Two Turkish entrepreneurs have set their sights on Las Vegas and are hoping to attract other foreign go-getters to the city.
Sarper “Sharp” Celenk and John Unal are working to introduce entrepreneurs — most of them based in other countries — to mentors and investors through their startup incubator Innosance, a mashup of “innovation” and “renaissance.”
According to Celenk, Las Vegas’ friendly business climate and its proximity to Silicon Valley make it an ideal place to operate a startup.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you decide to locate this incubator in Las Vegas?
Unal: We’re trying to show the advantages of Vegas to foreign startups, and we’re trying to get them here. It’s close to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and living is much better here compared to California, especially if you’re in a technology business. There’s no state tax here. It’s advantageous, especially if you’re making good money at your company.
Celenk: We’re not claiming Las Vegas is the second Silicon Valley, and we’re not running after that. Vegas has a unique opportunity because of the friendly business environment and the location of Vegas. Vegas can help them with the low cost of living, group connections to the L.A. or the Bay Area.
What do you hope to accomplish with this incubator?
Celenk: After working with other startups and spending time in Silicon Valley, I decided to share my knowledge, my effort, my expertise with other entrepreneurs. That Silicon Valley period taught me a lot I wanted to share with other startup founders.
Unal: We help the startups. We have programs and services, and we charge them, but once we get the money, we use the money to keep the company operating, and we are reinvesting in the next companies using this money.
Is it hard to keep these startups in the valley after they experience success?
Unal: What we can do is bring startups here. But holding those guys here, it’s none of our business. We cannot really do that.
Celenk: Once they penetrate in the market and start generating revenue, they can go bigger after getting investment or getting new customers.
What sort of impact can these startups have in Las Vegas?
Celenk: Imagine that our startups are working closely with hotel groups. They can help them generate more revenue, build their own apps, get more customer-related data that can turn into another revenue stream. So the city can take advantage of our incubator as well, and it will create more employment.