During his daily networking calls and business meetings with potential entrepreneurs from across the nation, Proteus CEO Joey Knecht’s message is consistent: Nebraska’s people and quality of life are the catalysts for growing opportunities.
“Nowadays, pound for pound, I can go into any conference room in any room in America and they will believe that Nebraska is doing great things.”
Knecht’s introduction to Nebraska less than 20 years ago started with his pursuit to continue his education – and one that was supposed to be temporary. In the year 2000, Nebraska’s role in a worldwide tech industry was relatively new. As companies and entrepreneurs began to recognize Nebraska’s ideal location for growth, Nebraskans embraced the chance to grow.
“There is so much momentum right now. People are talking about the state’s visibility, our room to grow, our central location in the country. One thing about other states is that they are verbose about how awesome they are. Nebraskans are more modest, but over the past five to ten years, this paradigm shift has started to happen. It’s been like a steam train.”
“How do you build a business? How can that business continue to grow and become a state and national power? Primarily, success in a company is about its people. It really comes down to the positive spirit of Nebraskans every day, and their willingness to work together. Nebraska’s people are this state’s greatest selling point.”
Knecht’s opportunity to grow a relationship with two talented, innovative Nebraskans served as the foundation for his own career in our state – one he thought he would spend on Wall Street, thousands of miles away from Nebraska’s Silicon Prairie.
Knecht was born and raised in Long Island, New York, and says his initial move to Nebraska to complete his master’s degree was supposed to be temporary. In the year 2000, he earned a Teacher’s Assistant position in the University of Nebraska’s Economics Department, which included an opportunity to learn from one of the university’s Computer Science Department cofounders, Dr. Don Nelson. A year later, Dr. Nelson and his business partner, Dr. Muhlin Chen, hired Knecht for his first Nebraska internship. Knecht calls this his “pivot point” decision to stay in the state, and one that would proceed years of success as a growing entrepreneur.
“This really is a prime example of why I’m so passionate about internships for Nebraska students. They are a great retention strategy to combat “brain drain” by getting kids involved in our state’s business network early. Doing so provides incentives to help their networks grow – exactly like what happened to me.”
The creation of the small tech company, created by Nelson and Chen, originally known as i2rd and then as VentureTech, launched a platform for Knecht’s talent to recognize, coach and mentor potential entrepreneurs. Over his 17-year career, he played a pivotal role in creating technology companies and products with multi-billion dollar revenues. This month, Knecht and his team transitioned the company’s official name to Proteus.
As Proteus’ CEO and Managing Director, Knecht also helped to create the company’s “Proteus Platform,” designed to build web-based products, client portals and digital transformations across the country. As client expectations evolve in technology, the platform’s team works to enhance digital experiences within new startup companies. This includes incorporating evolving design ideas and strategies to improve efficiencies through programs such as LEAN Six Sigma.
After a software company’s initial launch, Knecht commits to long-term relationships with its founders and employees by guiding its technical development. Proteus hosts an annual summit in Nebraska for its clients as a platform to share best practices to help each company’s efforts to grow. He also shares his skills and resources as a member of the University of Nebraska’s MBA Board to recruit and retain students to grow Nebraska careers. UNL continues to develop an entrepreneurship and mentorship program to connect students with companies located in the Lincoln area. Knecht points out that engaging students with mentors is an important step in helping young people form networks with experienced business leaders.
“What’s attractive to “talent” is connecting them to the element of community – and we have to provide both the students and communities with the resources to do this. This has traditionally only been done in Ivy League schools. At Nebraska, we too, realize that the college experience is about building lifelong relationships.”
Knecht and his partners founded Proteus based on the principals of growth and innovation, and on Nebraska’s unique assets ideal to building a business.
“We’re very proud. All of our employees are heavily invested in growing our clients’ tech capabilities. One cool part about Nebraska is that people can have a booming career and raise a family. You can do it all here. Nebraska is a perfect mix of good people, interesting places and a diverse range of things to do. For a small state per capita, we’ve been able to accomplish great things.”
For additional assistance regarding opportunities in Nebraska’s workforce, contact Allison Hatch, DED Talent Attraction Coordinator, (402) 471-3368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Contact Kate Ellingson at 1-800-426-6505, 1-402-471-3749 or email email@example.com