The Startup Collaborative invited Omaha’s innovators, entrepreneurs and supporters to their first-annual Startup Showcase and Expo at the Omaha Design Center on Thursday. The event was The Startup Collaborative’s new take on a demo day, adding in a startup bullpen, a pop-up stage featuring investors and startup ecosystem funders, and a speakeasy after-party.
The expo and showcase was a “high-energy celebration of growth for the 60 plus startups we continuously work with, and a dive into some of the emerging technologies driving future businesses,” said expo organizers.
Michael Struthers, Head of People Operations at Flywheel and TSC Startup HR Adjunct, and Melissa Nosal, Communications Lead at Perkins Eastman and TSC Inbound Marketing Adjunct, kicked off the main-stage startup showcase.
“Last January, The Startup Collaborative boldly rolled up their sleeves and rolled out a new model for acceleration, something unseen in the rest of the country,” said Nosal. “It has been uncharted territory, but the wheels are in motion for a prosperous, thriving startup scene right here in the Silicon Prairie.”
Last year, The Startup Collaborative Co-Founders Nathan Preheim and Erica Wassinger said that they saw a “funnel” in the region’s ecosystem. There weren’t enough new startups at the top of the funnel and not enough strong startups throughout the funnel to ensure the region had the best odds of success. They set out to correct it and “radically improve the odds” of startup success in the process.
Wassinger and Preheim took the stage and shared a few items on The Startup Collaborative’s roadmap for the upcoming year.
“If 2017 was a launch year, then 2018 is all about scale,” said Wassinger. “We’re striving to onboard no less than ten new fellows each month. This spring, we’ll be announcing an exciting evolution of our program, which will include funding for startups and a new corporate track.”
Wassinger also shared news about a new home for The Startup Collaborative at the Omaha Chamber’s soon-to-open headquarters in Omaha’s Riverfront district. Also in the works is a plan to locate more of the area’s entrepreneurial talent in places like West Omaha and Council Bluffs.
“We’re taking a meet-them-where-they-are approach and are going to be hosting distributed office hours across the region,” said Wassinger.
Next up was the showcase where startups had a chance to get in front of an audience of potential customers and make asks, connect and build their audience.
Presenting startups included:
Julie Taylor and Kathleen Pallesen of Family Spokes
Mitch Gillogly of StarGaze
Kristen Belford and Ryan Belford of RoomAdvantage
Resa and Tom Helikar of Discovery Collective
Weston Thomson of Invisible Schools
Makayla Rohrer of VirtuTech
Andrew Dierks of RingPatrol
After the showcase, Preheim and Senior Marketing Manager at Cox Business Julie Minton took the stage for an abbreviated version of The Startup Collaborative’s All Rise Rally.
“The All Rise Rally is part new-startup celebration and part entrepreneur initiation, highlighting the newest fellows in the program,” said Preheim. “It takes two: entrepreneurs to step forward to blaze new trails and the community to get behind them to push and nurture them along.”
Many of the entrepreneurs in the incoming class have full-time jobs, are parents, go to school or teach classes. They know that challenges lay ahead, but they’re dedicated to solving real problems with their startups.
“They have dependents. They are mothers and fathers and students and spouses. Yet, they’ve all decided to run something forward,” said Minton. “That’s worthy of our support and enthusiasm.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.