Pinata // Experiencing Double-Digit User Growth, Routinely

Pinata // Experiencing Double-Digit User Growth, Routinely

You may remember Pinata Founder Kyle Tut from last year’s startup showcase, where he talked about lessons learned in customer discovery for another concept.

Kyle, and cofounder Matt Ober, are masterful at listening to the market, iterating on customer pain points and turning their product into the go-to solution.

Pinata is living proof of that.

Rewind back to 2006, the majority of data (71 percent according to CacheLogic) changed hands in a peer-to-peer model — think Spotify early on. However, P2P technologies had difficulties managing and monetizing data control, giving rise to the centralized cloud model.

Now, companies and users are getting smarter, and in some cases mad about vendor lock-in and data silos inherent to the cloud model. With a vision to be the platform that equitably transacts the world’s data and gives users control of that data, Pinata aims to solve the downsides of the centralized cloud.

Kyle and Matt recognize that less than 20 percent of the world’s data will be housed in data centers by 2021 while over 80 percent (according to Cisco) will be stored on individual devices.

So why is our data still bottlenecking through those data centers?

This massive shift in data storage has created a wedged open door for Pinata to enter. Pinata leverages IPFS for distributed data movement while allowing that movement to be transacted. This unique revenue model creates returns for Pinata, the data originator and the data mover.

Pinata has grown users 30 percent month-over-month consistently. And there are no signs of slowing.

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Retail Aware // Seed Rounds, SXSW and Scaling Sales

Retail Aware // Seed Rounds, SXSW and Scaling Sales

One of our favorite fellows, Retail Aware, just closed their seed round. Founder Keith Fix was masterful at bringing strategic partners on board and convincing brand new angel investors to invest.

Funding from this round will primarily be used to scale their sales and distribution. Since we last blogged about the startup, Retail Aware has quadrupled their distribution of sensors. They have also added critical teammates to enrich the product.

With a successful showing at SXSW 2019, the Retail Aware team is building momentum and conversation throughout various industries. As always, Retail Aware welcomes any customer introductions. Specifically those in merchandising for grocery or convenience stores.

If you see Keith or Andrew Dierks, please congratulate them and tell them to get back to work.


Stature // Ready to Launch

Stature // Ready to Launch

With their official launch only a few days away, Karisa Malchow and her company Stature have embraced a term that has become so vital to the greater Omaha area’s entrepreneurial landscape: ecosystem.

The lack of alternative sizes and settling for unrealistic standards is becoming more readily apparent in the larger market, but Stature’s main focus during the launch is a bit more focused: Why is it so hard for taller women to find a variety of clothing styles that fit them comfortably while retaining the most up-to-date fashion trends?

Leaning into Omaha’s ripe fashion community, Karisa forged strategic partnerships that will help accelerate Stature’s early growth. Photographers like Heather and Jameson and involvement with Fashion Institute Midwest to find the best designers and manufacturers locally became key to Stature’s trajectory.

“We work locally to develop and manufacture your clothes – meaning your purchase supports several other women-owned businesses,” said Malchow, “you can personally enter in your measurements online so you never have to guess what length you’ll get. By owning the product and the platform we cut out any middlemen and sell directly to our target market.”

Malchow’s emphasis on utilizing other Omaha businesses has brought about this cyclical ecosystem that can be easily forgotten for startup companies. When Stature’s website officially launches on April 5, an entire population of women will have access to affordable, fashionable and custom-tailored clothing. Stature is poised to help empower these women to stand tall and feel confident doing so.

Ready to Join the Ecosystem?

HerHeadquarters // Female Entrepreneurs Find Allies Through HerHQ

HerHeadquarters // Female Entrepreneurs Find Allies Through HerHQ

As Founder Carina Glover preps for the official launch of her collaborative platform, HerHeadquarters, she has been encouraged by customer adoption… even before the platform is live.

Carina, a fellow we have said time and time again is easy to bet on, strategically planned a pre-launch effort to cultivate customers. And, it is working!

HerHeadquarters is a destination for entrepreneurs in fashion, beauty, marketing, events and PR in Los Angeles, New York City and technologists in Nebraska, to share projects, build stronger teams and ultimately grow their businesses through strategic collaborations.

Women on the platform, all vetted and verified as top-notch pros, known for great work, are called Allies. Through HerHeadquarters, allies can share project details – almost like a traditional RFP – so others can join the team.

HerHeadquarters helps all allies quickly improve the robustness and quality of their work, gain new clients in other markets and scale up their team to earn more business.

Who are three women you know that would add value to collaborations? Visit HerHeadquarters.App for more details on how to make them allies.

Want to Find Out More About Her Headquarters?

LEASH // Pets have places to be, and so do you.

