My time in Omaha is coming to an end. On Friday, February 3rd I'll have relocated to San Francisco. When looking back at the past three years it's hard to decide what to put in this rather long retrospective post. But I'll use it as my last opportunity to highlight, clarify, give thanks, and try to explain why I'm taking on this new adventure.
I moved to Omaha thinking I'd have to dodge cows on the way to the office every day. I thought I'd really dislike the city, but the job I moved here for would make it worth it. Many of you know how quickly I discovered the opposite. I fell in love with Omaha, its people and vowed to leave my job within a year.
Being around the Omaha community I learned, for the first time, about taking risks, trying something new, and that putting your all into something wasn't just something for the "other guys", it's something everyone should do. I knew quickly I needed something more than "a job". I also learned of the support system sometimes needed in order for you to take those risks. Omaha provided that for me.
I attended the first Big Omaha and left with an idea. Something I wanted to build because I wanted to use it myself. The idea of Hollrback was born. With the help of my friend Kat I compiled a video to try and drum up some support for the project. Before long project "Mysterious Dottie" was in full swing.
Through the experience of Hollrback, among many other things, I started to learn the city that I previously decided I'd be more than happy to live in for the rest of my life may not be for me after all, at least in the short term. I started to feel like personally I was missing out on something. Something I've been needing to learn, not even knowing what it is.
On top of that I've been slowly finding that my idea of the startup culture that I wanted to experience was something different than what was aimed for in the Prairie. I wanted endless incubators, .com veterans, mentors and people willing to invest (not just financially, but that too) into the people here. It made me realize instead of continuing my never-ending stream of regional constructive criticism, trying to turn it into what I want it to be, instead I should just go.
This isn't easy, though. I feel like I'm giving up on Omaha. I care a lot about this place, the people. I know many are probably thinking by this point "just go already and shut the hell up", but I've always only wanted the best for everyone. I wasn't always happy with just warm fuzzies and people giving each other high fives and pats on the back. To me it's not about how many people can think nice things about other people. To me it's about execution. I've failed with my first attempt at execution, but damnit I tried. I've wanted Omaha to be full of people building awesome stuff to fulfill whatever vision they have. But it's a very service-oriented city. Consulting firms, financial services, branding agencies, development houses. I'm not interested in doing work for people. I want to build stuff to put into real people's hands. The public. Not ten people in an office somewhere to help them turn $1million into $2million.
But I never would have known this about myself if it weren't for Omaha giving me the opportunity to learn it first hand. Seeing the DownsDesigns, the What Cheers, the Princess Lasertrons, the Rahul Guptas, the Secret Penguins branch off from whatever they did before and start doing their own thing under their own rules. Showing me that "having a job" is never the goal, and it's about doing something awesome that you care about.
I wouldn't be moving on if it weren't for Silicon Prairie News highlighting others and giving me something to aspire to. For highlighting little things I do, even when I tell them it's dumb. (The post they wrote about my Chrome Plugin was the 2nd most read story on SPN last year, after I told Danny it was stupid and a waste of his time. He did it anyway. I was wrong.) For creating Big Omaha and letting that inspire me to try something for myself. Danny, Jeff and Dusty are probably sick of listening to me after three years, but I've never had anything but the upmost respect and admiration for what they're doing. For reference: Here's the full catalog of things they felt worthy of discussing when it came to me.
As an example of SPN picking up on the goofy things I do in the early days, here's the first interview they ever did with me to discuss "Retweet Thursday". News was slow back then.
Going forward I just hope something I did here in my short time has made some kind of impact. I always tried to be the best representative of the city of Omaha as I could be when going out to meet the rest of the world. I always told them how if you need to go somewhere, and you don't know where to go, put Omaha first on your list. This place can give you clarity that you didn't even know you needed.
I'm not one for heady advice one liners, but I can leave with you the one thing I told myself when given this opportunity to pick up from my Omaha life and build a new one: Live the life you'd be jealous of. So that's what I'm doing.
Come visit some me time. I can't promise I'll have room in my apartment, though. Housing is a little tight out there.