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Tech Crawl at Turbine Flats Caps Off Lincoln Start-Up Week

On Thursday, Turbine Flats hosted a Tech Crawl as part of Lincoln Start-Up Week. About 60 attendees over the course of two hours indulged in free beer and snacks as they toured information booths staffed by local startups and tech organizations. Participating organizations included the AIM Institute, Expansive Media, Tech Expander, the Commonwealth Podcast, Dashr…

Nick Castner-2

On Thursday, Turbine Flats hosted a Tech Crawl as part of Lincoln Start-Up Week. About 60 attendees over the course of two hours indulged in free beer and snacks as they toured information booths staffed by local startups and tech organizations. Participating organizations included the AIM Institute, Expansive Media, Tech Expander, the Commonwealth Podcast, Dashr and the UNL Center for Entrepreneurship.

Christina Oldfather, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, was instrumental in organizing both Lincoln Start-Up Week and Tech Crawl. She said such events help create opportunities for businesses and professionals to connect. 

“It’s important to be in the same room and have conversations that you wouldn’t normally have because you’re in your office or off on your own,” Oldfather said.

She also praised the “random collisions” fostered by Tech Crawl: “When you talk about innovation, that’s one of the really big keys to new ideas and new ways of thinking, just hearing different perceptions and talking through things with other people.”

University students also came to mingle. Caleb Marcoux is a sophomore software engineering major at UNL. He rode his bike to the event because he wanted to network and find out what different people are doing in the community.

“I think it really helps me grow my connections but also broaden my idea of what’s happening in the technological world,” Marcoux said.

Marcoux, a Michigan native, is considering whether to stay in Lincoln once he graduates. He said he really likes the city, but is not sure whether he will. This is a common dilemma facing students and young professionals, who enjoy the amenities and community vibes of Lincoln and Omaha, but who aren’t sure they want to stick around. This phenomenon contributes to “brain drain,” i.e. the loss of young talent to other cities, and exacerbates the IT workforce crisis facing the Silicon Prairie.

Turbine Flats Helps Cultivate Lincoln’s Startup Culture

Marcoux commented on the uniqueness of the Turbine Flats venue. A coworking space and startup accelerator located in a formerly abandoned warehouse in Lincoln, Turbine Flats was co-founded by Matthew Wegener, President of Presage Analytics and Founder & CEO of ISoft Data Systems.

Wegener said the idea to create Turbine Flats came about when he founded ISoft in 1997. The company was able to rent a large, cheap warehouse and sublet the extra space.

“It evolved pretty quickly from whoever would take space to a couple of startups that were coming out of the Raikes program—one of them was Hudl,” Wegener said.  

The arrangement was so successful that Wegener eventually had to secure a larger warehouse. That warehouse became Turbine Flats, which now boasts nearly 40 startups, small businesses, and individual proprietors. There’s even a coffee shop and art gallery on the premises.

Tech Crawl is one of many community events hosted by Turbine Flats to cultivate a vibrant local startup culture and collaboration.

The evening ended with a fireside chat from Doug Durham, CEO of Don’t Panic Labs, about his entrepreneurial journey. Because there is no fireplace in Turbine Flats, organizers played a YouTube video of a crackling fire on a massive TV behind him.

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