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Get caught up on what’s happening at Big Omaha

Margenett Moore-Roberts hosts a diversity and inclusion panel at Big Omaha. All photos by Christine McGuigan.

Big Omaha finished off their first day of speakers Thursday afternoon following a lunch from Kitchen Table, Via Farina, Le Bouillon and The Grey Plume. Big Omaha also hosted the first ever Startup Crawl during lunch which featured networking opportunities with local businesses sponsored by the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development.

The Big Omaha events continued into Thursday night with a pop-up dinner curated by Shirley Chung at The Boiler Room and a middle party at Laka Lona Rum Club.

Check out the Thursday afternoon recap below and be sure to catch Friday’s speakers on the Big Omaha live stream provided by the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation.

Matt Zeiler

Matt Zeiler

Matt Zeiler, founder of Clarifai, a photo and video recognition API, explained how his company’s software works to improve both image searchability and people’s lives.

“Our mission is to understand every photo and video to improve life,” said Zeiler. “It’s the core of our business.”

Clarifai’s technology can understand what a photo is in a fraction of a second. The technology can also be used to include or exclude any type of image content for custom search results. Businesses are using Clarifai to identify their logos in photographs and determine who is using their products and in what ways.

“This is powerful if you want to know how your brand is being used out in the world,” said Zeiler.

The process requires no manual work from humans, but search results and user data are needed for the platform to better understand the terms that people use during photo searches.

“We need to let people teach our platform how to see the world,” explained Zeiler.

Diversity Panel

Baldwin Cunningham, Cammy Watkins and Vanessa Torrivilla, moderated by Margenett Moore-Roberts

Baldwin Cunningham, Cammy Watkins and Vanessa Torrivilla, moderated by Margenett Moore-Roberts

Moore-Roberts kicked off the panel discussion by asking why we’re still talking about diversity in 2017. Why is diversity still a topic that businesses need to discuss and not a problem that’s already been solved?

“For me, it’s now why are we still, it’s why would we ever stop,” said Watkins.

“I don’t think we talk enough about the good results of diversity working,” added Cunningham.

Watkins believes that people are an investment and companies should be discussing the investments they’re making in a diverse workforce.

Torrivilla added that when it comes to startups, a lot of the time a founder’s energy is spent building a business and not building a team. When conscious effort isn’t put into finding diverse employees, it’s easy to hire people that are already known to the company which does not promote a diverse range of employees.

“Start going to events,” said Watkins. “You’re going to meet people who aren’t in your circle.”

Alex Klein

Alex Klein

Alex Klein shared his story of creating Kano, a company that produces DIY computer kits designed to help people of all ages assemble a computer from scratch and learn basic coding skills. Kano originally came about when Klein’s six-year-old cousin said he wanted a simple and fun computer kit.

“It has to be as simple and fun as LEGO,” Klein recounted his cousin telling him. “And no one can teach me.”

When Klein created the first Kano computer in 2013, there was nothing else like it on the market. The STEM craze hadn’t yet taken hold of the children’s developmental toy industry. Since 2014, Kano has shipped over 150,000 computer kits to 86 countries.

Klein believes that opening up computer coding to a wider range of people will not only benefit the tech industry but the world as a whole.

“There are 10 billion shapeable devices in the world but only 50 million people who can shape them,” said Klein.

He thinks that giving people the experience of putting their hands inside a computer and allowing them to build it themselves will promote a new generation of coders.

“We live in a virtual age,” said Klein. If you can build something that has a physical component, go for it.”

Mitch Lowe

Mitch Lowe

Mitch Lowe estimates that he spent roughly 13,000 hours working in video stores throughout his career. He used that experience to co-found Netflix and then later on as the CEO of MoviePass.

“I became fascinated with merchandising and how people choose what to watch,” explained Lowe.

Lowe said he dreamed of being able to provide people with a huge inventory of every movie imaginable without them worrying about when the movie was due back and having to pay late fees. He said he was also driven by one simple motivation: How can we get movies to people faster?

The co-founders started Netflix as a mail order business, waiving late fees that brick and mortar video stores were known for, believing that the internet was about to change the movie rental industry.

“We knew the internet was there even though it was 10 years before we could stream,” said Lowe. “When you have ideas like that and people tell you it can’t be done, use that [as a motivator].”

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