MindMixer leaving Nebraska to unify team, hire 85 more in Kansas City

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Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 12:00 am

MindMixer renovated its Omaha offices in The Mastercraft about nine months ago before knowing it would look closely at moving all its operations to Kansas City.

MindMixer is closing its Nebraska offices and moving to Kansas City.

The online civic engagement platform is unifying nearly all of its operations by the end of the summer.

MindMixer established an office in North Omaha's Mastercraft three years ago, and a KC office followed about six months later.

About 20 employees from Omaha and Lincoln will join 28 employees in the current 7,500-square-foot Crossroads District office at 1627 Main. Most employees are moving, while a few others will work remotely or find new opportunities.

MindMixer looks to hire 85 more software, programming and IT employees in KC over the next 18 months. By the end of the year, MindMixer hopes to have between 80-100 on staff.

MindMixer is one of Omaha's largest and most successful startups by most metrics, but co-founder Nick Bowden said KC made the most sense for MindMixer to grow as a business. He said about two-thirds of his employees are already there and the city, three times larger than Omaha, has a larger talent pool.

He also wanted everyone to work under the same roof.

"It's bittersweet for everyone," Bowden told Silicon Prairie News last week. "[Co-founder] Nathan [Preheim] and I grew up in Omaha, we started in Omaha, but it's our responsibility to put the business in the best place to be successful.

"Omaha's great, but as we grow exponentially, we want to grow together and KC made the most sense. It was sheerly a business decision."

Bowden said they'll likely stay at the Crossroads office for at least six months before looking for something a bit bigger in the same area.

“This is an example of an innovative company choosing to make their home in an innovative city,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said in a press release. “I’m thrilled that MindMixer has decided to increase its presence in our city and look forward to furthering their footprint in the Crossroads.”

A loss for Omaha, win for the Silicon Prairie

MindMixer also looked at moving to Silicon Valley before deciding on Kansas City.

Ryan Weber, president of KCNext, said it's a win for the Prairie.

"It's a good story for the Midwest," Weber said. "The founders see the value of being here. And that's important because they could've moved out west, but didn't. For a tech company to bring that amount of people and hire 85 more, that's a great fit for KC."

Bowden said MindMixer talked with Omaha-area leaders and explained the decision. He said they did due diligence to keep them in Omaha, but the talent gap was the main problem.

The move is undoubtedly a huge loss for Omaha's startup scene, says Dusty Reynolds, director of innovation and entrepreneurship with the Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

He thinks MindMixer could've been just as successful hiring programmers in Omaha, pointing to Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Labor statistics. 

He said 4.07 percent of Omahans have a bachelor's degree in computer science while KC only has a slightly larger pool at 4.24 percent.

"I feel like I'm a a coach looking at the stats at the end of a loss and it doesn't reflect what happened on the court," Reynolds said. "I'm the kind of guy who wants to know why we lost. Looking statistically, the breakdown of tech workers in the two communities seem fairly comparable."

Reynolds said economic development officials wanted to keep MindMixer in Omaha, but retainment deals often take months to put together at the state level. The Kansas City Area Development Council partnered with a number of regional organizations to attract MindMixer to Kansas City. For instance, KC's Metro Community College is helping to recruit employees.

State officials say nearly $1.65 million of state tax incentives were offered in Missouri. But, that didn't play a large part in the decision making becuase the states were fairly comparable, Bowden said. 

Bowden said he hasn't spent a ton of time in KC's entrepreneurial community, but looks forward to the involvement in the growing scene.

MindMixer will grow in KC, too, with the added benefit of more collaboration.

"In order for us to accelerate our growth, we want to be working together and collaborating every day," he said. "We felt communication was a barrier in that and I think everyone will benefit from seeing each other every day instead of one day a month for four hours." 

Bowden has posted a company blog about the move.

 

Credits: Photo by Michelle Vu.

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