benson, 6051 Maple Street.

“The community will be challenged to come with one or two ideas for an event,” Reynolds said. “As they enter they will draw a number and when their number is called, they will claim a week from now until June for their event.”

Reynolds said he hopes to see more individuals—not groups—take on events, saying “the community itself needs to build community themselves and not rely on organizations to carry the banner.”

Reiser said he thinks many individuals already do, including Lean Startup Circle, Hack Omaha, Open Nebraska, Bar Camp, Omaha Maker Group, Beer & Code and many more. 

But Omaha, like most communities, is very fragmented, he said.

“In my opinion, it’s one of the most fragmented startup communities I’ve seen in the U.S.,” Reiser said.

The draft will bring the community together like never before while also planning out the year’s event calendar collaboratively to avoid scheduling conflicts, Reiser said.

Each event will get financial assistance of up to $400 from a $20,000 grant fund from the Omaha Chamber of Commerce to help fund the tech entrepreneurship events, Reynolds said. Participants will have to fill out a short one-page application for the funds.

“Everyone is welcome to participate in this event draft,” he said.

Slobotski said the draft will go a long way to spur more and new people to get involved in the community and launch new activities.

“It takes many people to develop and lead a community and we’re excited to pull more people in as contributors to the community,” Slobotski said.

The draft event is modeled after a Boulder, Colo., endeavor put on by the Boulder Community Fund.

Omaha’s event calendar from the draft will live on omahastartups.org, but organizers hope to collaborate with other calendars like TechOmaha.com and Silcon Prairie News.

“What you see in the most effective startup communities is a good mix of community building efforts that are broadly backed and widely known as well as serendipitous events that spring up because individuals fill a gap that exists,” Arnold said. “This is about bringing all actors within the ecosystem together to help facilitate an environment that allows both to thrive.”

Reiser said he wants to further cure the 2013 lull of events in Omaha.

“It might have been because the community was a little burnt out from a lot of events in 2011 and 2012,” he said. “In any case, the events happening now range widely in reach and quality.

“We hope this event draft increases both.”


Credits: Head shots taken from LinkedIn.

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