Presented by EDAWN
Reno, Nevada is no stranger to reinventing itself. Gambling and tourism used to be the the backbone of the city’s economy. When the Great Recession hit in 2007, it crashed Reno’s gaming, housing, and job markets. During this time, Nevada had the highest unemployment and home foreclosure rate in the country. Reno, which was heavily dependent on the gambling industry, had a downtown littered with boarded-up motels and casinos. It was a wake-up call and an opportunity to reinvent itself and diversify the economy. And that’s what sparked a now vibrant startup community. Over the past three years, nearly 100 companies relocated or expanded to Reno-Sparks, many of which were technology-based.
Reno has become a rapidly expanding and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem of startups with one crucial missing element — ample investment seed funding. Organized angels and professionally managed funds can fill that gap. According to Bryan McArdle, Vice President of Entrepreneurial Development at Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), “Angel investors have a passion for entrepreneurship and find the challenges exciting. About 78 percent of the venture capital in the United States goes to three regions which include Silicon Valley, New York City and the Boston area. The rest of the nation split up the remaining 22 percent.” That’s starting to change as places like Reno, Nevada; Madison, Wisconsin; Columbus, Ohio and Fargo, North Dakota are beginning to get the attention.
As EDAWN aims to assist companies in relocating to the Reno-Sparks region and help existing companies grow and expand, they wanted to work with the local investment community to achieve viable funding options. The Reno Seed Fund was created to invest primarily in established companies in the blockchain, biotech, IoT, advanced manufacturing, and hospitality industries. The Reno Seed Fund was established thanks in a large part to local angel investors Eugene Wong and Wendy Alderman who held frequent fundraising dinners. McArdle has seen other communities take their small funds and grow them to much larger funds with much success. He’d like to see the same diversified portfolio growth here with the Reno Seed Fund being the leading fund in Nevada.
Recent success stories include ClickBio and ShieldIO. Mykle Gaynor is the founder and CEO of ClickBio, a startup company here in Reno that designs and makes medical plastics and devices for medical robots. The devices contribute to the research for finding solutions and cures for all sorts of medical conditions (for example, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s) through medical research companies globally. According to EDAWN’s McArdle, “We connected with ClickBio at a good time when they were thinking about creating a new company. They went through our mentorship program and we connected them with some local independent investors. These are the types of companies that are perfect for a local seed fund.”
ShieldIO is a cyber security company that is shifting the way people are thinking about securing their data. They pair their partners and clients with simple and innovative solutions that change expectations about what’s possible from a data security company. “The co-founder and CEO, AJ Jennings, has seen the momentum in Reno/Tahoe for several years and is excited to build his company locally,” shared McArdle.
To showcase companies like ClickBio and ShieldIO and to create better access to seed capital, EDAWN is sponsoring an inaugural Reno Venture Conference funded in part by a grant provided by the U.S Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This May 14-15 event will bring together regional angel investors, venture capitalistsm and the region’s rising startups to showcase a growing ecosystem of technology and talent in Northern Nevada.
The two-day conference includes angel education workshops, panel discussions with active angel investors, pitches from the rising pre-seed and seed stage startups, including the UNR InNEVator IoT accelerator companies. The event culminates with the announcement of funding into a select group of startups at all stages. Ray Muzyka, co-founder of BioWare, a video game development studio focusing on story and character, and an active angel investor, will speak about entrepreneurial leadership. Angela Lee of 37 Angels out of New York City will inspire others, especially women, to pursue angel investing.
In closing, McArdle shared something from Jason Calacanis, an American Internet entrepreneur, super angel investor, author, and blogger. Calacanis meets with 25-50 entrepreneurs to choose the one to invest in. His philosophy is that founders deserve an hour of his time and you have to put in the work. And that’s the kind of thinking that fuels McArdle’s passion for funding startups ti Northern Nevada. “We need to inspire our investors to participate and put in the time. Make this a team sport. This is just the beginning of a more connected startup community.”
To learn more about the Reno Venture Conference and discover what the “Biggest Little City in the World” has to offer entrepreneurs, see https://www.renoventureconference.com/.
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