When you think of Nevada what comes to mind? For many the things that come to mind have to do with desert and Casinos. Well even google and other search engines do not disappoint you – they will bring out those two elements. After I received news of being selected for the Mandela Washington fellowship and given placement in Nevada, I thought – O wow, of all places…a quick internet search gave me highlights of Nevada being a desert and home to several gambling casinos. I soon accepted my fate and started connecting with other people placed at University of Nevada via Facebook and whatsApp.
We soon arrived to Reno, the place that would be our home for the next 6 weeks. We quickly immersed ourselves in the town after learning of many other beautiful things about this state. With beautiful sierra mountains having amazing hiking trails and home to the beautiful Lake Tahoe. We soon met with friendly people willing to engage with us on the program, sharing business tips and hosting us at their homes.
For a long time the major source of income to state of Nevada especially Reno has been tourism especially from people who come for gambling. Over time because of its no policy of income tax, it became the preferred town for people retiring who come over to avoid income taxes charged by other states. This consequently meant that generally there is a high population of retirees as younger people left to other states in search of opportunities.
A group of people decided that they needed to do something about the lack of opportunities in Reno. The gambling industry seemed be the only option for many young people and it too was affected by the depression. They started a startup culture where they encouraged all those interested starting their own business by providing mentoring under various programs. In collaboration with the city authorities they set aside a street with surrounding areas, which they called,‘start up row’. This was to encourage startups to set up offices in areas next to each other so it is easy for them to interact and for people coming into the city to locate the businesses. The startup row is Reno’s startup community and a fast-growing entrepreneurial scene.
The business on Reno’s Startup row range from restaurants, bars, co-working space, studios, coffee shops, angel funds, innovative solutions, and mentoring services. It is a case of knowing what you have, looking for collaborations, and helping one another to succeed. They are so committed to one another that it is ‘Reno versus the world’ and not so much competition among-st themselves.
My take home from this particular experience was the importance of collaboration versus competition.