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Lincoln’s Christina Oldfather on the growing LNK startup scene

Photo by Lexie Volk.

Christina Oldfather joined the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development (LPED) about three years ago as the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. SPN recently had a conversation with her about Lincoln’s startup ecosystem.

“It’s actually really good timing,” Oldfather said. “Starting this month we’re working more closely with NMotion. Beth (McKeon, NMotion Managing Director) and I will be working directly together to create a suite of programs.”

Working more closely with NMotion includes a physical relocation for Oldfather.

“My office is now in the NMotion office,” she said. “I’m still LPED but working under the umbrella of NMotion. We’re doubling down our support and taking it beyond the 90-day accelerator.”

New speaker series

Among other things, the LPED/NMotion partnership will be working to fill gaps in the services available to startups and entrepreneurs.

“As I’ve seen the startup community mature, there are areas where more supports are needed,” Oldfather said. “We have companies at all these different levels. There’s so much in between that we’re missing.”

Among the concepts emerging in the expanded suite of services for startups is a quarterly speaker series.

“We want to bring in outside experts and have them available during the NMotion accelerator cohort but also for the community at large,” Oldfather said. “Get that outside expertise into the community and create connections with those people.”

Pitch competition

Another evolving piece is the JumpStart Challenge, an annual event where entrepreneurs pitch potential solutions to business problems identified by larger companies. The winner receives resources to pursue the idea, which can grow into a company like first-year winner Nobl.

“As we’ve worked through the last four years, we’re seeing ways to evolve it in response to the startup community,” Oldfather said. “We’ve got a couple of companies potentially on board, and we’re hoping we’ll have a little twist on it this year to change it up.”

Attracting startups to LNK

In addition to expanding services available to local entrepreneurs, Oldfather is hoping to recruit startups into the community. Incentives for startups to locate in Lincoln may be part of the package.

“We want to create more density, but also bring startups in from outside the community,” she said. “That’s another sign of how our startup community has evolved, that we think it makes sense to bring companies in that match verticals.”

This is a shift in focus from economic development efforts that typically focused on convincing large companies to relocate.

“I don’t think it’s news to anybody that larger companies aren’t moving that much,” Oldfather said. “The whole idea is growing companies that create jobs.”

Making the case in Austin

A trip to South by Southwest (SXSW) is also in the works, including a booth at the job fair.

“We want to check out the startup scene down there, see what we can take away of value,” Oldfather said. “We’re also bringing the Lincoln name down there as a job market and a place to start your company. The schedule is mind- blowing.”

At the end of the day, Oldfather is very pleased with the direction LPED and NMotion are headed.

“We’re really excited about the pivot we’re taking and how our organization is working to build and support the startup community here in Lincoln,” she said. “I’m excited about our continued partnership with NMotion and the way we’ve seen the startup community grow over the past three years.”

Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.