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Connecting the community: Encouraging entrepreneurs to scale their business (Part 3 of 3)

PART 3:  Encouraging entrepreneurs to scale their business

THIRD IN A SERIES: This the third in a series of three stories discussing shifts in tech industry trends that could make a positive impact on the Nevada County tech economy. This story was originally published in The Union newspaper on November 11, 2018.

Like Tech Meetups that pop up all over, co-working spaces and makerspaces that will help the ecosystem become more connected are multiplying and expanding in Nevada County.
Jamie Orr, co-founder of Tahoe Mountain Lab co-working space in South Lake Tahoe, discussed the importance of such places.

“One of the great benefits of things like makerspaces and co-working spaces is they become modern community centers,” she said. “They bring a lot of people in the community together – not just entrepreneurs.”

Morgan Goodwin, a Truckee Town Council member, is a firm believer in the power of makerspaces. He co-founded Truckee’s Roundhouse makerspace.

“Makerspaces provide a space for entrepreneurs and inventors to meet,” he said. “They are an important part of a tech ecosystem. Connecting artists with engineers can break down barriers.”

Truckee Roundhouse Makerspace
At Truckee Tahoe MakerSpace events, residents learn how to use tools on anything from introductory projects to inventing advanced devices. The class, hosted by Slow Food Lake Tahoe, helped about 20 people build planter boxes and make local food more accessible.
Nevada County Success Stories

Successful companies pave the way for other successful companies. And there are many success stories. Small, tech-driven companies that have nothing to do with video are demonstrating that it is possible to thrive in Nevada County.

In Western Nevada County, Autometrix, which manufactures automated fabric cutting machines and the associated software, and Floracopeia, a privately-owned e-commerce operation that sources and bottles essential oils and natural skin care products, are both examples of successful local companies that are growing. Local software start-up Traitware recently secured a million dollars in funding, partly because they positioned their company as part of a tech hub.

Eastern Nevada County has its own success stories represented by a diverse mix of existing ventures and startups: Likemoji, which helps businesses improve customer experience, companies that create apps for health and sports (Stomp Sessions, Heads up Health, Keep on Movin’), and disruptors like Clear Capital, a tech-driven real estate valuation solution provider that started in Truckee and has expanded into Reno, to name just a few.

Finding the Space to Connect

There are obstacles to building this ecosystem. Eastern Nevada County’s tech ecosystem is challenged by a lack of space. Goodwin believes that a conveniently located physical hub is critical for Eastern Nevada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to thrive: “We have a large community of people who work for tech companies, but there is no point of connection,” he said. “We need convening spaces — physical spaces to hold events, be a social and physical hub. This would translate talent into collaboration. There is incredible value in accidental encounters.”

Rachel McCullough started Tahoe Silicon Mountain (TSM) eight years ago in Truckee for just this reason. TSM is a non-profit organization that fosters innovation, cultivates curiosity, and facilitates personal connections in the Truckee-Tahoe community through regular community events, workshops, showcases, and collaboration. Her monthly networking and educational events have grown from 5 to 10 people to over 100 attendees at the largest events.

But space is a challenge for McCullough as well. The gatherings have become so popular that their regular venue feels a little too cozy at times. “It is an enormous challenge to find an affordable venue for our monthly event,” said McCullough.

Start a Company

Goodwin sees a bright future for Nevada County. He encourages everyone to get involved and to play their part in the ecosystem: “We can all get together and create the best infrastructure in the world, but if no one is actually putting their ideas out there and putting in the work as an entrepreneur, asking for funding, then we’ve built a really nice glass house with nothing inside it,” he said. “We need a success story to put us on the map with angel investors as a place with start-ups.” McCullough adds: “All six of the businesses who pitched at the Tahoe Pitch Showcase a year ago are still in business and I am told some have received funding. I personally haven’t seen a lack of effort or entrepreneurs. It’s the support systems we need to work on to help them succeed.”

Want to get involved? The Nevada County Tech Connection and Tahoe Silicon Mountain are good places to start. Find events for tech professionals and entrepreneurs throughout the county on NCTC’s calendar. Join NCTC’s tech business and talent directory. Go start a company.

Erika Kosina, who lives in Nevada City, is a communications consultant and writer for the Nevada County Tech Connection.     

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