Tech startup Bookit Sports newest addition to RNOX’s inaugural R.E.A.L. program this summer in Reno | nnbw.com
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Tech startup Bookit Sports newest addition to RNOX’s inaugural R.E.A.L. program this summer in Reno

RNOX’s Shaunt Sarkissian and Juston Berg have a chat inside the Reno-based tech accelerator’s office space in south Reno in mid-July.
Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth in a 6-part series of stories dissecting Northern Nevada's growing startup ecosystem, in addition to the entrepreneurial mindsets and funding mechanisms that are increasing in size and scope to support it.

RENO, Nev. — In March 2019, Trent Attyah captured a moment on video he couldn’t wait to share on social media: a roommate flailing his limbs in disbelief after losing a bet on a full-court buzzer-beater of an NBA game.

The only problem: Attyah, then a junior at Texas Christian University, didn’t know on which social media platform it would be socially acceptable to share a sports-betting reaction video.

“It was super hilarious, and I just didn’t know where to post it,’” Attyah recalled in a phone interview with the NNBW. “My friend looked at me and said, ‘You know, I made a separate Twitter and Instagram accounts just to follow and post sports-betting content.’

“That was when it clicked for me — why isn’t there a platform that does this?”

With that, Attyah, a sports broadcasting major at TCU, stumbled upon an idea for a business venture and ran with it. Less than a year later, Attyah created the tech startup Bookit Sports, which he describes as the first “sports betting social media platform connecting the sports betting community on one centralized hub.”

It’s a mobile app that sports bettors — young and old, amateur and expert — have been looking and waiting for, Attyah said.

“I realized in the sports betting industry, there’s just a lack of engagement and content consumption,” he explained. “And it’s an industry that’s very archaic and very uninviting to a lot of people who want to engage in sports betting. We’re really trying to simplify sports betting by building a platform that provides the community with multiple avenues to engage, connect, and consume various types of sports-betting content.

“The industry basically needs a revamp.”

Trent Attyah, CEO of Bookit Sports, said the company’s app should be available for download later this year.
Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel

SEEKING ACCELERATION IN RENO

To rev up the revamp, Attyah and his fellow Bookit Sports’ founders are converging on Reno to participate in RNOX, Northern Nevada’s first tech accelerator.

The new accelerator announced its presence in April, and in mid-July started moving into its 6,000-square-foot Class-A office space at 10615 Professional Circle in South Reno.

Bookit Sports will be one of four startups going through RNOX’s R.E.A.L (Rapid Entrepreneurial Accelerated Launch) program, which will kick off on Aug. 17, said Shaunt Sarkissian, founder and executive chairman of RNOX.

“Sports gambling and the whole sports gaming arena have really been taking off,” said Sarkissian, pointing to Penn National Gaming’s recent acquisition of digital sports media giant Barstool Sports as a prime example. “There’s a lot of value of that diversification. Things are shifting away from physical casinos, and that trend was really shown by COVID.

“For us, it was a company that belonged here. We said, if you guys were going to headquarter that company anywhere, why would you put an online sports gaming company in Nebraska? You belong in Nevada. And if anything, you belong here in Reno.”

From left: RNOX team members Nareg Aghjayan (program coordinator), Shaunt Sarkissian (founder and executive chairman), Cameron Crain (co-founder and VP of marketing and investor relations) and Juston Berg (VP and head of entrepreneurial development) stand in front of the entrance of the accelerator’s 6,000-square-foot office space in south Reno in mid-July.
Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel

Attyah agreed.

“I have so much to learn about business and how to launch a startup and do it effectively and execute the vision,” he said. “I’m so excited to be able to utilize the resources RNOX is giving me while I’m in Nevada.”

With RNOX’s help, the Bookit Sports app will be available to download on iOS and Android later this year, said Attyah, who has not committed to a specific launch date.

He added that the startup was initially marketing to launch its app on Sept. 1, before the 2020 NFL season is scheduled to kick off (COVID-19 issues notwithstanding).

The company, however, wants to allow more time for the necessary beta testing, he said.

Attyah also said users would not be able to actually place bets on the Bookit Sports platform. However, along with sharing videos and photos, bettors will be able to create bet slips, share them with followers, and keep track of their betting history. Moreover, expert sports bettors will be able to sell their picks, he said.

He added that if Bookit Sports were to partner with an established sports book or casino it would create an opportunity for the platform to be used for legally placing bets.

A glimpse at the Bookit Sports app, which is slated to be available for download on iOS and Android later this year.
Courtesy Bookit Sports

With college and professional sports leagues largely sidelined by COVID since March, Attyah said there is a lot of pent up demand, especially in the U.S. After all, since the federal ban on state-authorized sports betting was lifted in 2018, 18 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have joined Nevada in legalizing sports wagering and four more have passed bills, according to the American Gaming Association.

“When sports do come back, everybody knows it’s going to flourish,” Attyah said.

‘ANY BUSINESS IN ANY VERTICAL’

Lake Tahoe-based BuildingBloc — a fintech company developing a blockchain-based solution to payment issues in the construction industry — will also be a part of RNOX’s inaugural fall class, according to previous reports. The other two startups accepted to RNOX have not been announced as of July 23.

Sarkissian said RNOX received north of 80 applications for its inaugural fall class. The accepted startups receive a $100,000 equity investment right off the bat, and are thrust into a collaborative work environment with executive mentorship, focused business optimization, and investor and venture connectivity.

Currently, the capital provided to the startups comes from third-party investors, Sarkissian noted. However, RNOX will “likely be transitioning” to creating an actual fund that would launch “in the next couple months,” he said.

“We’re targeting maybe the $5 million size,” he continued. “The capital will come directly from that fund. It will just allow us to streamline the operation a little bit. That’s something we have in process now.”

Moreover, in October, RNOX will be starting its MES (Masters in Entrepreneurial Sciences) classes, which will be held on four consecutive weekends. The program will be a combination of in-class and remote and is open to entrepreneurs and startups of all stripes.

“We take our 16-week R.E.A.L. program, condense certain elements of it, and make it applicable to any business in any vertical,” Sarkissian said. “Anybody from someone looking to start a company or someone with an existing operation and looking to take it to the next level.”