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Small business accelerator launches in Reno, Las Vegas (photos)

By Kristen Hackbarth

Photos by Ty O’Neil

An accelerator program to help budding entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground was launched Tuesday in Reno and Las Vegas. 

gener8tor Reno-Tahoe and gener8tor Las Vegas – not to be confused with The Generator arts and makerspace – are small business incubators that will annually invest in and give access to capital for 10 businesses each in northern and southern Nevada.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve at the launch of gener8tor Reno on March 8, 2022 in Reno, Nev. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Gov. Steve Sisolak – via livestream from Las Vegas – said the program will help build the state’s and city’s economies and support innovation. 

“I’m super excited about this partnership with the State of Nevada and the City of Reno,” Schieve said. “I’m a small business owner myself, I’m an entrepreneur, and I know how critical it is to foster our startup community.” 

Startups and small businesses will need to compete for a space in the 12-week accelerator program. Two cohorts of five businesses each will be selected to participate in the Reno-Tahoe program each year. 

Once accepted into the program businesses will be eligible to receive $100,000 investments from gener8tor’s venture fund, along with mentoring to support business development and strategic planning for growth. Entrepreneurs will also receive coaching and pitch meetings with investors to build capital for their business. 

The first cohort of accelerator participants will graduate from the program this year. 

gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues  said bringing the program to Nevada made sense. 

“This is a community that has gone out of its way to say that it wants to be nationally known for investing in its next generation,” he said. “gener8tor wants to partner with communities that are the most passionate about their next generation of leaders and builders, and this is where we needed to be.” 

Gov. Sisolak said he also sees the partnership with gener8tor as one that can build equity by giving a leg up to small business founders from lesser means. 

“Accelerators anchored in Las Vegas and Reno will provide a pathway for more businesses owned by founders from disadvantaged backgrounds to access the capital and mentorship needed to level the playing field and make certain Nevada is an economic powerhouse for generations to come,” he said. 

Start here, hire here, stay here

Business growth in northern Nevada in recent years has also helped fuel a housing shortage and increasing cost of living in the region as more workers move to the area. Kirgues and Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, said this new program isn’t focused on bringing more workers to Reno.

“We will bring our 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,” Kirgues said. 

EDAWN’s Mike Kazmierski speaks to media at the launch of gener8tor Reno on March 8, 2022 in Reno, Nev. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Kazmierski and Schieve both said aggressive efforts by public and private organizations and an historic influx of federal funds for housing initiatives, but “sometimes it could take a while to get shovels in the ground. Every city is seeing sort of this predicament, not just Reno,” Schieve said.

Kazmierski added that many of the new jobs companies bring to the area are filled by locals. 

“When a company comes here, 90% of their employees are already in the community,” he said. “When we announce a hundred people you don’t see a hundred people on a bus driving up over the mountain or driving from somewhere else….In many cases, because of the quality of jobs coming, they’re getting a higher wage. They’re getting a higher, better paying job.”

Kazmierski also said reports show 40% of the jobs that exist now won’t be around in a decade, so development of a new generation of jobs at higher wages is essential to keeping people employed. He touted what he called aggressive investment in workforce development programs as vital to helping local workers meet the demands of this evolving job market.

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