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First ever Inside/Outside Innovation Summit in Lincoln mixed startups with corporate innovators

Over 600 people from across the country gathered June 26th through the 28th at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska to attend the first ever Inside/Outside Innovation Summit, a conference that matches startups with corporate innovators. The event showcased a diverse slate of speakers, a startup showcase floor, networking, and a $100,000 startup pitch competition.

“It’s a tough vision to pull off when you think about pulling together these different audiences with very different value propositions and creating a space where both could benefit,” said event organizer and Co-Founder of Econic, Brian Ardinger. “We gave the ties and the unties, the tucked and the untucked an opportunity to connect and learn from each other.”

The conference follows a recent trend in the corporate world toward innovation departments and forming relationships with the startup world. The theme of the event was matching startups with corporate innovators to find win/win partnerships.

“What was impressive to me was that the sponsors really doubled down on the purpose of the event,” said Ardinger. “Many took full advantage of the matchmaking environment and sought out startups to meet with.”

Speakers from both corporate and startup backgrounds spoke from two stages addressing a wide range of topics including funding, team structure, matchmaking, creating innovation environments, and more.

“From the content perspective, the feedback was that there were “over the top” great speakers in terms of knowledge and expertise,” said Ardinger. “The speakers that came together really understood that they had to speak to both audiences and they delivered on that.”

Another unique feature of the summit was a startup showcase featuring over 64 startups from around the country. Each startup had a booth where anyone could walk by and learn more about their business.

“The startup showcase was an idea that we felt was missing in the ecosystem, an opportunity for startups to really demonstrate what they are doing and why,” said Ardinger. “We had startups from Australia, Ireland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Austin, KC, St. Louis, Omaha, Lincoln, and more.”

“The diverse group of startups meet potential customers and investors,” Ardinger continued. “There were also lots of startup to startup connections that are only made when you put that density together for a particular moment in time.”

The summit was capped off by a $100,000 startup pitch competition sponsored by Nelnet.

“Nelnet put up $100k for the event and asked us to go out and find some great candidates, we chose six and Nelnet chose the other four from the startup showcase,” said Ardinger. “It was a hard-fought deliberation because of the quality of talent that was on the stage that day.”

In the end, Lincoln-based startup Company Cam, a software solution that helps businesses manage field work with smart photos, won the prize.

Company Cam won the $100,000 pitch competition.

“They have slowly and organically grown the business into something very interesting,” said Ardinger. “They’ve been heads down building without actively tracking down money. By finding a specific problem and really focusing on that, knowing that they nailed that niche, they have a much better chance of getting to the next level.”

All in all, Ardinger believes the event was a huge success.

“I’d like to shout out to the volunteers and Econic staff, it was a big dream that we had six months ago,” said Ardinger. “To put together something that’s world class in six months is something we’re very proud of.”


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