In college, Brandon Peterson and Dallas Polivka built a friendship around entrepreneurship. The two say they have an “opposites attract” type working partnership when it comes to concepting businesses and creating innovation, but the differences in their thinking allow them built off each other’s strengths.
Now Peterson, founder of Geokey and nonprofit SELFiD, and Polivka, Director of Operations at Uptown, are bringing their entrepreneurial strengths together and hoping to share them with others in the community in the form of Watts.
Simply put, Watts is a coworking space. But it’s also more than that. Peterson and Polivka want to create a neighborhood community where tech innovators can come together and take advantage of a condensed network of professionals.
“We came from small towns, and we really like that community feel,” said Peterson. “We liked to rely on people for things and have people rely on us. It’s a good feeling. We want to bring that same mentality to a coworking space.”
Watts will be located on the corner of 35th Street and Leavenworth. The area has seen a recent burst of activity and interest with the construction of The Triangle, new establishments like Farine and Four, the growth of UNMC, and planned street renovations in the coming years.
Peterson and Polivka believe that recent development along Leavenworth east of Saddlecreek Road is creating a revived interest in the “city center” and bringing development back from the suburbs.
“What we’re doing is exactly what I think needs to be happening more––reverting back to the city center,” said Polivka. “I see the potential for growth, and if we can create that spark in the neighborhood, I don’t think it will take long at all [for Watts] to fill up and promote more growth.”
“We want to create a waterfall effect of what we loosely call a ‘tech district,’ people relying on each other for […] technology, education, and innovation,” added Peterson. “Someone just needs to get the ball rolling.”
Peterson and Polivka understand the challenges that entrepreneurs face when they’re trying to launch businesses out of their homes and they think there’s a better way for entrepreneurs to get off the ground.
“We worked out of our basements, out of random places we could find,” said Peterson. “We got it done, but if we can create a place where it’s conducive for other people to be innovative and have an overall and welcoming atmosphere, that’s what we want to create.”
Polivka thinks that merging different sectors of business into one workspace can not only help businesses develop faster, but can also open up individuals up to new methods of problem-solving.
“I think there can always be a symbiotic relationship from having different people in the same room who will look at the problem from a completely different perspective,” said Polivka. “Sometimes being an expert in your field can blind you to the obvious.”
Peterson and Polivka will be moving their own businesses into the space as well to not only take part in the growth of the neighborhood but also to benefit from the supportive atmosphere they’re helping to create.
“I think positive reinforcement is the main driver of what we do on a daily basis. To have that always around you, your motivation levels can increase,” said Peterson. “We want to be a part of the culture; we want to be on the forefront.”
Peterson and Polivka are planning to open Watts in the late summer or early fall. In the meantime, they’ll be renovating the space and looking for other entrepreneurs who want to become a part of the growing neighborhood and tech community.
“We have a passion for innovation, startups and the hustlers of society,” said Peterson. “That motivates us. We want Watts to be the power of innovation for others.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.