Nelnet invests in startup MindMixer

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Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 12:00 am

MindMixer said Wednesday that it raised $4 million from investors led by Nelnet, a Lincoln-based publicly traded company.

Omaha-based investment firms Dundee Venture Capital, the startup's earliest investor, and Optimas Group also participated in the round along with other undisclosed investors.

MindMixer, which began in 2010 with an aim to boost Omaha's poorly attended town hall meetings with online versions, says it's now helping hundreds of civic, education and health care organizations communicate more effectively with their constituents.

The investment from Nelnet, an education products and services company that has backed more than a half-dozen startups, is an affirmation of this growth, MindMixer co-founder and CEO Nick Bowden said.

The new funds will go toward key developer hires and help the company grow to meet marketplace demand — by year's end, it expects to reach 1,000 customers in the education, health care and civic sectors.

With growth in mind, the company this month will finish an office expansion project that doubles its size to about 5,000 square feet. The company also has employees in Kansas City, Mo., and plans to open positions there.

“MindMixer is an innovative approach to collaboration and engagement,” said Nelnet CEO Mike Dunlap, who also sits on startup Hudl's board of directors. Nelnet director Chuck Norris has joined MindMixer's board.

“Nelnet is always looking for ways to improve the way we help associates, students and schools reach their goals, so we are particularly proud to invest in a steadily growing company that engages people to attain the best results possible,” Dunlap said.

In the future, Bowden sees collaboration with the education company, which he said already has a small overlap with his company's client base.

For Optimas Group's Doug Wilwerding, who has bet on several Omaha startups including MindMixer-acquired VoterTide, the company is an attractive investment because of the duo behind it. “(They're) driven, disciplined, experienced and they have a great idea,” Wilwerding said, adding that their product addresses a problem that is “global and persistent.”

“I think the way they're building community through the application of MindMixer creates a very attractive opportunity for strategic alliances with larger capital players and larger service providers in the future,” he said.

The next step in that community, Bowden said, is creating a user experience that allows for an individual to see all the organizations they care about by geography and interest.

All investors in MindMixer's latest round are local, Bowden said, but that wasn't the case of all those interested.

“We had some opportunities to go outside that would have required us to not be located here anymore,” he said, adding the he and his co-founder, Nathan Preheim, are proud of the fact that their company is from Nebraska. “That's not something that we want to give up,” Bowden said.

To date, MindMixer has raised $6.2 million. Its last round, $1.9 million led by Dundee, came one year ago.

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