The Omaha Startup Collaborative puts a premium on informal spaces where members can work together away from their offices
In a 100-year-old building that once brought together grain traders, the Omaha Startup Collaborative brings together knowledge traders, such as the developers at Crumb. The innovative startup company, one of 67 Collaborative members, lets doctors see complete patient information in one place. Then there’s Travefy, which has delivered 300,000 travel itineraries to date. And Drive Spotters, which helps vehicle fleet managers increase safety and efficiency.
The Collaborative puts a friendly, Midwestern, low-cost-of-living spin on the startup accelerator business model through a combination of structured events and “informal collisions.” Examples:
- Founder Solution Sessions, an invite-only workshop on behalf of a single company’s CEO. During the session, peer CEOs help each other create an action plan to solve a problem.
- The Sales-Focused Power Hour, an hour-long sprint to connect with new customers.
- 1 Million Cups, a mixer that features a speaker who presents for six minutes, followed by unlimited networking.
“The magic here is that the community does the heavy lifting,” says Caty O’Brien, the Collaborative’s public relations director. “It’s not uncommon to see a developer from one company in another startup’s suite helping work through QA or debugging. They care about the shared success of every company in the membership.”
The Collaborative’s vision is to have 150 high-potential, high-growth startups by 2021. Those 150 startups might get lost in a larger city, but not in Omaha.
“The coasts have history behind them,” says Collaborative co-founder Erica Wassinger. “Entrepreneurs built businesses, sold those businesses, and then reinvested into the ecosystem.”
“We have a young ecosystem, but we have shown that Omaha is viable for startups,” Erica says. “The support system works. Our last 10 coworkers have been boomerang kids and independents from other cities who moved here and gravitated toward this spot. You can make a great life here.”