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FUSE expansion supports Lincoln’s evolving tech community

Lincoln’s FUSE has come a long way in five years.

Initially conceived as a coworking space by Bob Hinrichs, Andy Beecham and Matt Westenburg, the space has evolved into a hub of corporate and startup innovation that is feeding one of the Silicon Prairie’s most vibrant ecosystems.

“Everything that makes up a quick-growing startup or entrepreneurial ecosystem is all right here,” said Rena Valentino, Executive Director of FUSE. “It’s exciting to be a resource and a space for that dense activity to be happening.”

After their most recent expansion earlier this year, FUSE officially covers three floors and almost 40,000 square feet in a historic building on the corner of Eighth and P Streets in the Haymarket. The basement level provides conference and event space, and the fifth-floor houses FUSE’s traditional coworking space and the NMotion startup accelerator.

The newly opened second floor provides additional space for growth-stage startups and other resource businesses like financial, legal or investment professionals. The combination of the two floors allows businesses to evolve within the FUSE community.

Bulu and Nxxt are the first tenants of FUSE’s second-floor expansion. The founders have said that they moved into the space to take advantage of everything FUSE provides their businesses, from things like mail services, printer access, utilities and high-speed internet, to the additional values that can’t be measured.

“We missed the collisions – the random conversations with other founders as you’re in the elevator or walking down the street,” said Paul Jarrett, Bulu Co-Founder and CEO. “Bulu relocated from the Valley to Lincoln because of the collaborative business environment, and we’re grateful to FUSE and Speedway for creating this kickass space where we can be in the middle of the action again. Plus, living and working downtown is rad!”

Valentino said that FUSE has become a collaborative community that fosters inspiration and allows natural connections to happen, which can act as a launch point for great things.

“You go downstairs, and you run into your accountant or designer or developer, and then you don’t have to set a meeting with that person, you just have a quick conversation,” said Brian Ardinger, founder of Nxxt and NMotion. “A lot of times it’s hard to communicate that value, but having those collaborative collisions are special and hard to find.”

Ardinger said that being in the Haymarket with access to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, a variety of bars and restaurants, housing and access to other entrepreneurs in the scene offers a density and a dynamic that other areas in the city don’t have.

“People want more of a lifestyle that’s integrated,” added Valentino. “Those are the values that really add to companies as well.”

FUSE is succeeding by taking the density of downtown Lincoln and creating a pocket of micro density within a single building. Valentino said that FUSE is acting as an “inspirational spark” for both startups and corporate innovation, and letting them both work together in an environment that represents an evolution to work-life balance.

“They are two different audiences, the ties and the t-shirts,” said Ardinger. “When you bring those folks together, different things happen that would not happen unless you’re [providing an opportunity for] those collisions. A space like FUSE does that on a daily basis.”

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Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.

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