Tech scene in Las Vegas gaining momentum

Updated May 21, 2017 - 5:42 pm

Seth Waite was checking out a possible new office location in Las Vegas for his employer, Arkansas-based RevUnit, when he walked into a neighboring business, Teamvvork, to gather some intel.

“I went into their office to just kind of ask about the space next door, and it was just one of those moments like, ‘Oh my goodness! This is us like two or three years ago,’” Waite said. “There were four or five of them huddled around a table solving a problem, being passionate about the experience of the user and working on a white board.”

So began a marriage between the two companies.

Acquisitions on the Rise
Las Vegas Review-Journal

RevUnit’s acquisition of Teamvvork marks the third national acquisition of a local startup this year. Data suggests it could be the third of perhaps more than 20 to follow, to keep pace with last year.

The increasing local presence of large, national companies and the acquisitions of local startups have boosted the credibility of Las Vegas’ tech scene, resulting in more local startups, increased upward mobility for local tech talent and a stronger draw for new tech talent.


Lori Nguyen, president and chairman of the Las Vegas Community Tech Fund, said the growing number of acquisitions in Las Vegas shows the local tech scene is maturing.

“We have acquisition-worthy startups here in the valley,” she said.

An analysis of startup activity across 40 metro areas and all 50 states released Thursday by the Kauffman Foundation found startup activity in Las Vegas jumped from 72.7 percent in 2014 to 77.4 percent in 2015, to 81.9 percent last year. In other words, out of every 100 new entrepreneurs, about 82 of them are starting businesses primarily driven by opportunity as opposed to necessity.

Nevada is now the leading state in terms of startup activity among the 25 smallest states by population, the foundation reported.

Street cred

Outsiders are taking notice.

RevUnit CEO Joe Saumweber and RevUnit Chief Technology Officer Michael Paladino said the growing infrastructure and success stories out of Las Vegas were a large factor in their decision to acquire Teamvvork.

“Vegas has got all the right raw materials,” Saumweber said, including “an accessible talent pool,” an attractive cost of living and a tech entrepreneur ecosystem around Zappos. Paladino added that the stage of the local tech scene’s growth was also a factor in their decision to make the long-term investment.

“I see a lot of the same types of things that create a vibrant tech scene, like developer meetups and places for those groups to meet, like the Innevation Center,” Paladino said, also emphasizing the growing entrepreneur infrastructure in the community including incubators and accelerator programs.

They said they were encouraged by many of the state’s initiatives to increase workforce training and tech education.

“One of the reasons we love Bentonville is because we get to be a big part of what happens here, and I think we see a lot of that same opportunity in Las Vegas,” Saumweber said.

Learning from mistakes

Entrepreneurs are learning from mistakes, said Rick Duggan, chief technology officer of Sports Challenge Network Inc., a Las Vegas startup that connects league bowlers for competitive events.

“The people who have been around a while now have advice to give to other people about certain ways to do things, certain things that they’ve found helpful,” Duggan said.

The Las Vegas tech scene went through a sort of “bubble” early on, Duggan said.

In 2012, it seemed like Las Vegas was gearing to become a techtopia in the spirit of Silicon Valley. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh pumped $350 million into revitalizing downtown Las Vegas, hoping it would become “the co-learning and co-working capital of the world.”

small pic description goes here

The venture capital arm of the Downtown Project, which was originally called the Vegas Tech Fund, also pumped money into the local tech scene.

“When they essentially kind of closed their funding to focus on follow on investments, new startups kind of slowed down a bit,” Duggan said. “At the same time, it really showed that there was a market for the ones that sustained it.”

The startups that are getting acquired now are the ones that were able to learn from others’ mistakes — mistakes like trying to soak up as much of that available capital as possible instead of focusing on developing the value of the product or service itself.

“Our take was to go with as little investment from outsiders as we can, and it worked out for us,” said Joshua Stanley, who is now vice president of product at RevUnit, formerly Teamvvork CEO and co-founder.

