Lincoln Startup Week opens with free beer, food, entrepreneurial insights

Hurrdat Social Media CEO Blake Lawrence pretty much summed up the kickoff party for the inaugural Lincoln Startup Week when he told the crowd: "I've been waiting six years to be at a place where there's free beer, free food, and everybody's listening to me." Hosted by The Big Plate and Innovation Connect at Blue

David Conrad of NUtech ventures addresses the crowd as one of four speakers at Monday’s Lincoln Startup Week kickoff party.

Hurrdat Social Media CEO Blake Lawrence pretty much summed up the kickoff party for the inaugural Lincoln Startup Week when he told the crowd: “I’ve been waiting six years to be at a place where there’s free beer, free food, and everybody’s listening to me.”

Hosted by The Big Plate and Innovation Connect at Blue Blood Brewing Co., Monday night’s event featured beer samples from Blue Blood and an impressive buffet from from Lincoln food trucks Heoya and Nitro Burger (pictured below).  

It also featured four mini-talks from Lincolnites involved in the startup community.  

Darren Parker spoke about Lincoln Chrome, a manufacturer and distributor for heavy-duty chrome truck accessories and the company’s journey from “a concept to a multimillion dollar international company in four years.” Matt Westenburg and Robert Hinrichs spoke about FUSE coworking, which will host two Startup Week events and will officially open Nov. 1.  

NuTech Ventures director David Conrad began the program by offering some observations on the startup culture since he moved to Lincoln six years ago.

For starters, Conrad said, he was surprised at his coastal friends’ responses when he encouraged them to follow his example and move to Nebraska. He expected them to say it was too cold, too flat and too boring. Instead, they told him they didn’t think they would fit in and be accepted if they hadn’t been born in the Midwest and didn’t grow up on a farm. 

“That’s not true,” Conrad said. “We welcome people from all over the world. There are people here from all sorts of regions, and we need all of those people.”   

Conrad proceeded to muse on whether Midwestern values help entrepreneurs or make things more difficult for them. Is it OK to make a lot of money as an entrepreneur, he asked, and show it off?  Is it OK to work hard — even if it means missing family events? Is it OK, as an investor, to “gamble” and risk large sums of money on startups? Is it OK to scrap an idea and start over?  

“These are just some examples of the things I think we need to really support each other in,” Conrad said.  

Building on Conrad’s message, Lawrence wrapped up the program by talking about the support he had received from community. He discussed the mentors he described as “realistic ‘yes’ people” who encouraged him to go out and try his idea and helped him get through whatever didn’t work.  

“Since that first moment when I decided to start something, there could have been one person who said no, and I wouldn’t be here,” he said.  

Lawrence then mentioned by name about two dozen people in attendance who are involved in startups in various ways and have different skills and talents to offer.  

If you didn’t have a chance to connect with all of the people Lawrence mentioned, there are more opportunities to do so this week. Lincoln Startup Week continues tonight with a quick pitch competition and features activities Wednesday and Thursday. A detailed schedule for the rest of the week is below. (Event descriptions are courtesy of the Lincoln Startup Week website.)

Lincoln Startup Week schedule

Quick Pitch – Today, 5:30 p.m.

The Starlight Lounge (247 N. 8th St, #101)

In order to keep the ideas flowing in the aftermath of the Startup Weekend experience, Invest Nebraska, the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, and PitchBurner have partnered to create the Startup Week Idea Pitch. Participants will have 5 minutes to share their idea to a panel of judges for a chance to win $1,000 in cash to help get their idea off the ground. (Learn more)

Office Hours – Wednesday, 2-5 p.m.

Fuse Coworking (800 P St.)

Entrepreneurs will have a chance to talk one-on-one with some of Lincoln’s finest service professionals that have experience working with new and growing companies. You will also have the opportunity to get an advanced peak at Lincoln’s newest co-working space, as Fuse Coworking will be opening its doors to host this event. (Learn more)

Tech Crawl – Thursday, 4-7 p.m.

The Haymarket (View map)

Come peruse the local tech start-ups of Lincoln in the Haymarket and downtown areas. Visit the business, get a tour, talk with the entrepreneurs, and learn how their ideas turned into their careers.  For companies with virtual offices or distant locations, representing booths will be set up on the third floor of the Mill building at the corner of 8th and P. Get a map and get your crawl on. (Learn more)

Closing Party – Thursday, 7-9 p.m.

Red9 (322 S. 9th St.)

The closing to a celebration, and the beginning of many great things to come for Lincoln. Finish the Tech Crawl with us at Red9 to meet and network with Lincoln’s startup and tech community. (Learn more)

Credits: Photos by Patti Vannoy. 


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