Startups, growth to be stars at annual event

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Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013 12:00 am

Silicon Prairie News didn't have a single employee when the group organized the first Big Omaha conference on innovation and entrepreneurship five years ago. This year, 10 people are on staff.

“We're not only shaping and forming the startup community, but we're also a startup ourselves,” said Jeff Slobotski, who co-founded Silicon Prairie News with Dusty Davidson several years ago. “We're in this, too.”

Looking back on growth in the startup community is part of this year's fifth annual Big Omaha conference, set for May 8-10 at Kaneko, 1111 Jones St.

Last year, the event sold out, drawing about 650 entrepreneurs, designers, technology professionals, company executives and others. About 700 are expected this year.

Big Omaha will kick off at 8 p.m. May 8, with a public opening party with the Kauffman Foundation. It will close with another public party with Hudl at 9 p.m. on May 10.

Sandwiched in between are two full days of speakers, nine of whom have been announced so far. They include Marc Ecko, founder of venture innovation company Artists and Instigators; Tony Conrad, founder of; Catherine Rohr, founder and CEO of Defy Ventures; and Gentry Underwood, co-founder and CEO of Mailbox, an inbox app acquired by Dropbox.

Others are Ben Milne, founder and CEO of online payment network Dwolla; Megan Casey, founder and CEO of Pack, an online community that creates profiles of dogs; Anil Dash, co-founder and director of advising company Activate; Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of and; and Dave McClure, founding partner of accelerator program 500 Startups.

Antonio Neves, founder of THINQACTION, will serve again as the conference's emcee.

Slobotski said the conference is about more than connecting locals with others involved in the startup community. It's about showing people outside of Omaha what the city has to offer, he said. Last year, the event brought in people from 30 states, and Slobotski is anticipating a similar turnout this year.

“That's what I get excited about,” he said. “It's not just an Omaha thing. It's not just a Nebraska thing. It definitely brings folks in from across the country. Some folks come in not knowing what to expect and get to see the Old Market and Kaneko and are continually blown away.”

A ticket is $399 plus a fee for startups/entrepreneurs and $599 plus a fee for corporations or established companies. For more information, go here.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1192,

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