OMAHA, Neb., May 12, 2022 – The MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) has announced that Omaha is participating in its Global program, Cohort 9, launching May 10, 2022. Over the next two years, through MIT REAP, the Omaha team will learn and adapt the frameworks developed by MIT to accelerate innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE) in their region.

MIT REAP is a global initiative that engages with communities around the world to supercharge IDE ecosystems and transform economies. The Global program employs an evidence-based “team” approach, translating MIT research and insights into a practical, actionable, and strategic framework that convenes and educates key stakeholders, and empowers regional leaders to drive meaningful, long-term economic and social change.

MIT REAP Team Omaha is championed by Laurel Oetken, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the Greater Omaha Chamber, and includes highly influential regional leaders who represent five major stakeholder groups: government, university, corporate, risk capital, and entrepreneurs. Core team members include:

  • Joe Petsick, Executive In Residence, University of Nebraska, College of Business
  • Michael Dixon, President and CEO, UNeMed
  • Niki Ferguson, Entrepreneurial Development Manager, Advance Southwest Iowa Corporation
  • Brian Ardinger, Director of Innovation, Nelnet
  • Erica Wassinger, General Partner, Proven Ventures
  • Adriana Cisneros Basulto, CEO, Maxwell
  • Scott Brag, Vice President, Chapman & Company
  • Trevon Brooks, Business Development Manager for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development
  • Ashlei Spivey, Business Access Advisor/ VP at U.S. Bank, Director of I Be Black Girl and Co-Owner of Best Burger
  • Alyssa Kuta, Analyst at Invest Nebraska and Nebraska Angels
  • Justin Wayne, State Senator for the Nebraska Legislature

One final, additional team member will be identified in the coming weeks. MIT REAP Team Omaha is supported by a larger advisory board comprised of the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Building Business Council members, along with other industry experts from within the stakeholder category groups.

“The Greater Omaha Chamber has long recognized the importance of startup growth in regional economic development and we are constantly on the lookout to offer more support, awareness and resources for this crucial community,” said Laurel Oetken, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the Greater Omaha Chamber. “Once we saw the opportunity to showcase the Omaha area’s tremendous talent and ideas through MIT REAP, we jumped at the chance. I am thrilled at the diverse talent our team brings to the table and can’t wait to start making real progress through these next two years and beyond.”

Team Omaha’s goals throughout this program are as follows:

  • Address research-identified challenges such as ensuring the entrepreneurship talent pipeline, risk aversion throughout the community, a lack of consistent goals and gaps in programming and resources.
  • Build mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships with Cohort 9 teams representing the American heartland: Kansas City, Des Moines, and St. Louis.
  • Make the Midwest a premiere place for startups to establish, grow, and scale their businesses by leveraging opportunities that Omaha’s unique entrepreneurial ecosystem provides and discover how we can work with other nearby cities, such as Lincoln, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, to further its reach and connect the greater Nebraska ecosystem.

MIT REAP Global teams participate in a two-year program focused on accelerating innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE) in their regional innovation ecosystems and are provided opportunities to collaborate with teams within and across their Cohort. “We’re thrilled to welcome leaders from such a diverse group of regions into Cohort 9,” said Travis Hunter, Director of MIT REAP. “Now in our tenth year, we look forward to sharing the learnings and impact of our global alumni community with our incoming teams and seeing the momentum they will bring to their own regions’ IDE ecosystems.”

Regions from across the globe apply for admission to MIT REAP’s Global program with a particular “urgency for change” or problem area in their region’s overall system that they want to address. The MIT REAP faculty then work with each team to overcome the regional challenges that are hindering the growth of its IDE ecosystem by identifying the region’s comparative advantages and the acceleration mechanisms required to promote IDE.

MIT REAP Team Omaha will also work in conjunction with its fellow Cohort 9 Teams, including:

  • Des Moines, Iowa, USA
  • Dominican Republic
  • Hungary
  • Kansas City, Missouri, USA
  • Piauì, Brazil
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Western Australia

Omaha’s participation is part of an initiative with The Heartland Civic Collaborative (HCC), which serves as the regional voice of the Des Moines, Kansas City, Omaha and St. Louis metros. As one mega-region, we build momentum through targeted civic initiatives and drive strategic, coordinated actions toward common goals. We focus on four main areas that provide mutually beneficial opportunities to the Heartland: Transportation, Federal Advocacy, Life Sciences and Entrepreneurship & Human Capital.

The HCC was brought together by the Kauffman Foundation, which is underwriting this effort as part of their priority to increase access to entrepreneurship and spur entrepreneur-focused economic development in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska and around the country.

About Greater Omaha

Greater Omaha is a No. 1 ranked up-and-coming-tech hotspot, a “top 10 best place to live on a $60,000 salary” and one of the “best cities for young professionals” according to SmartAsset. Greater Omaha is home to more than 30 communities and nearly 1 million people.

About the Greater Omaha Chamber

The mission of the Greater Omaha Chamber is to champion a thriving business community and a prosperous region through visionary leadership and collaboration.