The Biggest Little City in the World wants you to know that it's more than a casino town. As founders flee competitive startup hubs like the Bay Area, lower costs and a deepening talent pool have entrepreneurs going all in on Reno, Nevada.

Companies to Watch

Breadware To cut operating costs, co-founders Daniel Price and Danny deLaveaga relocated their startup from California in 2017. It's a move that many other companies have made in recent years. Breadware, which helps companies build and launch products for the internet of things, is now in its fifth year and thriving: It booked $1.9 million in revenue last year.

TrainerRoad Reno's homegrown cycling analytics and training platform has bootstrapped operations since it launched in 2010. Co-founder and CEO Nate Pearson, who previously worked as a web developer for International Game Technology, started the business with Reid Weber and Chad Timmerman.

Panty Drop After launching her underwear subscription service in 2014, Julie Arsenault moved to Reno from San Francisco to give the business a little breathing room (financially speaking). Her gamble paid off: Panty Drop grew 200 percent between 2018 and 2019.

$46.9 million
Total VC funding in 2019.
Source: PitchBook
$72,219
Average salary of a software engineer in Reno--22 percent below the national average.
Source: Glassdoor

Where to Find Investors

The Reno Seed Fund, one of the city's first early-stage funds, invests in companies working on software, advanced manufacturing, and the internet of things. It's invested in blockchain monitoring and management startup BlocWatch, along with lab device maker Clickbio.

Thirty miles south of Reno, in Incline Village, is the Sierra Angels investment group. Founded in 1997, the fund has invested in business messaging app SnapDesk and STEM career training platform NCLab.

Best Co-Working Spaces

The Reno Collective, a co-working space located in a converted music studio, has offices, a 3-D printer, a vinyl cutter, and a soldering station. Plus, it hosts classes on programming, videography, and entrepreneurship.

The Innevation Center, part of the University of Nevada, Reno, connects the school's entrepreneurial community with the city's. Launched in 2015, it has hosted a dozen-plus startups, such as staff scheduling software maker StaffFox and laboratory device manufacturer Clickbio.

Notable Funding

$5 million Talage (digital distribution for commercial insurance)

$5.5 million BlocWatch (monitoring software for blockchain implementations)

$6.2 million NevadaNano (smart gas-sensor maker)

The Players

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Doug Erwin Charged with fostering entrepreneurship at the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, Erwin brings in founder-focused programs like networking organization 1 Million Cups. He suggests prospective transplants go to StartupReno.org.

Grace Chou Director of the University of Nevada, Reno's Innevation Center, a co-working and maker space for entrepreneurs, Chou develops and implements programs that boost the area's ecosystem, like the eight-week startup accelerator InNEVator. 

Gene Wong As managing partner of the Reno Seed Fund, Wong invests in a variety of startups, including those working on e-commerce, health care, and fintech. Wong's local investments include Breadware and Panty Drop.

Red Flags

While Reno's median home value is $389,280--about $1 million less than San Francisco's--the city's housing prices are rising at a rapid rate, according to Zillow.

Overcoming a reputation based on casinos and the incompetent cops featured in Reno 911! is a major hurdle for businesses trying to attract out-of-state talent, says Shaunt Sarkissian, founder of the new Reno-based accelerator RNOX.

It can also be difficult for early-stage startups to recruit talent away from behemoth companies like Apple, Tesla, Intuit, and Microsoft--all of which have outposts in the area. These tech giants offer competitive benefits that young upstarts can't match, says Brian Gifford, president of IT services provider BluePeak (No. 1,869 on the 2019 Inc. 5000).

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Where to Talk Shop

Many local startups, like real estate valuator Clear Capital, occupy a downtown area between the casinos and the Reno Arch. Co-working space Reno Hive opened there last year.

Maybe it's the 24-hour casinos that fuel Reno's love of caffeine. Old World Coffee Lab is great for a jolt--and a casual business meeting.

Talent Pipeline

Out-of-state hires, particularly Californians looking for low housing costs and a less cutthroat ecosystem, are vital to Reno's growth.

University of Nevada, Reno, produces a steady flow of engineering grads for local startups. And with plenty of prospects, those graduates are choosing to stay in Reno.

Tesla, Microsoft, and casino gaming company IGT have lured plenty of talent from other states. Those transplants have enriched the talent pool from which later-stage startups can poach.

Recent Exits

Cannabis logistics and software operator Blackbird Holdings sold to Tilt Holdings for $50 million (2018).