BIG Omaha: The big reason I’m sitting on the Silicon Prairie right now

Every time I’ve mentioned the trip I had planned for this week—“I’m going to Omaha”—I got the same quizzical look and a one answer response: “Why?”

Well, let me tell you. I’m sitting in Nebraska, right now, because there are a couple of guys in Omaha—Jeff Slobotski and Dusty Davidson—who write Silicon Prairie News, which is like the TechCrunch of their region. And they’re helping pull together a ton of events like they’re the Legion of Tech for the region. And they’re talking about opening a creative coworking space like they’re the Citizen Space of Omaha.

And like many of us in Portland and the Silicon Forest, this is mostly side-project labor-of-love kind of stuff.

Long story short, they’re doing way, way more with less than we have in the Silicon Forest—and they’re crushing it out there. Or killing it. Or whatever euphemism you choose. What they’ve done is impressive.

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to these two guys talk about what they’re doing during a recent presentation at Infotec09:


I know? Crazy right? And, on the other hand, it sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? The only thing that’s missing is Beer and Blog Omaha.

Omaha is wrestling—as are hundreds of small cities and regions across the US and potentially around the world—with the same exact problems Portland and the Silicon Forest is wrestling.

So I came here to learn. To see what was up. And to hopefully make some connections to keep the conversations going.

But the reason I’m here right now at this minute? BIG Omaha

So all of the stuff Dusty and Jeff have been doing is awesome—but of course I would say that, because it sounds like damn near the same stuff we’ve been doing.

But this latest thing. It’s taking a huge step forward. It’s called BIG Omaha. And it’s designed to be a gathering of entrepreneurial thinkers and creatives talking about what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.

That alone would be a cool conference, but it gets better. Because it’s absolutely mind boggling the types of speakers they’ve attracted.

Like who?

Well, like:

Micah Baldwin

Micah is a successful serial entrepreneur currently working on his sixth startup, Lijit. A resident of sister-startup-city Boulder, Colorado, Micah speaks at events on a variety of topics, from search to personal branding.

Jason Fried

Jason is the founder of 37signals, a Chicago consultancy known for its pioneering work of the Ruby on Rails framework. They’re perhaps more well known in creative circles as the inventors of Basecamp, a project management system that remains focused on keeping things simple.

Adriana Gascoigne

Adriana is the Director of Corporate Communications for hi5, one of the most successful social media sites in the world and creator of Girls in Tech.

Jeffrey Kalmikoff

Another Boulder resident, Jeffrey serves as chief creative officer for skinnyCorp, the folks behind the genius that is threadless.

Micah Laaker

Micah leads user experience for Yahoo! Open Strategy—the brilliant program that allows us to use all of Yahoo!’s cool services and APIs with third-party products. He also happens to hail from Nebraska.

Matt Mullenweg

Matt was nice enough to create a piece of open source software that allowed me to share this information with you. You see, he created WordPress. Now, thanks to the success of the platform—not to mention it’s awesomeness—a good deal of his time is spent traveling and speaking on open source development.

Ben Rattray

Ben is the founder of Change.org, an organization that “aims to address this need by serving as the central platform informing and empowering movements for social change around the most important issues of our time.”

And last, but certainly not least…

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary is best known as the host of Wine Library TV. But he’s becoming equally respected as a leading thinker on self promotion and the uses of social media for business. Some of you might remember that Garyvee was also nice enough to swing by Portland for a chat, last year.


That’s a pretty insane event for any city. And it makes it a ridiculously impressive conference for Omaha.

Not only that, it speaks to the dedication, pride, and downright fearlessness that Jeff and Dusty possess. Omaha is lucky to have them. And, honestly, I feel as if I’ve got as much to learn from them as anyone on the docket tomorrow.

For more on the event, visit Big Omaha.


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  3. @David Burn Done! Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

  4. Talk to @shartley. He likes beer.

  5. So how do we get those guys signed up for http://omaha.beerandblog.com/ 🙂

  6. @Zach “Beer and Blog” not beer blog. 🙂 Beer and Blog is a weekly gathering of bloggers and other tech types. It started in Portland and now takes place in a number of cities around the globe. For more info, see http://beerandblog.com

  7. @Rick
    There is indeed a beer blog, http://www.nebraskabeer.blogspot.com
    and a food blog http://www.gastronomicfightclub.com and even an advertising/design blog, http://necreative.typepad.com.

  8. Hi Rick,

    I’m sorry to hear about the quizical looks. I thought such things were reserved for the East Coast, but no. Anyway, I’m glad coastal bias didn’t work on you and you flew out for the conference. I’d like to attend next year.

    I look forward to finally meeting you in person at WebVisions in Portland this month.

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