Sandlot in the City Bats 1000

It was all in the name of fun and nostalgia in advance of the NCAA Men’s College World Series.

For a week in early June, a vacant city block between towering office buildings downtown was transformed into a sandlot of yesteryear, complete with weathered wooden fencing, dugouts and chalk scoreboard.

Here, organizers found proof that if you build it,
they will come.

Baseball-loving families from all corners of the metro area, neighborhood kids with big-league dreams and spirited corporate teams all took to the field for a few innings of America’s favorite pastime – with plastic bats and Wiffle balls.

CWS of Omaha Inc. teamed up with the NCAA to present the project as a promotional event for the CWS. But the sandlot was meant to create memories and build camaraderie, which it did by all game reports!

2016 update: The third rendition of the diamond is at 67th Street and Mercy Road in Aksarben Village. It will remain open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through June 14.

This piece was an excerpt from Omaha: We Don’t Coast magazine, published by the Greater Omaha Chamber and the Omaha World-Herald. For more stories, click here.

Posted in We Win |

Insiders Guide: 16 Things to Do in Omaha

Planning a visit to Omaha? Smart move. It’s a vibrant city with plenty of things to do and see. Whether you’re into music, the outdoors or a little of everything, there’s something here for you. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites to help you plan your trip or just get to know us a little better.

Here are some tried-and-true favorites:

The Staples
There are some places in Omaha that you really have to see.
The go-tos you’ll find in every travel guide and on every list. The truth is, they’re there for a reason.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
It was named the best zoo in the world in 2014, and it’s not hype. Home to a fantastic aquarium, new grassland exhibit with elephants, an indoor rainforest and more, it’s a great way for anyone to spend the day. (Tip: It gets busy in the summer. Get there early and head for the indoor area you’d most like to see to avoid some crowds. Or go toward the end of the day. Exhibits stay open for an hour after the entry gates close, and crowds tend to thin out.)

Lauritzen Gardens
Near the zoo, the gardens offer an urban oasis where you can relax, learn about the plants in the garden, complete a scavenger hunt and more.

Old Market
Foodies, shoppers, artists and fans of the nightlife will all find something to love in the historic Old Market District. It has a charm and buzz that really can’t be beat.

Joslyn Art Museum
With an eclectic collection, outdoor sculpture garden, area for kids to do hands-on art activities and more, this is a great place to spend some time. Plus, it’s free to the public.

The Durham Museum
Housed in what used to be the Omaha Union Station, the Durham features beautiful architecture, a historic look at Omaha and an impressive list of temporary exhibits.

Lesser-known Must-Sees
Here’s what the locals tell their friends and families not to miss when they come for a visit:

The slides at Gene Leahy Mall
This area is home to a sunken garden, which is perfect for an after-dinner walk, but some people come just for the huge built-in slides. Tip: Bring waxed paper to sit on as you slide; you’ll double your speed—and your fun.Wildlife Safari Park
Operated by the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, but located just west of Omaha, the lesser-known Safari Park has 50 acres of grassland you can drive through. There’s also a place to park and visit a petting corral with goats and chickens. Then take a short walk to an eagle aviary, wetland area or bear and wolf exhibits.Everyone has their favorite neighborhood in Omaha, and Benson is one that’s been making a splash. It’s a thriving art scene, and the nightlife offers an alternative to the Old Market. Its defining characteristic might just be its diversity. Visit fine dining restaurants like LOT 2 or go with something more casual like Pizza Shoppe Collective, which often has live music. Elsewhere, Beercade has, you guessed it, beer plus an arcade and 1912 has rooftop seating. There’s a little something for everyone.

The Wicked Rabbit
Hidden somewhere on Harney St. in the Old Market, this speakeasy is all about mystique, atmosphere and great drinks. To find it, brush up on your Alice in Wonderland terms and “look” closely.

