One year ago today, I wrote this post titled “Omaha is on the brink of massive change“. It explored my thoughts on Omaha’s tech/entrepreneurial community. Apparently people thought it was interesting because in the next 3 days after posting it, my blog received more traffic than the rest of the year combined. Today, I am revisiting the post to see if I still agree with what I said one year ago (I recommend reading the original post before moving on though so it’s easier to follow along).
Below are the 4 points I made 1 year ago. This time though, I touch on how much Omaha has progressed in these areas.
1. Omahans are warming up to the idea of taking risks: I still think this is true, but I feel like the change is happening slower than it should be. Big Omaha 2012 did sell out all of their tickets in less than 10 minutes total. That is a great indicator, but the best indicator is the number of people from Omaha who are actually actively trying to build something that scales. Something that can reach large amounts of people. I think Silicon Prairies News is doing a particularly fantastic job of getting the word out about the tech and entrepreneurial scene in Omaha and it is definitely great to know that if you do build a product that is interesting, they are there to help amplify your voice and help get your message out to a broader audience. The problem is that I am not seeing enough companies pop up and take a leap to see if they can build a product that people want. I’d love to see more Omahans give it a go. Even if they fail. I just want to see people try. I’m even trying to practice what I preach. That is why I’m currently working on a new project. I’m hoping some others take the leap as well.
2. Investors are starting to take notice of companies in our area: Again, we are growing slower in this area than I would like to see. The same three companies I highlighted last year (Dwolla, MindMixer, Zaarly) have all received more funding since then. But again, there isn’t much that’s new. I don’t count Xuba/Bloom.com either since they came in with founders who were well-funded from the start because the founders came from Hayneedle. If there are other companies in Omaha who have been funded, I am not aware of any.
3. People are starting to realize that it is much cheaper to find talent in the Midwest: I’m not sure how much progress has been made on this front, but I think people are still becoming more and more aware of how hard it is to get good talent at your startup if you are working in some of the bigger startup hubs. This becomes extremely taxing on startups because they have to pay larger salaries to try to compete. That subtracts from the bottom line of the company. In Omaha though, there are a decent amount of people who want to work at a startup. The attendance of the startup job crawl put on by SPN is evidence of that. Since there are less tech startup companies in Omaha, in theory, it should be easier to attract smart, talented people to work in your company. I think more people are realizing that but again, I am not 100% sure since I haven’t had to hire anyone for my company.
4.The tech community here wants to see everyone succeed: I think this is the area where Omaha has made the greatest progress. Omaha’s Startup Weekend had lots of participants, the SPN meetups have had great attendance, Big Omaha sold out in minutes, etc. There is no shortage of people in Omaha who want to be involved in the tech/entrepreneurial community and Omaha has always been fantastic when it comes to having a sense of community. As far as I’m concerned, the community is by far Omaha’s strongest asset and I think it always will be.
With all of this being said, I’d give Omaha a solid C+ for progress on the “massive change” front. The strength of our community is fantastic, and cost of doing business here is also good, but we really need better progress on points #1 and #2. More specifically, we really need better progress on #1. Without people trying to build new companies/products, all of the other points our moot. If there are no new companies, then we don’t have an entrepreneurial scene. I am still super bullish on Omaha though. This city can and will produce some awesome shit. I’m just not sure when that shift is going to happen but my guess is that we are still on the brink. We just need a couple more catalysts to push us over the edge so go out and build something.