AIM and GROW Nebraska are co-sponsoring the annual MarkeTECH Conference at the Kearney Holiday Inn Conference Center on April 26-27. The conference is billed as a place “where marketing and technology meet,” and provides an opportunity for small businesses and support organizations to learn from industry leaders on topics like e-commerce, social media and building your brand.
One of the many high-caliber speakers at MarkeTECH is Travis Hollman, President of Hollman Media in Kearney. The company specializes in innovative approaches to creating targeted web sites and applications. Silicon Prairie News spoke with Travis about starting a business in Central Nebraska, and what messages he plans to deliver at MarkeTECH.
The idea for starting a business percolated early for Hollman and his wife, Angela. But the initial thought wasn’t tech-based.
“I always thought the business would be focused on marketing,” Hollman said. “I majored in advertising at the University of Nebraska Kearney, not tech-related at all.”
A student exchange trip to Utah State in 2000 allowed Hollman to take classes not yet available at other schools.
“I took web design and multi-media classes,” Hollman said. “Turned out I was pretty good at web design, and Angela had training in Computer Information Systems. I had her teach me what I didn’t know.”
Once he returned to Kearney, progress was initially slow.
“It was tough knocking on doors. Not much work for a kid who didn’t have much to show,” Hollman said. “The good thing for us is we didn’t borrow any money. We would have lost it. We went by building slowly and incrementally – and having a lot of part-time jobs.”
Building the talent pipeline
Fast forward to 2016, and Hollman Media is firmly established, with recognition like the Walter Scott Entrepreneurial Business Award.
And they’re giving back to the community. Supported by a grant from the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative, Hollman Media is collaborating with Kearney Public Schools to get kids excited about technology.
“We created the Hollman Youth Development Program and are reaching about 1,000 students,” Hollman said.
They are working on a beacon app that will allow schools to place mobile announcement beacons throughout their campuses.
“Students might be walking by the cafeteria and the system might touch off a message like ‘what’s for lunch?’” Hollman said. “Or it might be a reminder about an event, tours for parents, pretty much whatever they want to say.”
Ready for MarkeTECH
What does Hollman think about the environment for startups in central Nebraska?
“Kearney is great,” Hollman said. “There’s a good talent base from UNK, a lot of tech people in general. Another thing is if you want to get a project done in Kearney, the big entities are very willing to collaborate.”
According to Hollman, the key to building a successful company is managing risk.
“As far as what makes a startup successful, I’ve thought about that a lot over the years and haven’t come up with one specific reason,” Hollman said. “Figure out what works for you, don’t over-extend your risk, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
Hollman will be doing two presentations at MarkeTECH. The first will break down web sites, mobile apps and mobile web sites, and how to decide which is right for your project.
“The second is a broader presentation on technology through the lens of history and examining fundamental truths that are timeless,” he said. “We have to resist the temptation to adopt all the newest technology.”
The schedule and registration information for MarkeTECH are available at marketechconference.org.
Silicon Prairie News is a service of AIM.
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.