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.

Holiday parades help bring shoppers to Downtown Summerlin
Sports Town USA floor manager Angela Gardonio talks about how the work that goes into the Downtown Summerlin holiday parades and how they benefit her and other businesses there.
Final vote on CG Technology
Final commission vote on the $2 million settlement for CG Technology.
Happie Home Startup Establishing Headquarters In Las Vegas
Digital companion startup company Happie Home is establishing its headquarters in Las Vegas after receiving tax abatements from the Governor's Office of Economic Development on Nov. 15. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Facebook-branded space inside of Macy’s at the Fashion Show shopping center
A Facebook-branded space inside of Macy’s at the Fashion Show shopping center will showcase 13 small businesses in November and December and seven in January. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
T-Mobile uses ticketing data to plan for event
T-Mobile Executive Director of Arena Operations explains how ticket sales data and demographics help plan staffing, vendors, parking and operations for an event.
Costco opens its doors in southwest Henderson
Costco has opened its fifth Las Vegas-area location near the intersection of St. Rose Parkway and Amigo Street. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas strip mall and office park
The Krausz Cos. and WG Group bought a strip mall and an office park in Las Vegas for nearly $80 million total. They acquired a portion of Tropicana Beltway Center in the southwest valley for $59 million. They also acquired the Westbay office complex in the Las Vegas Medical District. The buyers are former owners of The Gramercy, a once-mothballed mixed-use project in the Las Vegas suburbs. They sold The Gramercy in phases for more than $100 million.
Mario Barth talks about the growth of the tattoo industry
Celebrity tattoo artist and business owner Mario Barth talks about the growth of the tattoo industry at The World of Tattoo industry trade show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas
$7.5M Las Vegas pot dispensary opens near Las Vegas Strip
Planet 13, which bills itself as one of the largest dispensaries in the world, opened to the public Thursday. It has entertainment including an interactive floor and floating orbs. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars CEO to step down next year
Caesars Entertainment Corp. CEO Mark Frissora will leave the casino company in February. Frissora has been CEO since July 2015. He was named CEO right after Caesars' operating company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Caesars Entertainment emerged from bankruptcy protection in October 2017 Before Caesars, Frissora spent seven years as chairman and CEO of Naples, Fla.,-based Hertz He led the consolidation of the rental-car industry through Hertz‘s acquisition of the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.
Planet 13 in Las Vegas adds twist to marijuana dispensary look
Planet 13, which bills itself as one of the largest dispensaries in the world, opened to the public Thursday. The dispensary is located near the intersection of Desert Inn Road and Sammy Davis Jr. Drive, near Trump International, in Las Vegas. Planet 13 has plans in the future for a coffee shop, a tasting room for marijuana-infused beer and wine, a lounge for consuming marijuana on site if that is legalized and space for food.
Caesars Entertainment opening 2 resorts in Dubai
Cove Beach will open on Meraas’ Bluewaters Island in Dubai in November and Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai and The Residences at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai will open in December. (Caesars Entertainment)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Facial recognition software at G2E – Todd Prince
Shing Tao, CEO of Las Vegas-based Remark Holdings, talks about his facial recognition product. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Bobby Baldwin to leave MGM
MGM Resorts International executive and professional poker player Bobby Baldwin is set to leave MGM.
Caesars has new armed emergency response teams
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has created armed emergency response teams. They are composed of former military and law enforcement officials. "These teams provide valuable additional security capabilities,” Caesars spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish said. Caesars is hiring Security Saturation Team supervisors, managers and officers, according to LinkedIn. The company did not say how many people it plans to hire for the units. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas, airlines prepare for CES
CES in January is expected to attract more than 180,000 attendees. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
AGS partners with Vegas Golden Knights
AGS is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of Class II slot machines used primarily in tribal jurisdictions. It announced a marketing partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like