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Omaha’s JumpStart Challenge awards over $10,000 in prizes to winning concepts

Hosts from The Startup Collaborative, powered by Greater Omaha Chamber, Erica Wassinger, Caty O’Brien and Nathan Preheim.

Omaha’s first JumpStart Challenge of 2017 wrapped up on Tuesday with three participants winning over $10,000 in prizes.

The 16 participants presented their concepts on stage at the Blue Barn Theater. The presentations featured solutions to three reverse pitch challenges from The City of Omaha, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA), and Metropolitan Community College given on February 7.

The problems presented focused on Omaha but have an industry-wide scope. Each challenge had a specific set of goals focusing on business, culture and community. Presentations were judged on scalability of concept, presentation and sales-personship, rigor of customer validation and creative innovation.

The City of Omaha Challenge – Pierce Robinson, EPASS
The MAPA Challenge – Joe Frost, Empowerment Program
The Metropolitan Challenge – Amanda and Kevin Kohler, Nudge

The three challengers were each awarded a $2,500 prize for concept funding as well as a one year sponsored fellowship to The Startup Collaborative, powered by Greater Omaha Chamber. worth $1,200. The Startup Collaborative’s mission is to radically improve the odds of startup success.

Organizer and The Startup Collaborative cofounder Erica Wassinger, said that the overall goal was to take a corporate challenge and turn it into scalable concepts that resulted in real companies. She thinks that the results from the challenge show a real appetite for civic challenges in our community.

“The three winning teams have a real shot at turning their concepts into companies, all represented serial founders with promising early customer validation,” said Wassinger.

She believes the event series is only going to keep getting better in the future, and the challenge’s strong partnerships with UNO and Creighton are helping populate the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Pierce Robinson and The City of Omaha Challenge team.

Connecting innovators to industry

The goal of the Startup Challenge was for participants to create solutions that could instantly turn into businesses.

The City of Omaha Challenge winner Pierce Robinson knows that his concept, website EPASS (Every Person is Essential) goes much further than just a pitch.

“I didn’t get to explore the in-depth capabilities of the site but I only had 3 minutes so I used the time that I had,” said Robinson. “I look forward to meeting with city hall [so] we can bounce ideas off of each other and kind of dive deeper into it to actually better the city.”

Winning the pitch competition will also help him achieve his professional goals of transitioning into a tech career following his military service.

“[Tech has] always been something I’ve been passionate about,” said Robinson. “This will allow me to have something full-time once my contract in the military ends. I can still help people out which is something that has been instilled in me.”

Robinson was happy to have been awarded the $2,500 prize but he was more excited to start working with Omaha and to join The Startup Collaborative.

“I’m a busy person but I love it. I love technology, I love startups, I love helping people. This is awesome”

Christine McGuigan is the Associate Editor of Silicon Prairie News.

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