Do Space
The new, state-of-the-art tech lab gives the community free access to innovative technologies. They say it best:Free and open to all, Do Space is a community technology library, a digital workshop, and an innovation playground filled with opportunities to learn, grow, explore and create.” Good for all ages.

Hot Shops
Home to a pottery maker, glass blower, welding sculptor and more than 80 studio artists, they also have four gallery spaces open to the public.

The Backline
If you’re looking for local comedy, this is your place. They have a selection of craft beers, and you can catch everything from stand-up to improve to sketch. Shows are generally Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Check their site for an up-to-date schedule.

Homey Inn
Locals, calm down. We know there are a million restaurants and bars you love, and we didn’t include them all in this list. Omaha really is a foodie city, and its home to some of the best. But this is one you might not find on the standard roundups. The reason we tell our out-of-town friends about this dive bar? It’s the only place in Omaha that serves champagne on tap. Fair warning: Think walls lined with tchotchkes and pitchers of champagne, not hushed voices and clinking glasses.

Main Street in South Omaha
This culturally rich area has historic buildings, great food and places to shop. If it fits in your schedule, take advantage of the South 24th Street walking tour.The Mormon Trail Center
This one’s perfect for school-age kids learning about pioneers and history buffs alike. Visit this attraction to see the site of the Winter Quarters for Mormon Trail travelers, plus a history lesson.

Joslyn Castle
Open for tours on the first and third Sundays of the month, this Victorian home is really a sight to see. The residence was built in 1903 for one of Omaha’s most prominent families, and today it’s a great place to learn about them, Omaha and the home’s unique architecture. 

And that’s just the start! This list could truly go on and on. Locals and Omaha fans, add your personal favorites in the comments.


Posted in We Explore |

The Design Process of the We Don’t Coast Specialty Nebraska License Plates

By: Dave Nelson

The purpose of this license plate was to incorporate the We Don’t Coast branding. One of the challenges was creating a design that encompassed a commonality of the people who supported We Don’t Coast.

We went back to the research documents for the We Don’t Coast brand: The majority of people love this area because of the community.

So, it made sense to use the Community Pattern from the We Don’t Coast brand visuals (shown in the mural below).


We loved the old classic license plates, and wanted to build from there. After many variations, we arrived at a clean black and white version with subtle details.


We ultimately fell in love with the black on black with white lettering. If felt classic, yet modern.


The day before presenting, we heard back from the DMV that they could not do white lettering… even after some begging and pleading.

So, we went with our close second choice; the clean, classic and sophisticated white version.


A few have commented they want more color or images represented. We deliberately avoided that to focus on it being a non-intrusive item to fit any car; allowing individuals to showcase their interests through bumper stickers instead.

Get your plates now >>

Posted in We Inspire, We Live |

“Innovation will transcend anything – that’s something that Omaha has been proving.”

A desire to solve the hardest problems, a servant’s approach to leadership and a $1,000-pitch competition drove Luis López to found Crumb. The founder as well as the startup has an incredible story to tell – a swirl of experiences that has culminated in a grand, groundbreaking push to save lives through data.

“I get bored easily when solutions come too quickly.”

“I like challenges. My Dad said,
‘A land without giants is not worth conquering,’
and I truly believe that.”

“My younger brother Danny and I were born in Guatemala. When I was 7 and he was 4, our dad left a very successful corporate career to serve as a missionary in Belize. Our family went from riches to rags intentionally, so we could put our all energy in helping others – a far more fulfilling pursuit. Those values are at the core of what we’re building with Crumb (formerly CardioSys).

“Bad data kills people.”

Crumb’s vision is to radically change how health information is accessed and analyzed; therefore improving the odds a patient’s health data is available and instantly usable.

“Crumb is a data science company at heart. From a data infrastructure standpoint, healthcare is 10-15 years behind other industries. So we’ve built a platform that handles integration and allows healthcare professionals to find data when they need it. Thus preventing errors and ultimately saving lives.
“Our whole idea was – let’s create something that advances healthcare, research and clinical grade technology and helps save lives.”

