Startup founders building connections
The entrepreneur culture of Silicon Valley crossed paths with Reno’s startup culture recently during a networking event at Whitney Peak Hotel.
The Founder Insights networking and panel event included a free-form discussion that was very relaxed and extremely positive, according to Craig Macy, moderator of the panel discussion and an attorney with event host Fennemore Craig law firm with a focus on intellectual property.
“It felt like I was back in the Bay Area again because of the style,” he said. It was “the type (of event) everyone used to get in Silicon Valley.”
For a number of years, Renoites have been comparing the growing entrepreneurial culture of the Biggest Little City to the early days of Silicon Valley. Adding more opportunity for collaboration and the exchange of ideas and success stories only increases the points of comparison.
Startup founders in Reno are “just as smart, just as ambitious as any I’ve dealt with in the Valley but tend to be more isolated,” Macy told the NNBW.
About 80 people attended the Founder Insights event, which was the target number to keep the atmosphere intimate and provide opportunity for startup founders to connect with other startup founders.
“Honestly, I think the best advice (an entrepreneur) is going to get is talking to someone who just did it successfully instead of sometime in the past,” Macy said.
The panelists for the Founder Insights were all founders from the Reno area whose companies have survived the early days of their startups and have begun to scale up. They were Bombora co-founder Rob Armstrong, CAEK co-founder Katie Lay, Dragonfly co-founder Denis Phares and Flirtey cofounder Matt Sweeny.
During discussions, a couple points repeatedly came up, Macy said.
“People tend to think that as a CEO, their life is glamorous, exciting,” he said. “But the reality is that daily they face manic depression. It’s extremely challenging.”
Flirtey’s Sweeny joked that at least twice a day as a startup CEO he faces an “existential dilemma” and wonders if his company is going to survive.
The challenge is to maintain a zone of stability around you, Macy said.
Raising capital is the other challenge repeatedly expressed.
“It’s not access to capital, it’s the amount of work and commitment required to chase down the capital to go to the next level,” Macy said.
It can take 200 meetings with angel-level funders to stir up a small amount of interest.
Venture capitalists may have funds to spare, but they also work hard to ensure those dollars go to companies that have what it takes to succeed. Macy’s friends in the Bay Area have told him they may only find about eight deals for every 1,000 to 2,000 meetings with startup representatives.
Startup founders need each other to learn the best ways to create successful companies, and more than ever in the last 12 months, Macy said, he has seen entrepreneurs building a variety of companies working together and backing each other.
To keep Reno’s momentum going as an incubator for startups, more networking events like Founder Insights are needed.
“I have a happy feeling,” Macy said. “Don’t miss the next five-year runway. A lot could change a lot of success. A lot of people are trying to do a lot of things.”
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.