Reno has been compared to Silicon Valley, however three successful startups explain why they favor the biggest little city.
Rising rents and crowded freeways have put tension on the American Dream in the Bay Area. Tech giants have staked their claim in the region and are enticing not only startups, but talented people who are striving for something more. U.S. Census data taken in the Bay Area showed an emigration in 2016. Educated tech workers are moving out of the area and many of them are coming here to Reno.
VentureBeat talked to three Reno startups about their growth outside of the tech metropolis of Silicon Valley.
Nate Pearson founded TrainerRoad on the simple idea that he was a broke college grad who couldn’t pay $20 per class for triathlon training. In 2011, Pearson wrote his own workout software to help him do the training without going to a class. He then recruited his old coach and launched the power-based training software. Now, TrainerRoad has 56 employees and is a net-profitable enterprise without any venture or angel funding. Pearson and his cofounders began with $10,000 and have financed their growth through cash flows.
The company believes in hiring its employees as they can afford to and markets to a niche consumer base via a podcast. Support staff responds to mentions of the app on biker forums to keep its presence relevant. Engineers are hired for projects through sites like Stack Exchange, and many of them are not coming from the Bay Area.
“It’s possible to build a successful startup with VC investment and hiring in the Bay Area,” Pearson told VentureBeat. “There’s not just one way to do it, especially if you’re not shooting for the moon.”
Their approach to business allows TR to train its customers without worrying about investor exit strategies. Next on their agenda is incorporating more outside analytics and adding more workouts.
Launching in NYC in 2015, Capstak soon discovered enough talent in Reno to transplant operations there. Heather Goldman actually came up with the idea for Capstak when she founded CapitalThinking in 1999. She sold the company five years later, but still held on to the same concept – financing real estate globally in the age of the internet. Capstak leverages Amazon Web Services along with the internet’s other inventions of the past 10 years. Goldman points to tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Tesla, all with facilities in Reno. Tech workers are ready to work hard for a local startup.
“Any honest employer will tell you recruiting is hard. But we have people here who want to stay here and raise families,” Goldman said.
She dubs the rise of tech hubs as “cross-pollination”. Comparing Reno’s business community to a combination of people who were raised here and who moved here, a perfect mix for growth.
Amazon and Facebook have earned their riches from collecting and studying behavioral data online and Bombora does just that. The only difference is that Bombora is interested in a business-to-business context. Founded in 2014, the company got its name from the waves that form over an offshore reef which creates a surge that surfers love. The surge in business data is what has powered Bombora’s growth.
Building up a sales force in Manhattan, the company decided to settle in Reno when the time came to expand its engineering and other staff. The community of computer science grads from University of Nevada, Reno was a big pull for Bombora. Many of the grads want to stay in the area, as their cofounder and CTO Rob Armstrong discovered. This sets apart the Reno workforce from the Silicon Valley job surfers.
“As long as you pair with a top university that has a lot of smart people, it’s not much different from the Bay Area,” Armstrong told VentureBeat. “A lot of what a startup needs is doers. If you can find doers who will stay with you for many years, the value is enhanced every year. The money goes a lot further.”
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