Pipeline is an organization of Midwestern entrepreneurs who work together to improve the startup climate in the region. The members of Pipeline work to help each other confront business challenges in the growing world of startups and entrepreneurship.
After an extensive, two-interview selection process, Pipeline chooses 10 to 12 fellows to participate in a unique, year-long business leadership development program that blends four workshop modules. The goal of the program is to build up entrepreneurs and connect them with a successful network of individuals who have experience in the business world.
The culmination of the fellowship is a yearly event to celebrate Pipeline’s chosen Innovator of the Year — a fellow chosen from that year’s class as determined by the result of a final business pitch competition. This year, the Innovator of the Year event will take place on Jan. 23 in Kansas City, Mo.
Among the class of fellows this year, five Nebraska entrepreneurs were chosen to participate and will compete to be the Innovator of the Year.
Nebraska Entrepreneurship talked with each of the Nebraska fellows about their year in the program and how it impacted their business and personal growth. This is the beginning of a five-part series highlighting each fellow and their experience with Pipeline.
Leandro Castro applied to Pipeline twice.
The first time, his Omaha-based software company, MultiMech R&D, was young, and he learned a lot from the interview process alone. The second time, Castro’s company improved its approach and he made it into the fellowship program.
“It was confirmation that we’re heading in the right direction in terms of growth and development,” said Castro, the 28-year-old who founded MultiMech three years ago.
The company helps engineers during product development by helping them virtually test their designs.
For example, say you’re developing a new part for a car and you want to test it out. Building a prototype is expensive, but a 3-D model can accomplish the same task with a lower cost and the same results. That’s what MultiMech is all about.
But for Castro, leaving his young company for a day, a week or even an hour to go to a Pipeline event was a risk. However, joining Pipeline proved to be well worth that risk for MultiMech and Castro.
“I think the time commitment was definitely worth it considering how much I gained from it,” Castro said. “It’s not even comparable to the return you get.”
MultiMech experienced a number of dramatic highs and lows in 2013 that Castro said he never would have predicted.
He turned to the Pipeline network and shared what MultiMech was facing, and Castro said he soon received phone calls from business people in Pipeline who had gone through similar situations. Not only were they giving Castro advice, they were sharing their personal stories.
Castro was in awe.
“I felt really grateful for that, and I didn’t think I did anything to deserve that, to be honest,” he said. “Overnight, we became family and they were willing to open up and give advice. That openness with the Pipeline family is amazing.”
But the openness goes both ways, he said. It’s an experience that requires each fellow to share his or her struggles and successes in order to make everyone as strong as possible.
He knows this year would be very different for MultiMech if he hadn’t been connected to Pipeline while his business was experiencing so many big changes.
“The timing was perfect,” he said.
His team gained focus, improved research techniques and built a more solid foundation for the future, all of which he attributes to Pipeline.
Castro said he’s looking forward to what’s ahead for his company, especially this February as MultiMech plans to unveil an exciting new development.
However, more than his own progress, Castro said he’s excited to see his Pipeline fellows work together in the future.
“Right now you’re seeing the individual results, but before long we’ll see collaborative efforts,” Castro said. “Whether it’s partnering or investing, I think something will happen.”