RENO, Nev. — Sam Gbafa had his focused narrowed.
The founder and CEO of tech startup Lorable, a choose-your-adventure platform aimed at writers and readers, had just finished presenting at 1 Million Cups on a Wednesday in early August.
The weekly event, held at the University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center, showcases Northern Nevada startup companies and offers them guidance through Q-and-A sessions and feedback from attendees — many of whom are successful entrepreneurs in their own right.
After fielding feedback from the audience, Gbafa walked away with a clearer understanding of what he needed to focus on: his company’s focus, as it turned out.
“Lorable is a platform that is very broad because anyone can choose your own adventure of any genre — and I’ve always been pursuing it as this very broad thing,” Gbafa said in an interview with the NNBV. “But the notion of focusing really allows me to narrow in on what we should go after, what markets we should go after.”
Specifically, Gbafa was encouraged to market his choose your adventure platform to young teenagers.
“It is almost obvious now that it’s been presented to me, but it’s very valuable to have those reminders,” Gbafa said.
It’s a microcosm of the benefits entrepreneurs can gain from participating in programs like 1 Million Cups Reno, which is one of roughly 180 1MC communities in the country.
Zachary Draper, West Regional Rep of 1MC, launched the Reno chapter in 2013 after recognizing a lack of support for area startups.
Prior, Draper had launched a Reno chapter for the Under30CEO organization, which later evolved into Entrepreneurial Minds.
“There was a big movement to help small businesses and give them the resources they needed, but these new businesses were kind of ignored,” Draper told the NNBV. “We thought startups were underserved at that time and that it would help bring some energy to that movement.”
With that, 1 Million Cups — a free nationwide program designed to educate, engage and inspire entrepreneurs — began brewing in Reno in 2013. Since, more than 200 unique local startups have presented at 1MC Reno, Draper said, and between 40 and 50 people of varying industries attend weekly. Typically, two startups present each week, he added.
“The startups really benefit from getting the opportunity to speak in front of a friendly audience,” said Nathan Digangi, 1MC Reno lead organizer. “The presenter will leave here knowing what kind of thinking they need to focus on and be more clear about which direction they should spend their future going.”
Speaking from personal experience, Gbafa said programs like 1MC Reno are “essential” to the local startup community.
“It’s not like we’re the Bay and there’s a bunch of things going on,” he said. “Events like this are really what help our local startups make the connections we need to survive.”
1 Million Cups Reno is held every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the UNR Innevation Center.