Lincoln Startups Are Still on the Move
by Brooke Zimmerman
The startup buzz remains strong in Lincoln—a Silicon Prairie landmark brimming with opportunity for entrepreneurs. The large number of entrepreneurs on the rise has many wondering about the secrets behind the strong startup ecosystem. To name just a few, Lincoln startups are built on the foundation of a supportive community with opportunities for capital, startup events, direct access to other entrepreneurs and accelerator programs all within reach. While the thought of establishing a business from the ground up seems unattainable to many, Lincoln offers the resources to help navigate the path and 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 cliché, 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 is affordable, which provides a significant runway for early-stage companies, while offering opportunities for additional sources of capital. The Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development (LPED) created the LaunchLNK initiative to help startups establish their businesses in Lincoln and grow 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. Regularly scheduled events, such as 1 Million Cups and Open Coffee, provide continuous opportunities to collide with other business-minded individuals and unique ideas. There are also tech, ag 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 remain informed of the countless opportunities in Lincoln. StartupLNK (startuplnk.com) keeps the entrepreneurial community up to speed on the ongoing opportunities 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 filled with highlights.
Lincoln is also home to a community of corporations active in the innovation and startup space. To build connections between corporations and startups, LPED hosts a reverse pitch competition called the JumpStart Challenge, which has produced several successful startups over the years. At the event, a corporation presents an industry challenge and seeks a solution from the entrepreneurial community. The entrepreneurs that come up with the winning idea get the opportunity to work with the corporation to build out the solution. The entrepreneurs get access to the knowledge and connections of the corporation, as well as a potential first customer to buy their solution.
The NMotion Accelerator has accelerated dozens of startup companies since 2013. NMotion now offers two types of programming. The first is the NMotion Accelerator Studio, which is a sixteen-week equity-based studio program that matches talent with problems to solve and builds startups from scratch.
Entrepreneurs accepted into this program receive a $100,000 investment to build their company. The other program is gBETA Lincoln, a seven-week free program that unites capital, connections and community to help startups grow and thrive. NMotion offers these programs in partnership with with gener8tor, a nationally ranked accelerator in Madison, Wisconsin. This partnership adds the power of the nationwide gener8tor network and its proven methods to the Lincoln startup scene.
Finally, 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 still on the rise in Lincoln and the Silicon Prairie with no signs of stopping anytime soon. 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.