Startup Week Energizes Local Entrepreneurs

Get your first customer. Get ten more customers. Repeat step two.

That was one snippet of advice from Hurrdat and opendorse Co-Founder and President Adi Kunalic to a receptive audience at Startup Grind X, one of the many events throughout Lincoln during its seventh edition of Techstars Startup Week. The October 25 event continued a week-long series of meetups, networking events, panels and other discussions aimed to the cultivation of the robust and powerful Lincoln startup community.

Throughout the week, events focused on the many aspects of beginning a startup business, maintaining it and eventually taking the next steps to grow it. For the seventh year in a row, the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development organized various events with the help of presenting sponsor Assurity. With events scattered around Lincoln at various venues such as Turbine Flats, The Barnyard, Fuse and elsewhere, the schedule presented opportunities to participate in both small group and larger group settings at different times throughout the day.

“I think there was a lot of excitement for this year’s events. There was a great variety of events, from inspirational type events around getting started to tactical events to help founders grow their companies, like how to start a podcast or bootstrap intellectual property,” according to Christina Oldfather, LPED Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“The speakers this year, as always, are very integral to a successful Techstars Lincoln Startup Week. Thanks to Assurity as our presenting sponsor, we were able to bring a great lineup of events and sessions to the Lincoln community this year.”

Monday’s events culminated with The Pitch Competition, which saw Paul Singh of Results Junkies continue his 2018 North American Tech Tour in Lincoln. A brief Q&A session led by Jared Carlson of Assurity Ventures, saw Singh talk about where Lincoln stands among its peers in the realm of startup businesses and where it’s looking to go in the future.

“Lincoln is pretty far ahead of most cities—believe it or not,” Singh says. “Everyone in this community should hold each other to a higher standard when it comes to growing their business and finding their place.”

Singh, along with Carlson and Veronica Osinksi with Trifecta Capital then conducted the Shark Tank-style Pitch Competition as nine different companies competed for the $1,000 top prize. Ultimately, the competition was won by Basic Block, a company that uses blockchain as part of its all-encompassing transportation platform to help connect those involved in the trucking sector. The company shared a similar problem for many new startups—while they had various trucking companies on board with their product, their main barrier to expansion was a lack of capital.

Apart from Startup Week, LPED continues in its efforts to entice new businesses to call Lincoln home with great incentives. Earlier this year at the Inside/Outside Innovation Summit, LaunchLNK hosted a similar pitch competition with a $25,000 grant going to the eventual winning company, SavR. The Australian FinTech company has since taken up office space on the 5th floor of FUSE in Lincoln’s Haymarket. Canary Sound Designs, who develops surgical suite music systems, has also relocated from Montana to Lincoln with the assistance of LaunchLNK grants.

These types of incentives make Lincoln more attractive, which is vital to the heartbeat of startups and especially those that are lacking sufficient or sustained funding in their early stages. Other events held throughout Startup Week included a Tuesday morning discussion with Sing and Ben Williamson from Invest Nebraska on how to maximize potential from fundraising and investment rounds.

According to Singh, “leveling up,” or raising a company’s profile, is crucial, especially when looking to attract outside investment and interest.

“The internet allows you to have your business anywhere and everywhere. You have to have a good enough pitch to make people form 500 miles away pay attention.”

 The diversity in events continued, with discussions focusing on social media, the impact of video production and the importance of young entrepreneurs and cultivating a pipeline for them to one day start their own business. Thursday’s Startup Grind X event was Lincoln’s first, an event powered by Google for Entrepreneurs.

Kunalic was the first guest for the first Fireside Chat hosted at FUSE, as Oldfather served as moderator for the event. Drawing on his time and experience as a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team, Kunalic stressed the importance of building a strong culture immediately within a startup company, hiring the right people and investing in them and the overall importance of leadership at the top.

Forming Hurrdat with his friend and teammate Blake Lawrence proved to have challenges, but ultimately Kunalic knew they had a winning idea and believed in it.

“All startups at their core are trying to solve a problem. Time and funding will be your biggest challenges and it requires a lot of patience but if you create your own journey, you’ll have a better ability to eventually create your own success.”

While Startup Week provided tremendous and educational outlets for those in the startup community, there are still more events on the horizon in Lincoln to wrap up 2018. Techstars Startup Weekend, also powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, took center stage from November 2-4 by featuring additional pitch competitions that focused on team development while also providing feedback from experienced entrepreneurs.

NMotion Demo Day also returns later this year on December 6 at Lincoln’s Rococo Theatre. The collaborative event between LPED, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and other private investors will gather for the sixth year to help startups put themselves in prime position to expand and accelerate growth to “the next level.” Hundreds of attendees have frequented Demo Day over the past six years and another big crowd is expected this year, as the robust startup community in Lincoln continues to make waves.

As for what’s next for Lincoln’s startup community and Startup Week? Oldfather says events like Startup Week make it possible to forge new connections.

“It’s extremely important to have these events to continue to grow Lincoln’s startup community. These types of events bring people together and often result in new ideas, new partnerships, and new relationships that may not have existed otherwise.”

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