Partnership with venture capital firm and accelerator Gener8tor aims to boost business and job creation by nurturing startups and small companies across the Silver State.
by Jason Hidalgo, Reno Gazette-Journal, March 8, 2022
Nevada is launching small business and startup accelerators in Reno and Las Vegas as part of efforts to bolster entrepreneurship in the state while improving access to capital.
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the creation of the Gener8tor Reno and Gener8tor Las Vegas accelerators on Tuesday afternoon at a joint cross-state event with Mayor Carolyn Goodman in Las Vegas and Mayor Hillary Schieve in Reno.
The programs, which are being done in partnership with Madison, Wisconsin-based venture capital firm and accelerator Gener8tor, will help ensure that Nevada has a pipeline of startups based within the Silver State through “home-grown innovation,” according to Sisolak.
“Today is an important day where we recognize a one- to two-person company with a dream … is just as important to our Nevada economy,” Sisolak said.
In addition to helping diversify Nevada’s economic development system, the accelerators in Las Vegas and Reno will also “provide a pathway for more businesses owned by founders from disadvantaged backgrounds to access the capital and mentorship needed to level the playing field,” Sisolak added.
Organically grown entrepreneurial growth is equally important as bringing in big companies, said Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. Home-grown companies tend to stay in the area that they are from, which especially pays dividends when the companies see great success.
“Great entrepreneurs aren’t always small,” Kazmierski said. “Sometimes their ideas take a while to get traction but they grow into great companies and that’s what we’re always looking for moving forward.”
The Reno and Las Vegas Gener8tors will partner with the Nevada State Small Business Credit Initiative to accelerate and invest in at least 10 small businesses and startups each year. Companies that earn a spot in the accelerator will receive $100,000 in funding from the Gener8tor and Nevada State Small Business Credit Initiative. In addition to capital, the program will also provide participating companies help with mentorship, growth planning, investor pitches and finding customers.
Social equality and access will be a big part of the program, according to Joe Kirgues and Troy Vosseller, Gener8tor co-founders. The company says it will focus on “investing across race, place and gender along with a national network of companies, investors and relationships to Nevada to incentivize companies to start here, 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 lift the state in the process. The same is true, whether it’s in Las Vegas or Reno, Kirgues added.
“We’re really looking at companies as a catalyst for growth, not only for their own sake but also … for Reno,” Kirgues said.
Startups play an increasing role in Reno, which saw the sector raise a record $1.4 billion in external funding in 2021 — 15 times the amount it raised in the previous year.
Schieve described the arrival of the Gene8tor accelerator as a reflection of Reno’s growth.
“Today’s announcement that a top-ranked accelerator will be investing in and accelerating companies in Reno shows the world what our community has known for a while,” Schieve said “Reno has arrived, and we will welcome the innovators and those with a dream who want to start their businesses here.”
Nurturing startups is especially important for Las Vegas, which was hit especially hard by the pandemic due to a higher reliance on gaming and tourism. Reno, for example, has recovered faster from the impact of COVID-19 due to its more diversified economy.
“Las Vegas has more than 1,200 startups, and they are critical to the present and future of our city’s economy,” Goodman said.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development called accelerators a key component of any region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Accelerators have been tied to employment growth, as well as an 85% reduction in the failure rate for businesses due to the resources and expertise they provide, according to the agency. The Gener8tor alone has helped create 8,000 jobs and raise $1.2 billion in total funding through its participants.
The Reno and Las Vegas accelerators should also benefit from federal funding that the Nevada State Small Business Credit Initiative is currently applying for, according to Karsten Heise, GOED’s administrator for the SSBCI program.
“The emphasis will be on equitable access to capital as innovation is everywhere, but equal opportunity is not and Gener8tor is an ideal partner in this endeavor,” Heise said.
Reno’s housing affordability crisis also came up at the event, especially as it relates to any potential growth that can come up from it. Schieve responded that housing is a challenging problem that is not unique to Reno. The city, however, is looking at all options available, whether it be zoning, assisted dwelling units or public-private partnerships.
Kazmierski echoed Schieve’s comments.
“Housing is an issue across the entire country,” Kazmierksi said. “I can tell you there is a concerted effort to address that issue as a community.”