I have a bunch of other posts I have been writing and revising before I wanted to launch this blog, but something happened today that I had to write about and share immediately. Big Omaha Sold Out. But that’s not the crazy part. The crazy part is that Big Omaha Sold Out in less than 1 week!
For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past 3 years, Big Omaha is a tech/entrepreneurship/mega awesome conference put on by the guys at Silicon Prairie News to help introduce the people of the Midwest to people who are building really cool up and coming companies. The speakers share a lot of their own personal experiences starting their own companies and help motivate other budding entrepreneurs by letting them know that they have been there before and that it can be done. More importantly, it can be done anywhere. So anyway, Big Omaha selling out in less than a week is an indicator of something:
Omaha is on the brink of massive change (you probably gathered that from the title of this post though).
Here is why:
1. Omahans are warming up to the idea of taking risks: Midwesterners are conservative by nature. We generally find good, solid jobs and stick to them. This is probably why Nebraska is ranked particularly low in regards to the rate of startups coming out of our state. The fact that Big Omaha sold out so quickly makes me realize that some people in the area are getting more excited about doing something for themselves instead of for some big, faceless corporation. Sure, a decent amount of the attendees just admire the guts that entrepreneurs have to risk it all, but would never put themselves in that position to do it themselves. However, I’m pretty sure that a decent amount of the people attending know that they want to build their own company and just need to know that there is a community around them that they can lean on for help when things get tough. Big Omaha will turn that light bulb on for some people. And once some people take the plunge, others are bound to follow.
2. Investors are starting to take notice of companies in our area: A couple of years ago, I am not sure if any tech companies in the Midwest had gotten any funding from outside investors in quite some time. However, in the past year, MindMixer (Omaha), Tripleseat (Omaha), Dwolla (Des Moines), Zaarly (Kansas City) and a couple of other companies have all gotten outside capital. This is another one of those building blocks. As soon as one investor puts money into a company in your area, it makes it a lot more likely that other investors will start looking in the area as well.
3. People are starting to realize that it is much cheaper to find talent in the Midwest: I was watching a presentation by Ben Milne, the CEO of Dwolla, and he mentioned that $1 million goes a long way in Des Moines and he is absolutely right. That same amount of money will last you a couple of months in Silicon Valley. In the Midwest, that same amount of capital can last you 2x-5x times longer. That’s a huge advantage that we have in the Midwest over communities on either coast and now people seem to be realizing that.
4.The tech community here wants to see everyone succeed. I’m not deeply entrenched in Omaha’s tech scene by any means. As a matter of fact, I know very few techies in Omaha. But it is becoming very apparent from my outside perspective, that over the past couple of years, that the tech community here is starting to really gel and use their collective forces to push the up and coming businesses to the next level. I think the community here wants to see new companies succeed because we take pride in the things that come out of our town. Even if we aren’t directly involved with it. Just think of how many times you hear Omahans boast about how great our steak is or the fact that Warren Buffet is from our city. People here just genuinely like to see companies from our city succeed and they are willing to help out. I guarantee most other cities don’t operate that way.
The quick sell out of Big Omaha doesn’t necessarily mean we are on the brink of change. However, it’s definitely an indicator that things are heading in the right direction. When you actually step back and take a look at the changes happening above, I think it is a pretty safe bet to say that you will be seeing some very cool and innovative things coming out of the Midwest soon. It’s just a matter of getting the right people taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. It’s going to happen. Just wait…