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Heartland Innovation Road Trip takes off on four-day tour

Five representatives from Nebraska startup-support organizations are heading out today on a four-day road trip across the Silicon Prairie.

The Heartland Innovation Road Trip will make stops in Des Moines, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City to gain a pulse on the region and its ecosystems.

The five touring founders, investors, community builders and innovators are: Brian Ardinger, Founder, NXXT and InsideOutside.io; Rich Claussen, Ambassador for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Prosper Lincoln; Brian Lee, Managing Director, Silicon Prairie News; Christina Oldfather, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development; Rena Valentino, Executive Director, FUSE.

The crew of five is heading out from their Lincoln/Omaha starting point and traveling the Prairie to engage in open discussions with key individuals of each innovative eco-system, resulting in mutually beneficial take-aways. Their goal is to learn from other markets who are breaking new ground and chronicle, report on and share their journeys.

“We are committed to growing the greater good for our start-up, innovation and entrepreneurial eco-system,” said Rich Claussen. “And growth is a process. We’re doing this because we believe that we are stronger, together.”

The idea for the tour came from a conversation about the advantages of having a dense Midwestern ecosystem.

“All of us were standing around at 1 Million Cups talking about how we needed to get back out to the other communities to see what’s going on and tell some stories,” said Ardinger.

The group decided to take a week to travel to different cities as a way of sharing stories from Nebraska’s communities, and in turn, hear about what’s happening in the host cities’ ecosystems. Ardinger said when they started calling their connections and filling them in on the plan, the responses they received were excited and welcoming.

“The great thing about the Silicon Prairie in general is the fact that everyone is fairly open to sharing, collaborating and helping each other out.”

After a month of planning, the group is eager to hit the road.

“I’m excited to see what’s happening in spaces of innovative communities, how they all work together for a shared objective, and making regional relationships within our Heartland for more collaboration from the inside of the Midwest,” said Valentino.

The daily discussions will be recorded and shared later via The Inside/Outside Podcast. The group is hoping that this will be one of many opportunities for connection in the coming months and years.

“We’re hoping to forge new lanes of connectivity between the ecosystems and hopefully make this a yearly event,” said Lee.

Tour Schedule

February 27 – Des Moines, 1-3 p.m. @Gravitate
February 28 – Chicago, 2-3 p.m. @SecondShiftChi
March 1 – St. Louis, 4-6 p.m. @VentureCafeSTL
March 2 – Kansas City, 2-4 p.m. @SprintAccel

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Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.

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