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Sisolak, mayors reveal plan to support startups in Nevada

Updated March 8, 2022 - 5:47 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday that his economic development office is launching small business startup accelerators in Las Vegas and Reno, in an effort to provide new companies with initial funding, direction and access to investors necessary to grow in Nevada.

The state will partner with gener8tor, a venture-funded national network of accelerators, that will operate the two programs and give successful applicants what essentially amounts to a crash course in business development: Mentorship, customer discovery, strategic planning, meetings with local and outside investors, and more.

At least 10 startups per year will each receive a $100,000 investment through gener8tor’s venture fund and the federal government’s State Small Business Credit Initiative.

“Today is an important day where we recognize that the one or two-person company with a good idea, a vision and a dream are just as important to Nevada’s communities and to our economy,” Sisolak said.

Proven demand

The announcement from inside the International Innovation Center @ Vegas, a tech hub in downtown Las Vegas, brought the governor together with Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, gener8tor representatives and other city officials. Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve made virtual remarks live from Reno.

The location was chosen deliberately: The city’s innovation center, which acts as a shared workspace for companies developing emerging technologies, has proven that demand is high for smart technology in Las Vegas, according to Goodman, who said the city was preparing to open a second location.

“It is a wide open slate and we are always open to new ideas,” she said, adding that sectors such as health care and public safety were desperate for technological advances.

Nevada was the highest-ranked state in the country in the rate of new startups forming, according to Sisolak, citing UNLV. More than 17 percent of all new jobs in Nevada are created by startup companies, he said.

Who is the partner?

In gener8tor, the state has found a nationally-ranked partner operating in 35 cities and four countries. Sisolak said it has helped early-stage companies create 8,000 jobs and raise more than $1.2 billion through financing or “exit events,” which refers to selling the company or changing ownership, and he added that 70 percent of those startups’ founders came from underserved communities.

“Those startups are an engine for job growth and we need to keep that engine running,” he said, adding that gener8tor was “committed to building the next generation of Nevada’s powerhouse companies.”

Troy Vosseller, co-founder of gener8tor, said that the venture capital firm was actively seeking startups throughout the state, including rural areas, and not just in Las Vegas and Reno, where the programs will be physically located.

Applications were already available at gener8tor.com/apply.

The programs were not necessarily restricted to only traditional tech companies, a gener8tor representative said. Las Vegas city officials underscored that they were ripe for young people with bold ideas and those from underserved areas who have limited access to funding.

‘No limit to this’

Las Vegas Councilwoman Olivia Diaz noted that the announcement came on International Women’s Day, as she declared the importance of women continuing to get involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“I want to make sure that all women see themselves in a tech hub space or STEM career field,” she said. “We need us also leading the charge in these spaces.”

As the state continues to pull itself up from the damaging economic effects of the pandemic, both Sisolak and Goodman agreed that initiatives such as the programs announced Tuesday were important to diversifying an economy historically reliant on entertainment tourism.

“And now this finally is the funding opportunity that we so desperately need and the opportunity to generate more, and the excitement, ” Goodman said. “There’s no limit to this.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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