Startup offering services for autistic children gets financial boost by winning state contest

Owner Andrew Devitt talks about the arson-caused fire at Sport Social Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

Sport-Social, a Las Vegas startup business that helps autistic children, won a state-sponsored contest, meaning it is now eligible for $100,000 in seed funding and support.

Founded for $15,000 by 22-year-old therapist Andrew Devitt in 2011, the business was one of 12 finalists in the competition, called Project Vesto, administered by the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization.

Over 20 months, Sport-Social, 7055 Windy St., near the intersection of Warm Springs Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, grew to employ 20 people and it services 225 children each week using sports and the arts to foster social interaction. It suffered a setback in April, when the business was hit by an arson fire that caused about $50,000 in damage, mostly from charred walls and water damage from the sprinkler systems.

Sport-Social will receive a $25,000 check at a ceremony in July. The company will need to reach various milestones to obtain up to $100,000.

Through Project Vesto, Sport-Social will also gain access to a network of angel investors, experienced entrepreneurs and consultants who will help the company grow.

“Start-ups are an important component of Nevada's economic development plan,” said Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The contest drew 232 entrants. Of the 12 finalists, seven were from Northern Nevada. People who logged into the Project Vesto website were allowed to vote on their favorite startup.

Other Southern Nevada finalists were Arsilica Inc., which makes specialty glassware; Jadon Foods, a gluten-free bakery; ListSanity, a social media tool to create lists to share with friends; and Fitronix Inc., which provides real-time performance monitoring (in weight training).

The Reno finalists are: High-powered Mobile Welding and Repair; Hotlap.co., an app to monitor training and racing performance; Loogla, a way to learn a language online; Marie Gibson Management and Consulting LLC; NTI Products, which makes hanging pictures easier; Reno Public Market, local artisan food producers; and Trust Your Journey LLC, which sells various products online.

Sponsors of the contest included the city of Reno, InNEVation Center powered by Switch, Wedgies, Brennan Capital Partners, the Growing Worldwide Opportunity Foundation, Sierra Angels, HelioPower, the Law Offices of Snell & Wilmer, and Robert C. Anderson.

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