Lincoln-based Econic and the Inside/Outside Innovation Podcast team have formally announced the first Inside/Outside Innovation Summit on June 19-21 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.
Billed as the first of its kind in the region, the summit will bring together high-growth startups and corporate innovators.
“Companies in every industry are looking to innovate faster and more effectively – inside and outside the organization,” said Brian Ardinger, co-founder of Econic and the I/O Innovation Podcast. “The summit is a way to speed up those collisions and connections.”
The summit supports several components of the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development’s strategic plan, according to Christina Oldfather, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. One component, according to the plan delivered by Angelou Economics in 2015, was a big event.
“The idea was that we as a community should host and own a really big entrepreneurial event,” she said. “It started out as a sports tech event, but Brian presented this idea to cover more than one vertical and showcase Lincoln as a hub of innovation.”
Connecting startups to Lincoln
Recruiting startups to the community is another part of LPED’s strategic plan.
“The summit will bring in who knows how many startups for the showcase, and we may potentially offer incentives to those at the top,” Oldfather said. “They can see what’s going on, get connected, see the culture and we can help them stay in Lincoln.”
Lana Zumbrunn, Executive Director of FUSE Coworking, is seeing startup relocation first-hand.
“Our objective is to create a community under this roof where entrepreneurs can thrive,” she said. “That naturally means people from other places, too. We’ve got people that have moved in from California, Denver, Phoenix, Austin and Costa Rica.”
“We saw what he was doing and really like that model,” said Chuck Norris, a director with Nelnet. “We’re basically mimicking that model. What’s nice about it is that you stay engaged.”
The opportunity for interaction between corporate innovators and startups is another attractive feature of the summit for Norris and Nelnet.
“We have an internal innovation group and an outside group looking to invest in innovative companies,” he said. “They’re very complementary, we get a lot of value out of both. What we learn over here, we get to use over there, and vice versa.”
Marketing Lincoln to prospective talent
Talent recruitment is also a goal of the summit.
“We want to put Lincoln on the map as a place where innovation happens,” Oldfather said. “Hosting this kind of conference can only put us in a positive light when we market Lincoln to talent.”
During the event, FUSE Coworking will offer free coworking and other perks to summit badge holders.
“We’ll offer free coworking, free coffee, free high-speed internet and free phone booths (BYOP),” Zumbrunn said. “Let people see what we’re up to every day at FUSE.”
Organizers are hoping to attract between 500 and 1,000 attendees. The resulting density and connections made at the summit, FUSE and other locations should provide mutual benefit.
“There is a lot of value in creating density if you want those random collisions,” Norris said. “It’s about connecting the dots.”
Investing in community
Nelnet has a vested interest in helping the community prosper.
“We are domiciled in Lincoln, and we want it to be a vibrant community,” Norris said. “Investing is just one piece of a larger effort to play our part by being an instigator, to keep things going.”
Highlighting Lincoln’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for both corporate innovation and startups is a recurring theme among summit planners and sponsors.
“We really want to showcase what we’ve created in Lincoln, density and startup traction,” Zumbrunn said. “This is an opportunity for us to bang the drum.”
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.