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Omaha 2025: Technology

Omaha's start up scene
Posted at 4:30 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 17:55:04-04

Flyover no more, Nebraska is landing tech businesses.

At 680 and Dodge employees work at Builder Trend Started by three millard grads in 2006, the startup's cloud software for construction projects is now used in 40 countries. They employ 250 people here. With offices in Lincoln and Omaha, Hudl has grown from three to 400 employees. The company services amateur and professional sports teams.  Coaches post their game film to Hudl's site and the company's software instantly analyzes it.

Today, Nebraska is a bit like Silicon Valley. Omaha and Lincoln are each home to more than 100 software startups and we're just scratching the surface.

"Building a tech and entrepreneurial start up hub takes 20 years, and it's a rolling 20 years," Jeff Slobotski, founder of Router Ventures/Wave Interactive.

Four years ago, Slobotski, then  founder and publisher of start up Silicon Prairie News, took us through the Mastercraft in North Downtown. The space was a hub for midwest startups. Since then, tech companies have branched out. In the future midwest startups will likely capitalize on other established sectors.

"What is our industry expertise? If that's insurance ,finance, right? Healthcare. When startups can build upon those industries, that is when things can really thrive and grow quickly," Slobotski said.

Low cost of living and vast open space is spurring that growth. Right now, 350 Yahoo employees call Omaha the home office. Yahoo has a data center in Omaha. Google has two in Council Bluffs. Facebook is building one in Papillion, set to go online in 2020. For that momentum to continue -into 2025 - more big investors are needed.

"Some people call it the flyover country which is kind of pejorative. We think they're great entrepreneurs building great businesses," Steve Case, AOL co-founder says.

Case heads up Revolution heads up "Revolution," a venture capital firm that plans to invest a billion dollars in tech companies inside the coasts. Slobotski has also now gotten in the funding game with a company called Router Ventures. Landing cash in cornhusker country isn't impossible. Remember Hudl? The company recently raised $72.5 million dollars from Accel and Nelnet, with participation from Jeff Raikes, former president of Microsoft Business and CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Another challenge to future growth - the workforce. From keeping talent here, to diversity.

"We need more females in tech and we need more female founders," Sloboski said. 

One group working to solve that problem: AIM. The nonprofit and the Omaha Chamber of Commerce have set an initial goal to create one thousand new tech jobs in Omaha by 2020. They're now teaching classes for all ages and backgrounds. 

"There are pockets of our awesome community that are under represented. We need to be able to bring these programs to them. We need to be able to bring these opportunities so they understand what is it out there. It will change their lives. It will pull people out of poverty," Victoria Novak, AIM Vice President said. 

So while its hard to imagine what our devices might look like in 2025,  when it comes to the technology industry, its developing before our very eyes.