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Startups contest faces voting delay

Anne Knowles
aknowles@nnbw.biz

Project Vesto, a contest for business start-ups sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, has suffered another delay.

The final phase of the contest — public voting to determine the winner — was originally slated to take place in April. The dozen finalists, some of whom had already starting to deploy social media and advertising to drum up votes, were told in late March voting would start April 12, but were informed on April 10 that it was being delayed a few weeks into May.

“We needed to gather more information from all the finalists,” says Daniel Herr, Project Vesto program manager with the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization (NIREC), the nonprofit that is conducting the contest under contract with GOED. “We may have jumped the gun a little.”

Herr says the information the project is seeking from the finalists includes details about business licenses and previous funding, the specifics of which were laid out in the contest rules. Herr is also requesting finalists’ mentors to contact them to help develop appropriate milestones for each potential winner.

“A mobile welding company, for example, may have different achievements than one building an application,” says Herr.

The milestones will be used to dole out the prize money — the winner receives a quarter of the $100,000 prize immediately, another quarter when the business incorporates and the remainder after meeting certain goals.

Herr says NIREC is working to ensure it meets the terms of its agreement with GOED.

“We don’t anticipate there will be a problem,” he says. “We have to do our due diligence.”

Most of the seven finalists in northern Nevada said they had already been contacted and asked to provide the additional information.

This is not Project Vesto’s first delay. The contest, announced in October 2012, called for applications due by Nov. 30. Qualifying applicants then were supposed to present their ideas in five-minute pitches to a panel of experts at events held in Reno, Las Vegas and Elko. Those events were originally scheduled for December with finalists being announced in February, but the live events didn’t take place until February and the 12 finalists were revealed in March.