Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Omaha, NE

Omaha

Though the St. Louis Arch shares the nickname, Omaha became known as the Gateway to the West due to its central location and status as a transportation hub. Today, the city is perhaps best known economically for being the headquarters of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway.

Omaha, NE, is the state’s largest city and the 40th-largest in the country. Though the St. Louis Arch shares the nickname, Omaha became known as the Gateway to the West due to its central location and status as a transportation hub. Today, the city is perhaps best known economically for being the headquarters of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, a group that owns a number of well-known companies.

That said, perhaps due in part to Berkshire Hathaway and its owner Warren Buffett, Omaha has emerged as part of the “Silicon Prairie” as one of the best cities in the Midwest for entrepreneurship. WalletHub’s 2018 rankings of the best large cities to start a small business had Omaha at 88th overall, with a ranking of 27th in the “Access to Resources” category. Additionally, the metropolitan area was 36th overall on the same site’s 2019 rankings of the best metro areas for STEM professionals.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Omaha’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

The Omaha branch of 1 Million Cups, an organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship through networking and the presentation of ideas, meets every Wednesday morning.

Founded in 2007, ChicConnect is a group that works to help support women’s business ventures and promote visibility and awareness.

Entrepreneurs and business owners can meet and make connections at meetings of the Smart Success Business Network of Omaha, typically held every two weeks.

Women in Technology of the Heartland is a group dedicated to supporting women in technology through networking, mentoring and sharing tips and tricks.

 

Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Now held in conjunction with the Maha Music Festival, the Big Omaha Conference is an annual celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation in Omaha, the Midwest and beyond.

Held annually in Omaha, MWEC is a large conference celebrating entrepreneurship by inviting expert speakers and giving awards, often with cash prizes.

The Greater Omaha Chamber hosts a number of events throughout the year, including awards ceremonies, networking opportunities and conferences about entrepreneurship and business.

The Omaha Empowerment Breakfast is a monthly meeting in which five businesses are invited to present to a group and allowed the opportunity to network with one another.

 

Startup Competitions:

All students at the University of Nebraska Omaha are eligible to compete in the BigIdea! Elevator Pitch Contest for a chance to win $500 and a trip to a national pitch competition.

The Maverick Business Plan Competition is a competition held annually by the University of Nebraska Omaha in which students compete for thousands in cash prizes.

The annual Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference includes a pitch competition in which four finalists present their ideas to a panel of well-known venture capitalists.

Hosted by the First National Bank of Omaha, The Pitch is a competition that pits teams of three students at US colleges and universities against one another for over $20,000 in prizes.

 

Co-working Spaces:

Commerce Village offers a variety of flexible membership plans as well as a number of amenities to ensure that its members can be as successful as possible.

FUSE is a co-working space dedicated to supporting the Omaha entrepreneurial and innovation scene and help it grow in a sustainable manner by providing working space to its members.

Omaha’s famous Pamida building has been turned into a 50,000-square foot collection of office space for teams of any size.

Aiming to ease the transition from new parent back to full-time work, Third Space provides co-working space as well as in-house child care for its members.

A boutique co-working space, Trouvaille is designed specifically and exclusively for women, giving them a place to work and connect with one another.

 

Makerspaces:

Bench is a 2,500-square foot workshop with woodworking and metalworking shops and co-working space for artisans and creators in the area.

Open free to everyone in the Omaha community, Do Space is a technology library that provides education and access to high-tech resources and tools to people of all ages.

Opening soon, Made New Makerspace’s primary function is to serve foster and at-risk youths and give them a creative outlet, though they also offer memberships and mentoring positions.

The Omaha Maker Group operates a community workshop where its members can have access to the tools and equipment necessary to create.

 

Incubators:

The Garage is an incubator program that works to support web-based startups and help them develop into full-fledged companies.

Run by the Greater Omaha Chamber, Kitchen Council is a food business incubator, providing commercial kitchen space and support services to food-based startups.

Scott Technology Center provides space for technology companies to work and other business support as well as organizing an incubator program for technology startups.

 

Accelerators:

The Start Center organizes a number of accelerator programs with different focuses including at least one aimed exclusively at high school students.

A program of the Greater Omaha Chamber, Startup Collaborative is an accelerator that works with promising software-based startups.

 

Colleges/Universities:

In addition to some out-of-the-classroom resources for entrepreneurs, Creighton University’s Heider College of Business offers a program in management and entrepreneurship.

Metropolitan Community College has an entrepreneurship program that offers a variety of certificates in several categories of entrepreneurship.

UNO’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising supports entrepreneurial efforts by students through events, programs and a concentration in the management major.

 

Angel Groups/VCs:

With offices in Omaha, Chicago and Minneapolis, Dundee Venture Capital aims to invest technology startups around the underserved Midwest markets.

Nebraska Angels is a group of angel investors from around the state that provides funding to promising early-stage companies.

Formerly an Omaha-based venture capital firm, Treetop Ventures now primarily focuses on consulting and advising start-up companies to help them become profitable.

 

Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Midlands Business Journal does not offer a free newsletter, but a subscription to the weekly magazine covering Omaha includes a free subscription to one covering nearby Lincoln.

The city’s primary newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald offers a variety of newsletters, including several focused on money, small business and community development.

Silicon Prairie News, a website dedicated to covering the entrepreneurship and technology scene of the Midwest’s “Silicon Prairie,” offers daily e-mail updates.

Are you familiar with an entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Omaha not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Tucson, AZTulsa, OKLincoln, NE


Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at Funding$age where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.