“We wanted to solve a huge problem
in a hard-to-solve industry.”

Luis, who moved to Omaha with his family in 2000, and started in English-as-a-second-language courses. During his freshmen year of college, he went on to co-found a tech startup Contemporary Analysis in 2008, which was featured in the likes of Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine.

During a semester abroad in Madrid, he happened upon a Tweet – and the idea for Crumb began to germinate.

“I had seen a tweet from Bill Gates that stated the two areas where innovation occurs the least is healthcare and education. As we began to look into things, we realized how far behind healthcare was.”

Months later, Luis submitted a last-minute entry into a UNO business plan competition, where he and his brother fleshed out the initial idea for Crumb (then CardioSys). They won third place – and $1,000, just enough for a laptop.

“After doing it, I recognized we could turn this into a company. We decided to apply for an accelerator; we got in to Straight Shot. We worked 16-hour days and by the end of the three months, we had insane amounts of traction.”

The startup forged strategic partnerships with an investor from the Kaufman Foundation, which helped solidify hospital relationships and a new partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. Some of the best researchers in the world are now validating Crumb algorithms.

“Our number one job requirement is
‘MacGyver-like coding skills.’”

“We’ve been lucky to find people who have those skills. All they need is a laptop, a program to code and a problem to solve.”

“Innovation will transcend anything – that’s something that Omaha has been proving. I’ll take our five engineers, and I’ll put them against any 20 engineers from any other part of the country. My guarantee is that no one will work harder than us. I love that attitude about the Midwest. We’re very heads down, and we’re building great companies without the ego.”

You can find Crumb quietly signing on additional partners and solving the big, hard-to-solve problem of reducing hospital error based on bad data at Omaha Startup Collaborative.

Posted in We Pioneer |

“A land without giants is not worth conquering.”

-Luis López
Co-Founder of Crumb

Posted in We Explore, We Inspire, We Live, We Pioneer |

5 Reasons Tech Talent Grows in the Silicon Prairie

If you think Silicon Valley is the best and only tech hub, you’re not alone. But you’re also wrong. Omaha’s Silicon Prairie was recently named the “Top City to Work in Tech” by financial advice tech company SmartAsset, and it’s easy to see why. Omaha is home to four Fortune 500 companies, established technology businesses and a thriving startup community, and there are plenty of reasons top talent and employers are converging to make Omaha a top tech city, including:

1. An abundance of great-paying tech jobs.
If you’re looking for a job in tech, start in Omaha. We have plenty. On average, there are around 600 open tech positions in the Greater Omaha area, and they pay well. If you’re a recent grad, you can expect to earn $40,000-$65,000 right out of the gate, depending on your specialty, and overall, tech workers tend to make between 47 and 118 percent more than the average Omaha worker.

2. Affordable living.
The money from those tech jobs goes farther in Omaha, too. The overall cost of living is 12 percent lower than the national average, and the median house price is $160,400. For comparison, the median house price for San Jose’s Silicon Valley is $980,000, meaning homeownership is much more realistic here. More interested in renting? The news is good there, too. A one-bedroom apartment rents for $730 a month compared to $3,670 in San Jose.If you’ve never been to Omaha, you’ll be happy to note that it’s not all farmland, either. There are suburbs and few cornfields on the edges, sure, but there’s also a thriving downtown and revitalized urban areas.

3. The startup seedbed.
Omaha is no stranger to innovative thinking—more than 40 growing startups are currently based here. One of them, Flywheel, a WordPress hosting and management startup, just raised $4 million in their Series A, and video analytics provider Drive Spotter just announced the completion of a $750,000 seed round. Omaha is also home to grownup startups like Hudl, a sports video analysis tool used by more than 100,000 teams around the world.

