While businesses across the country have shuttered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Reno-based tech accelerator is working to build diversified businesses in Northern Nevada.
RNOX officially opened for business on April 2. Founder Shaunt Sarkissian said the website and its infrastructure were ready to launch at that time, and it made no sense to delay the opening amid the virus outbreak.
“Everyone said, What are you doing? This is the crazy pandemic time,” Sarkissian said. “I said our plan is still our plan. … We have plenty of companies applying.”
The accelerator’s 16-week program — Rapid Entrepreneurial Accelerated Launch, or R.E.A.L. — is meant to create sustainable companies from startups focused on at least one of five verticals: financial technology, software as a service, data security, distributed ledger technology or blockchain and gaming innovation.
The program offers startups $100,000 in capital, a collaborative work environment, mentorship and investor connections. Companies must have a minimum viable prototype and demonstrate an economically viable demographic to be accepted.
“At the end we have our demo day, where we bring in people from all over the valley ranging from very large, well-known (venture capitalists) to family offices,” Sarkissian said. “Our goal is to get those guys funded within 90 days of leaving our program.”
The Reno area’s tech industry has already seen massive changes in the last decade, with the introduction of major tech companies like Tesla and Google. Sarkissian hopes the accelerator is able to propel Reno’s tech industry forward even further, and drive economic diversification.
“You need to create a stable, sustained (economic) base with multiple, multiple companies,” Sarkissian said. “I think our job is to really foster the acceleration of creating multiple small companies and acting as an enabler for those businesses … and really bringing talent (to Reno). We need to be a beacon for talent.”
While the accelerator launched in Reno just this month, Sarkissian already has plans to expand it into other markets like Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
RNOX plans to offer two programs annually that will hold five classes each. Signups are open online, and Sarkissian said the team is already going through the selection process for the first class, set to start in August.
“We want to continue to add value to the state,” Sarkissian said. “I think this state is heading in the right direction, in terms of economic diversification. But sometimes you need a catalyst to move you along faster.”