Lincoln startups are on the move
by Elizabeth Mattern
The startup buzz is taking over Lincoln, and a community of entrepreneurs is on the rise. Lincoln, a notable landmark of the Silicon Prairie, is experiencing tremendous growth in the startup scene. So what are the secrets behind the strong startup ecosystem? To name just a few, Lincoln startups have a supportive community; opportunities for capital; startup events to connect and collide with other entrepreneurs and community members; accelerator programs to validate and grow a business; and gigabit internet infrastructure. To some, the thought of establishing a business from the ground up seems unreachable. But Lincoln has people and resources readily available to take startups to the next level.
“Early in our careers my cofounder, Stephanie, and I searched for a place that felt like a good fit,” said Paul Jarrett, CEO and cofounder of Bulu Box. “This resulted in us living on both coasts, eventually launching Bulu Box in San Francisco. We moved back to Lincoln for what we thought would be a few years to get the business up and running but ultimately found that Lincoln is the ideal place to run a company.
“It sounds cliche, but Lincoln is great for startups because of the people. Almost every day I walk out of the office, I immediately run into entrepreneurs that I can bounce ideas off of or discuss problems and solutions. And ultimately, in business and in life, people are all that really matter.”
Lincoln also has the right financial environment for new businesses to thrive. It’s affordable, which provides significant runway for early-stage companies, and it offers opportunities for additional sources of capital. The Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development created the LaunchLNK initiative to help startups establish in Lincoln and turn into thriving companies. Qualifying startups receive: a $25,000 grant; accounting and legal packages from HBE, Cline Williams, and Suiter Swantz; a marketing package from Firespring; an office package from Eakes; and introductions to service providers, mentors and potential customers and business partners. Additional assistance through grants and equity investments are available from a variety of other sources, including the Nebraska Angels, Invest Nebraska and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, which offers both grant- and equity-based programs.
Startup events prove to be a great way to engage with other entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders. Weekly events such as 1 MIllion Cups and Open Coffee provide continuous opportunities to collide with other people and ideas. There are also tech meetups, ag meetups and food meetups, among many others. Other events happen annually, such as Startup Week, a free conference that celebrates, educates and connects the entrepreneurial community, and Startup Weekend, a three-day event designed to help entrepreneurs test the waters of starting a business.
Fortunately, there is also an easy way to keep up with all of the opportunities in Lincoln. StartupLNK (startuplnk.com) helps keep the entrepreneurial community plugged in and up to speed with all of the latest chances to connect and collaborate. StartupLNK is a digital platform that connects entrepreneurs to startup events all over Lincoln, including a monthly event calendar and a weekly newsletter with all of the highlights.
Lincoln is also home to a community of corporations active in the innovation and startup space. To create connections between corporations and startups, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development hosts an annual reverse pitch competition called the JumpStart Challenge, which has spun out several successful startups over the years. Each year, a corporation presents an industry challenge and looks to the entrepreneurial community to find a solution. Most recently, the economic development partnership teamed up with Assurity Life Insurance Co., which was looking for disruptive technology in the insurance space. The company found it with this year’s winner, Prepare Insurance, a digital platform that allows families to buy critical illness gap insurance. In addition to the cash prize, Prepare Insurance received a partnership with Assurity to help it understand the industry and expand on its winning solution. Prepare Insurance leveraged its success from the corporate partnership provided through the JumpStart Challenge and received funding from both LaunchLNK as well as the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to build its platform.
The NMotion Accelerator has accelerated almost 40 startup companies over the past seven years. NMotion is a seven-week program that brings together capital, connections and, most importantly, community, to help startups grow and thrive. NMotion has recently leveled up the network and connections available to NMotion companies by partnering with gener8tor, a nationally ranked accelerator in Madison, Wis. This has added the power of the nationwide gener8tor network and its proven methods to the NMotion toolbelt.
In addition to all of these advantages, Lincoln is also home to gigabit internet infrastructure. With affordable, lightning-fast internet, startups can utilize cloud computing and video conferencing, and stay on the forefront of tech development right here in Lincoln. Becoming a gigabit city has further solidified Lincoln’s standing as a tech hub in the Silicon Prairie.
Innovation is on the rise in Lincoln and the Silicon Prairie. Want to be a part of it? Learn more about Lincoln’s entrepreneurial spirit and how you can get involved at startuplnk.com, launchlnk.com and selectlincoln.org.