4. Tech training.
Omaha’s tech groups and schools help train those who want to get into the tech field and fill the funnel for companies looking for talent. Omaha Code School turns beginners into hirable web developers in just 16 weeks, and Interface Web School offers part-time classes that start after 5 p.m., so students can keep their jobs while preparing for the next step. For the younger set, CodeCrush offers an immersion experience for 8th and 9th grade girls.

5. A true tech community.
Omaha offers a great support system for the tech community with organizations like AIM and The Exchange Building, which provide community, mentorship, office space and access to capital for startups.

Word is getting out about the Silicon Prairie. A recent Dice study shows that Nebraska is the #3 fastest growing state for tech jobs (seven spots above California, by the way), and Omaha’s reputation as a top tech city is growing. The idea that Silicon Valley is the place to be for tech is quickly becoming outdated. With both opportunity and innovation, today’s tech talent and entrepreneurs are better served looking to the Silicon Prairie.

Posted in We Pioneer |

“OSC is built for people and, quite truly, the people are the magic that makes it.”

By: Erica Wassinger
Managing Director and Co-founder, Omaha Startup Collaborative

Omaha has the potential to be a top-tier city for tech startups. It’s our mission to see that come to life.

Our mission at Omaha Startup Collaborative (OSC)  is to help improve the odds for our economy’s high risk, high potential tech startups.

We are a nonprofit incubator that provides mentorship, content and space for the region’s top tech entrepreneurs. It currently houses more than 40 startups.

OSC is built for people and, quite truly, the people are the magic that makes it.

Prior to OSC, I helped many of the region’s startups with marketing, sales and publicity. That’s when I really began to notice a potential obstacle to their success.

It became very clear that the ecosystem needed more connectivity between entrepreneurs, investors and other experts.

Seconding this notion was OSC co-founder and serial Omaha entrepreneur Mark Hasebroock. He had experienced that lack of connectivity (or density) firsthand through his building of Inspired to address the issue, he and I teamed up and “charged after a destination and programming that would bring together and build our startups.”

My message to others – women and men – who are interested in joining Omaha’s tech ecosystem: There are no barriers to entry other than grit. If you’ve got the gumption to chase an idea and build a business, then you should participate.

Posted in We Pioneer |

We Don’t Coast: I’m Basically That Slogan

By: Savannah Cuevas

When I started applying to colleges several years ago, I was willing to consider two geographical regions: the west coast and the east coast. Anywhere in between? No, thank you.

Alright, I’ll come clean… I used to be one of ‘those’ people – a Californian whose perception of Omaha was based on the old cows-and-cornfields caricature.

So, when my guidance counselor suggested Creighton University as a perfect fit for me, I waved her off – at first. But the more I spoke with her and the more I looked into it, the more this Riverside native thawed to the idea.

On my first tour, I fell in love with the school instantly – and as I explored and learned more about Omaha, I quickly fell in love with it too.

It took me a little while to realize that it wasn’t some kind of act –
people here are genuinely kind.

Flash forward four+ years – I have my diploma from Creighton and a degree in business administration with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. That genuine kindness I’ve come to know is one of the factors that convinced me to stay and continue growing my roots here. I’m also a huge fan of the international assembly of eating options – from Ethiopian to Persian to authentic Mexican; the cool hangout spots like The Crescent Moon; and the great outdoor places where I can actually be adventurous: Fontenelle Forest, Schramm Park State Recreation Area… and of course, there’s that tremendous new job of mine.

Back in March, I began working for the Greater Omaha Chamber as the project management coordinator for the REACH Initiative. The Chamber launched REACH last year to help small and emerging construction businesses succeed – whether by helping them forge connections, securing financing or through education. My position is brand new so we’re still defining and refining it, but a few of my key responsibilities include organizational support and coordinating educational events that fill the needs of our small and emerging businesses. We’ve done programs on financial literacy and insurance – and we have a module on marketing coming up on April 19. I love the fact that I come to work every day in service to others. It’s natural for us to ask, “Am I doing enough?” “Am I contributing enough?” I get to help our business owners meet their dreams – and that is a beautiful thing.

