Bridging Old and New Economies:

The Omaha Model

Just as the startups we serve, Straight Shot has to constantly iterate our program to stay ahead of the sea of sameness in the accelerator universe. There are now an estimated 200+ accelerators worldwide — they have varying degrees of difference. To put it simply, our program — which has quickly made a name for itself on the national scene — needs to evolve in order to attract the best ideas, companies and founders.

With that in mind, there are three things that keep me up at night….

  • How do we generate quality deal flow for our program?
  • Can we differentiate our accelerator in an increasingly crowded (and diluted) market?
  • Does our network include the type of resources — capital and strategic partnerships — that graduates need most to maintain the momentum they build during the 90 days?

As I’ve thought about ways to evolve the traditional accelerator model Straight Shot employed in its first two years, it struck me that developing closer ties to our community’s existing economy is our solution. Additionally, as Omaha’s startup ecosystem defines itself, there’s an untapped opportunity to ensure we’re properly leveraging our economy’s collective potential.

The Omaha Model

Earlier I mentioned the need to create quality deal flow by differentiating and leveraging our network. The questions that have kept me up at night have been the same guides for what I am calling “The Omaha Model” of acceleration.

The Omaha Model taps into the deeply rich talent and resources of our major corporations, builds on our city’s inherent relationship-based economy and bridges the divide between the counterculture of startups and our city’s corporate players.

Density of Big Business

Omaha is a relatively small metropolitan area that enjoys a disproportionately large presence of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies. Our city’s size and history have cemented a culture within the business community that’s collaborative, charitable, and relationship based.

These ingredients make Omaha uniquely qualified to connect the old and new economies by building mutually beneficial bridges between startups and large corporations.

The high density of large, established corporations lends itself to a sophisticated workforce, pool of mentors and access to strategic advisors and potential investors. With Straight Shot, we have barely dipped our toe into the rich pool of resources mere blocks away from our office. That is one of my top priorities for 2015 — building stronger, more engaged and actionable relationships with our corporate neighbors.

Both sides stand to benefit. Our startups will have a stage with potential strategic partners or — in some cases — acquisition prospects regularly. The corporate players will have a front-row seat to the latest technology and software platforms their customers seek. Furthermore, both parties can learn from each other’s processes. On the startup side, we move quick and lean with the customer at the heart of every decision. Meanwhile, our corporate counterparts have a disciplined, diligent process of vetting that lends itself to a thoughtfully released product or package.

We are advancing this conversation while vetting deeper partnerships with our business community to form creative opportunities for startups and corporates to come together. Our accelerator has provided the community with an opportunity to dip their toes into the entrepreneurial waters.

I hope you’ll join us as we look for others who are willing to double down, dive in headfirst, and begin bridging the old and new economies of Omaha’s business landscape.