“For startups, what makes Las Vegas special is not the bright lights, gambling or endless entertainment opportunities on the Strip. It’s the tremendous strength of the local community, and the opportunities available through it.
Most cities list local accelerator programs as a major selling point to attract startups to their area. These programs are valuable, offering office space, mentors, peer networks and funding sources to aspiring entrepreneurs, but they often operate as separate microcosms of innovation, independent of the community at large. The Las Vegas community is being built to facilitate collisions, to foster innovation, collaboration and growth. In Las Vegas, the community is the accelerator.
Work in Progress, a local co-working space, home to some 35 startups, operates a 8,400 square foot facility in the heart of downtown and is actively building out tens of thousands of square feet of additional workspace.
Mentor opportunities for Las Vegas startups are constantly expanding. In addition to breadth of experience offered by community members, regular events like the Downtown Speaker Series bring in top-rate mentors every week. In some cases, these events are grouped around a common theme to engage people with similar interests. Fashion Week, for example, held the third week of every month, brings in designers, company founders, and other experts in the fashion space to help facilitate growth in the burgeoning fashion community here.
In addition to the focused efforts of the Speaker Series and others to bring mentors to the area, the constant flow of visitors to the Las Vegas area provides startups with unprecedented access to meaningful mentorship.
The Las Vegas peer network is supportive and engaging. Regular events, including trivia, a Tech Jelly and a live-recorded podcast, serve to bring together startups, mentors, and other community members. There are also several residential and commercial areas where founders and employees live, work, and play together. The downtown combines the connectivity of a small community with the resources of a big city.
The final resource most accelerators offer is access to funding. The Las Vegas community has that as well. VegasTechFund, where I’m a partner, is a $50 million fund focused on investing in passionate startup teams and has supported 41 companies over the past 18 months. For very early seed-stage companies, Progression Labs provides resources and funding. Additionally, Vegas Valley Angels and the newly-launched VC, Battle Born Venture, offer numerous funding opportunities across the Las Vegas region.
In the spirit of Vegas, some of the local fixtures are a bit unconventional. Downtown boasts a fashion co-working space that offers classes and equipment for aspiring designers to establish skills and relationships, and to start production. The Downtown Container Park, a new retail incubator opening in October, will house dozens of small retail stores and food outlets to provide additional space for collisions and innovation. Downtown Las Vegas also anticipates the addition of a small-batch hardware production facility that will be located downtown and will benefit companies focused on growing the direct to consumer ecosystem.”