Reno, Carson City incubators helping grow next generation of economic leaders
March 9, 2018
RENO, Nev. — According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20 percent of new businesses manage to keep the lights on past one year of operation. That was the case two decades ago and remains the case today.
However, of those companies that make it past the one-year mark, roughly 50 percent have to pull the plug after five years, according to the BLS.
This, one might argue, is why incubator/accelerator spaces like the Innevation Center University of Nevada-Reno and Adams Hub in Carson City are especially important for the growth of economic leaders in Northern Nevada and beyond.
But first: What is an incubator?
"… It creates a community or ecosystem for people that are starting businesses or may own a small business that's starting to grow," said Miya MacKenzie, chief professional officer of Adams Hub, located in downtown Carson City. "It's providing the services for startups and small businesses that they need."
At Adams Hub, the services are a wide swath of options, from the ordinary needs — coffee, office space, conference rooms, more coffee — to the advanced access — administrative interns, admission to events and mentor support.
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The latter, Adams Hub's mentor program, is the "heart and soul" of what the incubator offers, MacKenzie said. Within the program, each startup gets its own dedicated mentor team, which is made up of local entrepreneurs, business executives and experts of various areas who volunteer their time.
"The nice thing about being in Carson City is we came in here with the spirit of collaboration and we don't feel like we're competing with anybody else," MacKenzie said. "Even if there were another incubator in Carson City, we're all going to have our different culture and vibe and attraction."
At any given time, Adams Hub, which launched three years ago, houses roughly 15-20 companies, coming from different parts of the region, country and globe. Like any incubator, Adams Hub has an application process and membership pricing based on the needs of the startup.
"It's pretty amazing who just randomly walks in the door," MacKenzie said. "Something about being a small town, that's how people normally engage with us; they just walk in the door."
A project of the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation, Adams Hub has a mix of clients steeped in technology — from smart candles that can be lit with an app (LuDela) to management software for goat herding (Easy Keeper) to a tool for citizens to give rapid and frequent feedback to their local governments (FlashVote).
"It's been really nice to just connect to the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is really Northern Nevada plus Lake Tahoe," MacKenzie said. "Everyone is super collaborative. I've been shocked and pleased by that entrepreneurial spirit."
Fueling the fire
Jim Sacherman, director of the UNR Innevation Center, is seeing firsthand a high level of collaboration and innovation inside the incubator located on Sinclair Street in downtown Reno.
After all, the massive 28,000-square-foot center, which includes three floors and a "Makerspace" basement, is filled with creative minds of emerging global tech companies.
"We've got six funded growth companies in the building," Sacherman said. "They're all tech businesses, real startups, that have a real possibility of creating success in our Northern Nevada ecosystem."
One such company is Breadware, creator of a hardware and software service that can be used by entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to develop products in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. The tech company uprooted from Santa Barbara, Calif., and planted in Reno roughly a year ago.
"It's a great collaboration place," said Larry Crapo, vice president of product development at Breadware. "We were immediately involved in other startups here and helping them and kind of mentoring them."
In fact, Breadware assisted fellow startup Think BioSolution, an original equipment manufacturer out of Dublin, Ireland that's building privately labeled IoT devices using sensor technology to help athletes build endurance.
"(COO) Daniel (DeLaveaga) and his team at Breadware helped us fine tune our technical road map by doing an engineering validation testing to internally establish the accuracy and reliability of the sensor," Shourjya Sanyal, CEO of Think BioSolution, said in an email to NNBW.
'You need to be here'
The Ireland-based company was one of three startups selected for the center's new InNEVator 2017 accelerator program — a six-week "IoT boot camp," Sacherman said — that launched last fall.
The other two tech startups in the program are SimpleSense, which develops sensors, such as those for websites, and NCS Cylinders, a startup founded by three UNR alumni that aims to improve the mechanisms that track and control oxygen tanks for use in the hospitality and retail industries.
Eric Kanagy, co-founder at SimpleSense, said the accelerator program gave their business a pivotal push forward. The startup recently launched their first sensor, a human presence sensor based on infrared technology.
"Very few investors and founders pursue hardware startups because of the additional barriers to just getting your product to market, in addition to the normal sales channel, funding, and customer challenges," Kanagy said in an email to NNBW. "InNEVator and the Reno IoT ecosystem hack the hardware startup challenge, converting a normal year-plus product development cycle into weeks or months. If you want to do hardware and don't want to fail, you need to be here."
Funded by sponsors and investors, InNEVator 2017 provided funding to those selected into the bootcamp.
Sacherman said the center is currently raising money for four more IoT boot camps — one in the fall and one in the spring for the next two years. He said the goal is to run another 15 companies through the InNEVator program during that span.
"I fully expect to keep at least half of those companies in Reno once they arrive," he said. "It's pretty attractive. Once you get them here and they see what's going on and see the opportunities we have locally without missing the connection to the Bay Area because we're so close … I think they see it's a very effective place to grow their business."
The Makerspace effect
A huge asset to startups in the Innevation Center is its Makerspace carved out in the basement. The expansive space, which houses everything from a laser cutter to fifteen 3D printers, is especially useful for prototyping, said Mykle Gaynor, CEO of Clickbio, which manufactures labware/plasticware for laboratory automation.
"Having access to the 3D printing facilities downstairs, we an print an idea, establish which part of it is bad, and then fix it and iterate it in a day," Gaynor said. "So you can get through your bad ideas to get to your good one very, very quickly."
This, Gaynor said, is rarely the case in other incubating cities.
"We work as hard as the people of San Francisco," Gaynor said, "but because of our access to resources and our proximity to everything, we can get more done in the same amount of time.
"Everybody says it's 'more chill' in Reno. It's not, you work just as hard, but you can get 20-30 percent more done because I can go get answers to my questions immediately. And I can get to work in 10 minutes. Everything is so close, and the community is so tight."