Downtown Las Vegas has a new investor. Well, sorta new. The Mill, a branch of the Vegas Tech Fund, opened up shop in January and is funding entrepreneurs in the earliest stages of developing their businesses.
“We want to help make Las Vegas a hub for entrepreneurs,” says Sara Vainer, who heads up the fund. “One of the ways to do that is to lower barriers [so that] entrepreneurs don’t have to drop their day jobs.”
Housed in Work in Progress on 6th Street, the Mill invests $5,000 in a new entrepreneur every week and provides a two-month membership to the co-working space as well as access to mentors. It’s modeled after a similar program called Start Garden in Grand Rapids.
While the Tech Fund looks to invest in companies that have already been through a business accelerator or raised initial capital, the Mill targets individuals or small teams hoping to test and refine their business ideas. Entrepreneurs will leave the program armed with a stronger business plan and pitch, says Vainer.
Vainer says she’s already receiving between seven to 10 applications per week from a diverse pool of people. And not everyone is pitching tech startups, although those are the most popular so far. One of the most recent awardees, Cheryl Nishi, plans on starting a Las Vegas Photo Collective, where photographers and artists can meet to collaborate and network. Charles Huang, another entrepreneur in the Mill, wants to make donating to charities easier with a platform called Charitweet, already in beta.
If you were at First Friday recently, you might’ve seen a group of guys with markers, Post-it notes and a Las Vegas map. These were the founders of Urbane, a startup whose city maps offer snappy assessments of streets and neighborhoods. (Their Viva Las Vegas map dubs Fremont East “hipster rejuvenation” and the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard between Sahara and Charleston, “wedding chapels abound.”)
Founders Kevin Chung, Trevor Felch and Jared Feldman have produced maps for 21 cities, and came from San Francisco to participate in the Downtown Project. At First Friday, the Urbane team gave locals the chance to tag their neighborhoods with Post-its as part of a new interactive layer they will be working on in the near future. Many of the tags included memories, such as high school affiliations and places where people met their first loves.
You can purchase prints, T-shirts and mugs of Urbane’s maps from their website. Many of the prints would be pretty cool to hang on your wall.
Banjo, Moveline Win Tech Nevada Honors
The Technology Business Alliance of Nevada hosted its annual Tech Nevada Honors, commending entrepreneurs for enhancing the local tech community, April 23 at 1 Oak. Banjo, an app that allows users to view all social media posts aggregated around news events such as the Coachella festival or the clashes in Ukraine, won the Technology Company of the Year award. The company has raised a total of $21 million to date, according to TechCrunch.com. It’s headquartered in Redwood City with offices in Las Vegas.
Moveline, a website I probably should’ve used for my move to Las Vegas from the Bay Area, took the prize for Tech Transplant of the Year. The site allows you to organize your move, compare moving rates and hire trusted companies. Founded in New York, Moveline is coming of age in Las Vegas thanks to help from the Vegas Tech Fund.
Here’s the full list of awards:
Technology Company of the Year: Banjo
Tech Product of the Year: FSL3D, 3D printer
Entrepreneur of the Year: Zach Ware, Project 100 and WIP
Most Promising Early Stage Start-up: Skyworks Aerial Systems
Tech Transplant of the Year: Moveline
Technology Star in the Public Sector: Thomas Wilczek
Spirit Award: Downtown Podcast
Technology Executive of the Year: Jeff Oberschelp
Nicole Ely covers the Vegas tech scene for Vegas Seven. Got a story tip? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tweet her at @ElyWasHere.