Nevada is launching small business and startup accelerators in Reno and Las Vegas as part of efforts to boost entrepreneurship in the state while improving access to capital.
Governor Steve Sisolak announced the creation of the Gener8tor Reno and Gener8tor Las Vegas accelerators Tuesday afternoon during a joint interstate event with Mayor Carolyn Goodman in Las Vegas and Mayor Hillary Schieve in Reno. The programs, which are being done in partnership with Madison, Wis.-based venture capital firm and accelerator Gener8tor, will help ensure Nevada has a pipeline of silver state-based startups through to “local innovation”, according to Sisolak.
“Today is an important day when we recognize a one-to-two person business with a dream…is equally important to our Nevada economy,” Sisolak said.
In addition to helping diversify Nevada’s economic development system, the Las Vegas and Reno accelerators “will also provide a pathway for more founder-owned businesses from disadvantaged backgrounds to access the capital and mentorship needed to level the playing field,” added Sisolak.
Organically developed entrepreneurial growth is just as important as the arrival of large corporations, said Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Western Nevada Economic Development Authority. Local businesses tend to stay in the area they come from, which especially pays dividends when businesses are very successful.
“Great entrepreneurs are not always small,” Kazmierski said. “Sometimes their ideas take a while to catch on, but they become great companies and that’s what we’re always looking for moving forward.”
Gener8tors in Reno and Las Vegas will partner with the Nevada State Small Business Credit Initiative to accelerate and invest in at least 10 small businesses and startups each year. Businesses that win a spot in the accelerator will receive $100,000 in funding from Gener8tor and the State of Nevada Small Business Credit Initiative. In addition to capital, the program will also provide participating companies with assistance with mentorship, growth planning, investor pitches and client research.
Social equality and access will be a big part of the program, according to Joe Kirgues and Troy Vosseller, co-founders of Gener8tor. The company says it will focus on “investing across race, location and gender as well as a nationwide network of Nevada businesses, investors and connections to inspire businesses to start here, to hire here and stay here”.
Vosseller says the focus will be on the next 10, 20, or 100 fantastic companies that will grow in Nevada and elevate the state in the process. The same is true whether it’s in Las Vegas or Reno, Kirgues added.
“We really see the companies as a catalyst for growth, not just for themselves, but also … for Reno,” Kirgues said.
Startups are playing a growing role in Reno, which saw the sector raise a record $1.4 billion in external funding in 2021, 15 times the amount it raised the previous year.
Schieve described the arrival of the Gene8tor accelerator as a reflection of Reno’s growth.
“Today’s announcement that a leading accelerator will invest and accelerate businesses in Reno shows the world what our community has known for some time,” Schieve said. “Reno has arrived, and we will welcome innovators and those with a dream who want to start their business here.
Nurturing startups is especially important for Las Vegas, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic due to a greater reliance on gambling and tourism. Reno, for example, has recovered from the impact of COVID-19 faster due to its more diversified economy.
“Las Vegas is home to over 1,200 startups, and they’re critical to the present and future of our city’s economy,” Goodman said.
The Governor’s Office for Economic Development has called accelerators a key component of any region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The accelerators have been linked to job growth, as well as an 85% reduction in the failure rate of businesses due to the resources and expertise they provide, according to the agency. The Gener8tor alone has helped create 8,000 jobs and raised $1.2 billion in total funding through its participants.
The Reno and Las Vegas accelerators are also expected to receive federal funding that the Nevada State Small Business Credit Initiative is currently requesting, according to Karsten Heise, GOED administrator for the SSBCI program.
“The focus will be on fair access to capital because innovation is everywhere, but equal opportunity is not and Gener8tor is an ideal partner in this endeavour,” Heise said.
Reno’s housing affordability crisis was also discussed at the event, particularly in regards to any potential growth that may come from it. Schieve responded that housing is a difficult issue that is not unique to Reno. However, the city is studying all available options, whether it is zoning, assisted housing or public-private partnerships.
Kazmierski echoed Schiev’s comments.
“Housing is a problem all over the country,” Kazmierksi said. “I can tell you that there is a concerted effort to address this issue as a community.”
Jason Hidalgo covers business and technology for the Reno Gazette Journal, and also reviews the latest video games. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo. Do you like this content ? Support local journalism with a RGJ digital subscription.