What’s up with Big Omaha this year? A QA with Caleb and Joey

Last week SPN sat down at Block 16 with Caleb Ullfers and Joey Wolfe, this year’s Big Omaha organizers, to talk about broken cars, carbon footprints, the AIM acquisition, and what’s new for Big Omaha this year. Here’s what happened:

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Joey Wolfe and Caleb Ullfers. Photo by Josh Foo.

Last week SPN sat down at Block 16 with Caleb Ullfers and Joey Wolfe, this year’s Big Omaha organizers, to talk about broken cars, carbon footprints, the AIM acquisition, and what’s new for Big Omaha this year. Here’s what happened:

Q: For people that haven’t seen you since the last Big Omaha, how have you guys been?

J: Well, my car broke down today. (Looks down disparingly)

C: He’s looking for a small round of VC funding to fix his car.

Q: What was the response to last year’s Big Omaha?

C: It was really great. It was our largest Big Omaha to date. We had been through a few changes with the staff, and there was a little question about how it would turn out. But it was great.

Q: Any good stories?

C: Our good friend Chris Heuertz took Chase Jarvis, one of the speakers, out to Boiler Room where they sat down with head chef Paul Kulik. Chase had no idea that Omaha, Nebraska had such incredible food and was floored by the spread and the generosity of two people he had just met. He later raved on camera about the experience.

C: Remember the drumline to open the conference? I had chills the whole time. That came together about two weeks before the conference, and I was nervous every day while trying to work it out. You never know what’s going to come out of Big Omaha – expect surprises.

J: One great thing, like past years, was the ability to interact on a one-to-one level with pretty much every speaker. I think anyone who came to the closing party remembers dancing with Evan Williams at Loom at midnight.

Q: A lot of people are talking about the AIM acquisition. How has it been working with AIM?

J: You know what, I’m going to be honest. It was pretty rough at first. They didn’t really quite know how to handle us. There was some confusion about how SPN was going to fit into AIM. But Kandace, the CEO, has been incredibly open to letting us lead the event and letting us do our own thing. And the stance that they’ve taken is, “How can we help? Otherwise, we’ll get out of your way and let you do what you do best.”

C: I’d agree with Joey. It was a bit of a rough transition. It’s been about three weeks now, and AIM has been really supportive. They really believe in Big Omaha and in what we’re doing, and not trying to mess it up.

J: I think there’s a fear that AIM’s purchase is going to lead to a much larger corporate attendance to Big Omaha. But not only do they not have that intention, they are behind us refocusing the event towards founders, which is something that some feel Big Omaha has moved away from in recent years.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges for you this year?

C: Joey.

J: Caleb calls me names.

C: (laughs) Starting a little bit later than we used to has put us in a little bit of a time crunch, but we feel good about everything coming together.

Q: Any word on who the headliners are going to be?

C: Hmm, let’s see if we can drop some hints. If you’re interested in… building startup communities… awesome designers… task management… building/designing apps… We’re really excited about the speaking slate. We’ll announce them when we launch the new site with Grain & Mortar in early March, when tickets go on sale.

Q: What are you most excited about this year?

C: I think we’re most excited about our speaker’s list this year. We’ve got some great founders. The speaking slate is as top notch as years past, if not better.

C: One of the things we’re excited about is our new eco-friendly initiatives for Big Omaha. We can make a better impact on the environment. A bigger impact?

J: (laughs) Yes, a bigger impact. We’re going to make a massive carbon footprint.

C: The bigger, the better. (laughs) Less of a bigger impact. We’re looking for partners to help us with that. For example, last year we went through 90 cases of bottled water. So we’re looking for partners who are interested in working with us to provide reusable bottles.

Q: Where do you see Big Omaha going in the future?

J: Honestly, we want a future where we can collaborate with other incredible events and other partners in the community so we can make a bigger economic impact.

C: What Joey said. We’re really excited to work with other events in Omaha and seeing where those collaborations go.

Q: When and where can people get tickets?

J: March 13th on bigomaha.com.

C: Ignore him. March 13th on bigomaha.com.