“Walkbale” seems to be one of those terms like “cloud” that is thrown around a lot currently as a way to sound cool. Cities and communities tout their walkability, and yet what that actually means can be a bit hard to discern. Does that mean there are sidewalks for people to walk on, or does it mean that businesses and places to go are close enough the average person would think walking was feasible. As someone who walks a lot I can say a city that has sidewalks, but where everything is spaced miles apart isn’t going to get me to give up the car. This is where the walkability of Lincoln’s Startup scene is of interest.
The startup scene in Lincoln Nebraska is generally confined to the Hay Market District. You have a co working space, startup accelerator, a large startup called Hudl, and numerous small startups that house themselves in this business district. Beyond the startups there are a couple of coffee shops, and numerous restaurants and bars. As a tourist to the Hay Market District I can say it fails to impress. It’s cute enough, but is only a few blocks square and really comes across as a cleaned up warehouse district with some places to eat and drink. For a startup scene this actually makes it a good environment.
Because the district is physically so small it means it is really easy to drop in on other companies or meet people in the startup world without having to put out much effort. Literally the entire district is smaller than many tech company campuses. If you want to bounce a thought off someone and need some fresh air you can leave your office and drop in on someone a few buildings down in less than 5 minutes.
During my interview with the folks at NMotion they highlighted this as a benefit that is not as present in places such as San Francisco or Boston. Although those cities are walkable themselves, the scene is physically spread out. In Lincoln even for folks not in a co working space you can easily drop in on people or run into them when you grab coffee. The other thing that’s nice is that being that land isn’t at a premium the cafes and restaurants have huge spaces to just sit and ponder thoughts. The cafe that’s on the ground floor of the building NMotion is in has a patio area that is a few times the size of most Starbucks in major cities. This means you can actually enjoy sitting and drinking a cup of coffee which helps facilitate random encounters and interactions.
This is something to think about especially when you are first launching your tech venture. Going to Meetups and such is great, but driving, finding a parking space and listening to sponsor messages takes time that can be better spent. If you can get the same networking potential from simply going and grabbing a cup of coffee it seems like a better way to go.