Ken Moreano, Executive Director of Scott Technology Center and President of Scott Data Center, said the biggest creative risk he ever took was creating his own technology startup company.
The company was based in Austin, Texas and Moreano said he had a four and a half year run but, “got my head kicked in pretty well doing the startup. It was a very expensive tuition, but then I came here in 2002.”
Educated at Creighton University before moving to Texas, he was familiar with Omaha but never expected to be running a technology center — both managing a business incubator and its profitable partner, a large-scale, world-class data center. He started the job on UNO’s South Campus ten years ago, shortly after the first building opened.
That first building had 5,500 square-feet of occupied space, Today, constructed facilities total 250,000 square-feet, a humming data center with a 24-hour guard next to a 3-story office building with a base of educational and government contractor tenants and revolving list of start-ups.
The work there spans a wide range of big industries – defense, telecommunications, health, payment processing – some still shaking off the Millennial bug, few utilizing emerging digital technology to its fullest to create profitable efficiencies.
Moreano credits this growth to the fact the campus collaboratively is project oriented and support and expertise aren’t far away.
“If there’s a project that we think makes sense, we pursue it,” he said, with a nod to the center’s namesake and an Omaha business titan. “Mr. [Walter] Scott will say, ‘Well, it’s fun and interesting and looks like it has legs, so let’s go after it.’ So a lot of the evolution of the campus has been entrepreneurial and that’s how I’m wired. Here at the Tech Center, we are provided the latitude to explore projects and be entrepreneurial.”
From the beginning, Moreano has served in a variety of capacities as executive director from managing construction and helping with start up companies to serving on advisory boards and running a business.
Scott Data Center is only the second multi-tenant data center in the U.S. to receive Tier III Certification in both design and construction from the Uptime Institute. It has been in continual operation since its founding in 2006 and is fully validated by the Department of Defense for security.
Sue and Walter Scott are the support base for the overall campus, “When I started, we had six startup companies in the incubator and really weren’t sure what the campus would look like. I’m not sure there was a defined plan, though Walter probably envisioned a lot of what’s here today,”
Over the course of the last decade, Moreano has had some proud moments of achievement including watching startup companies like Proxibid grow from four employees to over 100, now in their new headquarters next to the Schrager Art Collection.
Many start-ups continue to fly under the radar as products are developed and tested, relationships are built and financing, both private capital and government research, is secured.
A base of campus partners provides fertile ground for high-impact tech start-ups. “We’ve collaborated with the DOD, STRATCOM and the FBI from an engineering and IT perspective on campus, in conjunction with the university. And in the last two years, we have had two startup companies receive National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Grants (SBIR). Historically Nebraska doesn’t do well applying for these grants so I’d say that’s promising,” he said.
The Scott Technology Center subsidizes space for each company in the incubator, covering operating expenses including office space, phone, Internet and utilities. But Moreano said the most important benefit they offer companies is the “Rolodex” to help them connect with beta customers, find board members and financing.
“There are a variety of things we do. Every company is different, so their needs are different. We try to be flexible and responsive to the startups. We support them from a cost base so they don’t have to worry about office costs and they can focus on building their business,” Moreano said.
Typically, companies remain in the incubator for three years and anywhere from five to ten will be finding their legs.
For Moreano, the center is different from other organizations largely due to the mission. He said they don’t necessarily have investors to report to but have a foundation and part of their responsibility is to help create more opportunities for the community.
Said Moreano, “If you look at the campus, you see the dorms, the Kiewit institute and there are somewhere between 150-200 scholarship students that are under the Scott Scholar Program. What we do as a business helps generate funding for those types of projects.”
According to Moreano, creativity is important to problem-solving and from an engineering perspective affects everything. Creativity and collaboration go hand in hand. The Scott Technology Center builds on collaborations with industry, academia and government for future generations.
“We are fortunate to have the community leadership we’ve had historically in Omaha. The Scotts are a testament to the business community. They not only look at large corporate giants, but also invest heavily in young people and by doing so help the future of the community,” said Moreano.
Information is available at scottdatacenter.com and scott-technology.com.