Gaining traction

Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development at UNLV, said the Las Vegas tech scene is largely gaining momentum because of growing community infrastructure.

The city has several incubator and business accelerator programs up and running. Miles said his team is working on strengthening university-based resources, like helping companies to develop based on university-owned or controlled technology. He said he is also working to engage the community and patent practitioners to help local entrepreneurs secure intellectual property rights.

“That hasn’t been a huge piece, so we’re trying to drive that and bring in different partners to help,” Miles said.

UNLV’s economic development office recently hosted Las Vegas’ second World Intellectual Property Day event, sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

Miles said ideally the Las Vegas tech scene will have an accessible entry point and “there’s a synergy” to help an entrepreneur navigate the entire process of bringing their product to fruition.

Arnobio Morelix, senior research analyst at the Kauffman Foundation, said these kinds of efforts probably will help the Las Vegas tech scene to improve its staying power.

“Las Vegas has great startup activity, and this is encouraging and something that the community can capitalize on. But one thing that we can still make a lot of progress with is helping companies scale after they start,” Morelix said. “When we look at growth entrepreneurship — how much the businesses that start grow —Las Vegas is not doing so well.”

Contact Nicole Raz at or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Hooters owner talks about room upgrades at his hotel-casino
George Ruff, founder and senior principal of Trinity Hotel Investors L.L.C., owner of Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, talks about recent room upgrades at the hotel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Passengers Discuss Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air passengers voice their views on the airline at McCarran International Airport on April 16, 2018. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes Trump tweeted his concerns about the company on Thursday. This isn't the first time Trump commented on the issues via Twitter. August 2017 December 2017 Amazon did hold back on paying state taxes in 1995, but the company has been routinely collecting state sales taxes since then. In 2016, the company's report from the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed it paid $412 million in taxes.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
eyecandylab CEO shows augmented reality during NAB
Robin Sho Moser, CEO and co-founder of eyecandylab gives an augmented reality demonstration at his booth during the National Association of Broadcaster Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Trends in access to capital for local black business owners
Denette Braud, owner of Braud’s Funnel Cake Cafe, talks about what owning her own business means to her.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Adobe unveils #HackTheBracket application for March Madness
Adobe unveiled their #HackTheBracket application at the Adobe Summit trade show at Sands Expo. People can use data from Adobe Analytics to make their bracket for March Madness. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Adidas Signs Yankees' Star Aaron Judge
Adidas Signs New York Yankees Star Aaron Judge The slugger is set to don a new set of stripes this season after signing with the apparel company. Aaron Judge Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal includes branding on his batting gloves and wristbands. Judge, the AL's reigning Rookie of the Year, was previously under contract with Under Armour since 2014. Judge won the American League Rookie of the Year award last season after setting an MLB record for most homers in a rookie season (52).
Esports athletes are sponsored, too
Meet Red Bull-sponsored professional esports player Daryl S. Lewis, better known by his in-game name Snake Eyez. Nicole Raz Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bettor Investments turned into a bad bet
Bettor Investments formerly operated a Nevada-licensed entity betting operation. The company promised “conservative growth, profits and stability for our investors.” Matt Stuart, who ran the fund, shut it down in late 2016 and never made good on an agreement with shareholders.
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design Get your thinking caps on because the company is looking for a new cup that's easier to recycle. The $10 million grant challenge sees Starbucks partnering with investor group Closed Loop Partners for the project. According to CNN Money, Aside from the new cup design challenge, Starbucks stated it will test a cup with an inner lining made from plant fibers to prevent hot liquid from leaking. Will you join the challenge for #Bettercups?
Las Vegas bartenders who worked the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival question what they were paid
Reneé Black, left, and her husband Griffin Black talk to the Review-Journal at their home in Las Vegas, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Reneé was a bartender at Route 91, and Griffin was a bar back. They were hired as independent contractors, but received forms months later indicating they were employees. They also were never paid their last day of tips. Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like