Nathan Preheim Brings Experience, Enthusiasm to Omaha Chamber 9/28/16 09/28/16 10:36:51 AM
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Nathan Preheim, who founded MindMixer to make use of social media in government decision-making, speaks at a Chief Information Officer Summit meeting. He now directs entrepreneurship and innovation for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
Nathan Preheim Brings Experience,
Enthusiasm to Omaha Chamber
By James Boesen
The Daily Record
Startup companies, rejoice!
When the Greater Omaha Chamber was looking for someone to lead their new Entrepreneurship & Innovation team, they couldn’t have found a better fit than Senior Director Nathan Preheim.
Born in Wisconsin, Preheim moved to Omaha at age 4, where he remained through commencements at Westside High School, Creighton University, and later the University of Nebraska-Omaha. After graduating from Creighton with a psychology degree in 1996, Preheim worked as a marriage and family therapist, a profession that he enjoyed but ultimately decided wasn’t for him. He was intrigued by the burgeoning field of information technology, and eventually enrolled in the Management and Information Systems program at UNO’s Peter Kiewit Institute, where he graduated in 2000.
“Half-business background, half-tech is a great thing to have,” as Preheim put it.
With his newly acquired skill set, which coupled fluency in traditional business philosophy with emerging technologies, Preheim was in a prime position to take advantage of the emerging Silicon Valley startup market.
From 2000 to 2004, from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, Preheim worked in nearly every role imaginable in the tech community. What struck Preheim was that many startups and dotcom companies were disorganized and struggled with basic business issues. He also saw traditional businesses struggle to adapt to an increasing reliance on web-based commerce.
In 2004, Preheim’s wife was offered the organ transplant coordinator role at the University of Nebraska Medical center, and the couple was once again ready to call Omaha home.
Upon returning, Preheim got yet another degree, this time in urban planning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was particularly drawn to the architecture of cities and figuring out creative ways to rebuild and strengthen local communities.
In keeping with the theme of helping local communities, Preheim founded DayTipper, a tip-sharing forum that gave people the opportunity to share knowledge and expertise with others by posting it on the web. “It was crowdsourcing before crowdsourcing was even a word,” he says. After traveling the country attending town hall meetings while growing DayTipper, Preheim learned many of the skills he would parlay into his next business venture.
Taking the next step, Preheim created a community engagement platform called MindMixer, a company he co-founded and guided as chief operating officer.
MindMixer began working with cities of all sizes, including seven of the ten largest cities in the U.S., providing a platform for citizen engagement and outreach. One of MindMixer’s first clients was the City of Omaha, which it helped to create engageomaha.com. The website was a huge success, boasting over 800 users in the first 48 hours alone.
The MindMixer experience also taught Preheim about raising large amounts of capital and growing a business from startup to a regional player in the industry. During Preheim’s tenure, the company obtained four rounds of venture capital funding and grew from two employees to 65. When the company’s headquarters moved to Kansas City, he decided it was time for a new adventure.
After a brief stint as the chief operating officer at an ophthalmology practice, Preheim was ready to get back into community-based business, this time with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
In his role as senior director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Preheim has been tasked with nurturing and growing Omaha’s venture capital community, with the goal of matching local investors with up-and-coming entrepreneurs. The role also allows Preheim to work with startups as they work their way through the three major phases of the startup life cycle: discovery, validation and scale.
“We’re trying to align stakeholders to make plans to carry through to make a better venture capital ecosystem.”
Preheim sees Omaha as a largely untapped but potentially dynamic community for startups. Just five years ago, Preheim felt there was a real dearth of venture capital activity in the area. He now points to companies such as Dundee Venture Capital, Nelnet, and Nebraska Global as being prime examples of how Omaha can support startups.
“We are a very aspirational community,” he said. “The ecosystem is very fragile and it’s got a long way to go, but we’ve made a ton of progress.”
In Preheim’s opinion, more quantity and quality venture capital opportunities are needed to get more deal flow and take advantage of good resource providers in the area. Preheim plans to help pave the way for that progress by helping build a blueprint to arm entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed. Preheim also knows that persistence is key.
“Rarely does someone get it right the first time. Founder empathy is important,” Preheim said. “I know what it’s like to be in the trenches.”