The Omaha startup scene has branded itself as a collaborative community with a one-for-all, all-for-one mentality.
And though Omaha is no stranger to networking socials, hackathons and other events connecting professionals, friends Corey Spitzer, founder and developer at Riff Labs, and Sumeet Jain, founder of dev shop Big Wheel Brigade and Omaha Code School, observed those events seldom help businesses with major breakthroughs.
“We always talk about helping startups actually get started, but I think instead of focusing on getting them going, let’s take people who have already started and give them a boost,” Spitzer said.
Jain remembers the importance of mentors and the guidance they gave him in the formative years of his business.
“It’s always been helpful to have someone who is more ambitious, more creative than me to bounce ideas off of and lead me through something,” Jain said. “It’s valuable to give [a business] an energy boost and necessary momentum to carry it to the next milestone.”
To facilitate that momentum, Jain (left) and Spitzer (right) hatched the idea for Surge, a free four-hour session for business owners to collaborate with local experts in key industries.
Surge is open to one startup per session, which, according to Spitzer, gives the business one-on-one attention to help get it to its next step.
If selected, business owners sit down with experts to create a practical plan for what they want to achieve. Collaborators for the first session include design instructor Joe Sparano, software developer Sandi Barr, business developer Stefanie Monge and marketing specialist Erica Wassinger, who said she looks forward to sharing her experience.
“Founders building high-growth companies face myriad challenges and a have a constant struggle to prioritize,” Wassinger said. “From a marketing and sales perspective, I hope to help these teams put an actionable plan in place that allows them to acquire users, approach strategic partners and generate needed credibility.”
Spitzer said there are no restrictions on which startups can apply because the vision of Surge is to get a business from point A to point B, no matter what hurdle it needs to overcome.
“We’re not looking for certain types of companies, but rather startups hitting certain roadblocks,” he said. “Maybe it’s someone who hasn’t done much more than come up with an idea but is willing to put in the effort, or it could be a company generating revenue and they’re looking to hire their first employee.”
And if you think Surge is only for artsy or design-centric companies, think again.
“Surge can help any type of company or organization, and we’ll probably get a few art technology and media companies in the beginning, but I’d also like to see something like a landscaping company apply,” Jain said.
The first company to particpate hasn’t been decided, but the deadline for the first Surge in mid-July has passed. Spitzer says he and Jain have long-term plans for the recurring event. He hopes Surge can help create an uptick in Omaha’s job market and economy.
“If we take 10 or 20 startups, no matter where they are, and get them to the next level, that could lead to a few more jobs, more collaboration and a more mature entrepreneur community.”