LEASH // Pets have places to be, and so do you.

We don’t actually spend much time drawing wireframes in the LEVEL 4 // MVP work session. That would be rash. Rather, we spend time revisiting the unique value proposition – the one thing that will distinguish and separate your concept from others – and talking through the fundamentals of the wireframing process. First, we review what a wireframe is by de-constructing prominent web sites into basic shapes and building blocks. Then, we talk about the roles necessary to support the unique value proposition – and the likely preferred interface that these roles will consume the application. Huh? Let me give you an example. 🙂

Leash just recently had their LEVEL 4 // MVP work session. Leash’s unique value proposition is “Pets have places to be and so do you”. Clever, for sure, and big time validated with their customers – pet owners. The Leash app allows you to request a ride for your pet by offering on-demand or scheduled and repeat rides while ensuring safety, convenience and peace of mind for both you and your pet. Pet owners will be an obvious role within their application, and the data suggests that these folks will want to interface Leash through an app on their phone. That decision means that the wireframes that we will draw will need to be scaled down to support a smaller screen, likely in “portrait” mode, with the primary interface being clicking buttons – not using the keypad to input large volumes of data with two thumbs. These are very, very important decisions to make before we sketch.

Ok, cool. Ready to sketch? Not quite. Next up are User Stories, which are basic requirements of the features and functions required that support the unique value prop. For version 1.0, the application must be able to support the ability for a pet owner to request either a scheduled ride or an impromptu ride with a certified, pet-friendly driver. Yes, there are a few additional things that have to happen but this is where we start. Now that we’ve covered those fundamentals, the Leash team knows EXACTLY what to wireframe. Wireframing itself is easy, but knowing exactly what to wireframe is challenging. Based on this insight, Leash is now ready to start. 

Ready to Startup?

CERTIFIED CELL // Getting rid of that drawer full of cell phones!

CERTIFIED CELL // Getting rid of that drawer full of cell phones!

LOTS of people buy cell phones from individuals on Craigslist or eBay. Sounds safe, right? Turns out many of these phones are stolen or permanently “locked” because of software restrictions.

This is a massively widespread problem – and something that Joshua and Jason are keen to solve. This very complimentary duo (Joshua is all business, Jason is all tech) are blazing through The Startup Collaborative methodology with a clever solution that plays perfectly with Jason’s current day job. He’s the owner and founder of iFixOmaha. You’ll soon see how that important fact fits into this startup story.

Certified Cell is a peer-to-peer cell phone marketplace with a clever twist. All phones offered for sale on their platform are – you guessed it! – certified. Imagine this: a seller walks into any iFixOmaha location with a phone to sell. The iFixOmaha staff runs that phone thru a comprehensive diagnostic. Is the phone stolen? Is the phone locked? Is the phone wiped clean of all personal data? Which carrier is that phone eligible to work with? If the phone checks out, it could become available for sale on Certified Cell. Any potential buyer now has a piece of mind that the phone is safe and legitimate, and would be able to potentially pick up the phone at an area iFixOmaha literally the day they buy it.

This team just wrapped up LEVEL 8 // Product Management and should complete the peer-to-peer selling functionality in the coming weeks. Currently, Certified Cell offers the ability for you to buy a high quality, certified used phone at an affordable price all through their secure online platform. The selection at is changing daily and they were just recently added as a Better Business Bureau Accredited Business. Gone are the days of meeting a random stranger in a parking lot with a wad of cash to buy a used phone, instead, you can now pay for your phone online, securely with your credit card and then choose the time you’d like to pick up the phone from iFixOmaha – a trusted, Best of Omaha voted, retail location.

Ready to make some extra bucks on that extra phone you’ve got lying around? Dust it off, and get ready to have it certified for sale on

Five Fintech Fellows Earn $10,000 of build capital each

Last night, we celebrated a milestone in what we call the early dirty phases of starting up!

As many of you know, First National put us on notice to create more fintech companies. They invested $70,000 in The Startup Collaborative preseed funds just to do that. This was the origin of the Fintech Fellows Initiative.

Nine weeks ago, we socialized four market challenges and pain points. More than 150 entrepreneurs dug into those challenges, ultimately leading us to initiate 24 fintech fellows on November 26. These fellows had industry chops, clever initial solutions and a desire to start up.

More impressive than the size of starting class of Fintech Fellows is the caliber of participants.

The class includes a former FNB VP, one of the Prairie Cloudware founders, an ACI expat who has developed clever voice technology, one of the UI/UX lead from Union Pacific, an IT leader from Grant Thornton, the quant and technical cofounder of Prairie Smarts, a web developer from Burlington Capital, a team out of CAN Predictive Analytics, and a technical team that has worked inside Fiserv for decades, among others.

