Prairie Portrait: Evan Johnson of SplashLab Social
Name: Evan Johnson
Bio: Prairie transplant from the Rocky Mountains. Full time egghead, occasional oronaut, recovering sophist, and aspiring tree hugger.
Title: Partner and Lead Developer at SplashLab Social
Residence: Omaha, Neb.
Intro music: "Ghostwriter" by RJD2
Silicon Prairie News: After you worked at a couple other shops, what drove your decision last year to co-found SplashLab?
Evan Johnson: I started out as a front-end "web designer," but I wanted to code larger software projects. At the web design shop where I worked we were frequently brainstorming side projects, hoping to change to a product company. As Facebook grew we noticed a demand for custom Facebook pages and created a software platform for publishing them. Last year we found a good niche market serving PR agencies and were able to break off SplashLab as its own entity.
SPN: What went into the process of preparing SplashLab's clients for the arrival of Facebook Timeline, and what (if any) additional adjustments have been required since Timeline was rolled out?
EJ: Aside from some minor technical changes, education about the new Facebook marketing paradigm is the biggest thing. The traditional outbound, one-way "default landing tabs" are gone from Pages, and more focus is now on Timeline posts that users share and comment on. These posts — which are pushed to fan's News Feeds, promoted in Ads and Pinned to the top of the Timeline — can be used to promote custom Page tabs which provide deeper, more interactive content without leaving Facebook.
SPN: You've written that you do free-lance design under the name Chilli Pepper Web Design "when the fancy strikes." How would you characterize the sort of projects that are most likely to strike your fancy?
EJ: Oops, I need update that site! SplashLab keeps me very busy, and I no longer do freelance work. With so many exciting things happening on the Internet today, the deadly Fancy often strikes, but working on one company is enough. Down the road I hope my next project is a *ahem* meaningful one, maybe in the education sector. I took at a stab at this with my Startup Weekend project last year, Craniak, but sadly it is cooling off on the back burner like so many weekend projects.
SPN: You're an Idaho native and attended college in Montana. How would you assess the tech and startup landscape in that part of the country?
EJ: Bozeman, Montana has a high quality of life and an engineering school, so it has a great tech startup scene considering its population. Off the top of my head a few startups include: RightNow, Schedulicity, WiseTail, and of course SplashLab. Bozeman has an incubator (TechRanch), a co-working space (Blue Ocean) and is starting the Big Sky Developer Conference this year. Montana is often lumped in as part of the Silicon Prairie, but instead I'd like to coin a new term: the "Silicon Peaks."
SPN: As a big outdoor enthusiast, what are a couple of hidden gems you've found in Nebraska since moving from the mountains to the prairie?
EJ: They are not terribly hidden, but I love the single-track mountain biking trails scattered around Omaha that THOR has put together. Also, the new disc golf course at Hummel Park is amazing — and hidden to boot. Ranging a little farther out, the Niobrara River is a wonderful scenic float trip (but watch out for the summer frat-party scene) and I had fun checking out the Sandhill Crane migration this spring in Kearney, Neb.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Johnson.
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