When I was in my senior year at Creighton, the thought that I might be leaving Omaha actually made my parents sad. They fell in love with the city, too. (My Dad says if he’d have learned more about Omaha 10 years ago – he would have moved the family here.) I’m now trying to recruit my sister and her husband to relocate. There are jobs here, I tell them – and a cost of living that’s already allowed me to pay off some of my student loans. Plus, I’m not spending the prime of my young professional years stuck in endless bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I am a California native, but this is where I want to be.

One of the things that resonated with me – and ultimately drew me to the Chamber and my new job – is our community’s We Don’t Coast message. Hearing that immediately made so much sense to me. I get it – and that’s why I’m here. I’m basically that slogan. I’m ready to work hard and embrace our “We Don’t Coast” attitude. While I am loving my new job and the people I work with, I hope to be a small and emerging business owner myself someday. I know I’m in a city that will support me. I know this is my place to grow.

Posted in We Launch |

CodeCrush – crushing it.

Is CodeCrush having an impact? One young student calls it “easily the best experience I’ve ever had so far.”

So, that would be a ‘yes’ – a powerful endorsement that something transformative is happening at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s College of Information Science and Technology.

“I’ve seen a whole new world that could now end up being what my life becomes,” the student continues.

In other words, CodeCrush – crushing it. 

“Feedback has been pretty overwhelmingly awesome,” says Amanda Rucker, a UNO communications specialist who’s also in charge of CodeCrush.

Launched three years ago to help bridge the gender gap in the IT profession, CodeCrush is a three-day, four-night on-campus “immersion” – a comprehensive learning experience for 8th and 9th grade girls (and their mentor teachers) that is intended to stoke an infatuation with IT in all its forms. It has quickly become the largest IT immersion experience for girls in the region.

“Our goal is to introduce them to the diversity of IT and show that they have role models in IT that they can aspire to,” Rucker says. “Ultimately, it’s about teaching them that they can do whatever they want. You just put your mind to it – and not let people tell you that you can or cannot do.”

CodeCrush days are a mix of workshops, panel discussions, afternoons immersed in “real world” IT and nights spent kicking back.

While students are doing their thing, the mentoring teachers are participating in their own version of CodeCrush, taking classes with UNO instructors, learning how to incorporate those IT lessons into their classroom.

“We have a lot of teachers from rural communities who don’t have a lot of resources. They become energized and excited to go back with new ideas.”

“It’s amazing to watch the students bloom into these confident young ladies,” Rucker says. “All of a sudden they realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I get told all the time that girls don’t play video games and yet, here are dozens of other girls who love them as much as me.'”

CodeCrush, which wrapped its latest session in February, spun off from the University’s Women in IT Task Force.

“We were looking at the gender gap in the industry and our own college, trying to figure out ways we could address it,” Rucker says.

There is no cost to participate in CodeCrush – it’s all underwritten by private donations and grants.
“The first year, we had 72 applications for 30 spots. This last year, we had over 200 for our 35 spots.”

Next year, thanks to a $200,000 challenge grant from the Peter Kiewit Foundation, the program will be able to accommodate even more students – expanding from one spring session to a spring session, a fall session and a summer summit in between.

“I think it’s a good model and a good opportunity for girls all over. … I’d love to be able to expand it to other states. Or, even if it’s only here at the college, I’d like us to recruit from a much larger pool and encapsulate all of the Midwest from North Dakota down to Texas,” said Rucker.
Posted in We Pioneer |

The Old Market – the Heartbeat of Our City

This is where we plug in. Our outlet for celebrating life, shopping local and pressing play. This funky destination. The heartbeat of our city. Character and cobblestone streets, pulsing with energy, empowering us to be us. Always has. Always will.

Our Old Market.

Omaha – We Don’t Coast

Posted in We Live |