Last night, we toasted to a “wind in their sails” moment for five of these teams. As a reminder, each of the fintech fellows has the opportunity to earn our Murphy Vision Funds preseed equity investments of $50,000. But, as fintech fellows, they have been given a leg up. 

Fintech fellows that are earned this $10,000 of build capital exceeded expectations against Solution and Prototype validation, business, caliber and in-house capacity of the team, and their proposed use of funds.

The recipients of the fintech fellow build capital include:

Fintech Fellows // $50,000 goes to five teams

Just before December, more than 20 entrepreneurs were accepted into the Fintech Fellows Initiative and began the challenging journey of solving major issues facing small businesses financial well being. To date, more than half of these entrepreneurs have received enough early market feedback that their solution is worth carrying forward. We have been impressed with the caliber of solutions and the caliber of entrepreneurs stepping up.

Some noteworthy teams and solutions briefly described below.

Solving for operational growth and staffing…

  • Bench, hospitality on-demand staffing and scheduling marketplace
    Led by a Union Pacific head of UX
  • loophire, hiring process and talent acquisition solution
    Led by a team professional recruiters
  • Plus One, aggregate data and comparative insights for hiring
    Led by United Bank professional
  • Work in Progress, a jobshare marketplace
    Led by an expat of Hayneedle/Omaha Steaks and an organizational psychologist

Solving for invoice and payment capture…

  • B2Gig, a money management platform for the gig worker
    Led by ACI expats and V2Verify founders
  • BatchTracker, a co-manufacturer lot traceability platform
    Led by Conagra Foods expat and CAN Analytics CEO
  • Delta Financial Group, back office platform for independent contractors
    Led by Fiserv expat and longtime banking consultant
  • EZPayInvoice, customer list management and payments platform
    Led by former Burlington Capital developer
  • fomopay, mobile-based invoicing and payment capture
    Led by First National teammate and a founder of Prairie Cloudware
  • IAN, text scheduler and invoice platform
    Led by self-taught web developer and freelancer, and former professional poker player

Solving for succession planning…

  • Root$, agriculture lending succession planning tool
    Led by Chadron-based ag lending team

Solving for challenges understanding industry comparative insights and benchmarks…

  • (Concept name TBD), predictive cash flow engine and concierge service
    Led by a Prairie Smarts founder and finance management psychologist
  • Proforma, financial forecasting collaboration tool
    Led by Multimechanics chief operator
  • ClickTargeter, performance-driven sales optimizer
    Led by expat from MindMixer and DataUSA
  • Time and Invoice Tracker, profit center analysis tool
    Led by self-taught web developer and freelancer

On Thursday, January 17, five of the teams mentioned above will earn $10,000 of capital to help with their initial product build. Please join us at the All Rise Rally to celebrate this early milestone.

Preston Pivots to Take on FinTech // BritePay

Preston Halstead approached TSC in August of this year with his concept, CareerVoice, aiding companies, educators and students when it comes to finding effective, specialized, and verified professional speakers – and how to make each experience most beneficial for all parties.

He got solid work done through LEVEL 2 with his Problem Validation Surveys, and was making headway while still having to balance his normal 9-5. He then leaped at the opportunity to participate in our FinTech Fellow Initiative, launched this November in partnership with First National Bank.

With some substantial experience under his belt, and with a new business partner, Parshav, he has put CareerVoice on hold for now in order to pursue a more time-pressing, much-needed FinTech-oriented concept: BritePay – fast and easy invoicing. In case you didn’t know, invoicing is a fragmented, time-killing experience for solo entrepreneurs. Preston is ready to solve that problem.

He’s capitalized on the opportunity to champion the issues we, along with many bankers, have identified, and he’s currently working through Solution Validation to solidify his idea for invoicing, revenue tracking, and entrepreneurial success.

Value Over Volume // My Game Day Collections Moves Forward

Jean Douchey, founder of My Game Day Collections, is a TSC Fellow who is totally proving herself in the startup process. Today we carried out her LEVEL 5 // Pre-Validation module where we talked about next steps, goals, and some challenging subjects – everything from pricing strategy to a optimal launch timing.

She came prepared with sales goals and financial modeling, all relevant to her up-and-coming clothing concept. What was very clear is that pricing – particularly, looking at value over the volume of sales – will be a major benefactor in getting her customized game-day sportswear into customer hands.

Pre-Validation can be a strenuous stage in startupland – discussing logistics and big picture challenges, fundraising, and timelines. Jean is more than capable to take the necessary next steps to get My Game Day Collections further off the ground and scaling. She’s eager to have a campaign for big Nebraska sports – high school and collegiate both – every season. Be on the lookout for 2019 launch activity and dynamic content for this very smart, customizable, and high-quality game-day wear for women.