Las Vegas isn’t Silicon Valley, but a number of startups have chosen the city to put down roots and launch companies.
Even better, most plan to stay. Why?
But Las Vegas’ appeal goes beyond their involvement. With a low cost of living, a 24-hour economy, a hearty convention industry and easy access to international travel, the valley is an ideal launching pad for tech junkies and entrepreneurs.
Who are the business builders here? Meet several local tech companies you may not have heard of:
Nihongo Master | Las Vegas
Taylor Dondich wanted to learn Japanese before traveling to Japan in 2011. So he read textbooks and studied using the Rosetta Stone learning program.
He eventually learned the language but felt the process was frustrating.
When he returned home to Las Vegas, Dondich, a software engineer, hatched a plan for a language-based startup: Nihongo Master, an online school that teaches Japanese.
“It helps you become very proficient in Japanese in a very short amount of time,” Dondich said.
The web-based classroom provides users with lessons, drills and quizzes, beginning with the basics. Students learn how to read and write Hiragana and Katakana — Japanese syllabary — then progress to learning grammar.
Dondich said it takes about two years of using the program regularly to become fluent.
Much of the site’s content is free, particularly for beginners. A subscription to access lessons for more advanced students costs $12 a month.
Since its release in January, more than 20,000 people have used Nihongo internationally.
Four employees, three who live in Brazil and Japan, control the company, which Dondich paid for out of pocket.
On choosing to launch in Las Vegas: Dondich is a Las Vegas native, so it made sense for him to launch his company here. But his decision also was strategic.
“This has become the hotspot to have a startup company,” he said.
Teamly | Las Vegas
It’s not easy being a manager. You have to delegate tasks. You have to manage employees. And at the end of the year, you typically have to grade workers’ performances and identify areas that need improvement.
Scott Allison set out to streamline that process while helping employees excel in their careers.
In 2009, the tech veteran and London native founded Teamly with a $200,000 investment from the VegasTechFund.
The company now is based in Las Vegas. Its main product lets employees set and organize five main work priorities, which managers can then monitor to evaluate employees’ progress. Allison describes Teamly as “a company’s social network.”
More than 3,000 people have used the program, including employees from Google and the Canadian government.
On choosing to launch in Las Vegas: “Before I moved, I was a little apprehensive,” Allison said. “But I have been more and more impressed with the things going on here as more companies have arrived.”
ParentPost | Las Vegas
As part owner of the SpringStone Montessori Preschool, Scott Knight saw an opportunity to improve communication between parents and teachers.
So he designed ParentPost, an online app that uses emails and text messages to update parents about their children’s progress throughout the day.
Teachers can use ParentPost to snap photos, write captions and send daily updates to parents.
Knight, a former real estate agent with a background in programming, now is working to expand the app to allow teachers to send alerts to parents about nap time, diaper changings and feedings.
“Its still pretty much in its infancy stage,” Knight said.
On choosing to launch in Las Vegas: Knight said Las Vegas is the best place for startups outside the Silicon Valley because of the growing tech scene.
“It’s great to have that community available to you,” he said.
9Seeds | Henderson
John Hawkins left Southern California a decade ago to work for a Las Vegas tech company.
“Within a few months, we all quit our jobs,” Hawkins said.
The company now has nine employees and more work than it can handle. More than 70 million users connect to WordPress today.
When Hawkins scheduled his first WordPress meeting in Las Vegas, three people showed up — his wife, his computer-illiterate friend and himself. His most recent meeting got 500 responses.
On choosing to launch in Las Vegas: Hawkins said Las Vegas has become an ideal tech community.
“Los Angeles is almost a 24-hour town,” said Hawkins, who often works late at night. “Las Vegas IS a 24-hour town."
clippPR | Las Vegas
Exposure is vital in the tech community. That’s how companies get the word out to investors, who fund their efforts.
It’s also a common tool in the public relations business, where the goal is to get a story, video or campaign as much exposure as possible.
Thomas Knoll rolled out clippPR to help both groups by tracking a company’s online exposure.
If a company has a story, blog post or video it wants to track, clippPR helps it tag the URL so that the content is monitored as it gets clicks. ClippPr tracks all the comments, conversations and shares attached to it.
On choosing to launch in Las Vegas: Knoll said Las Vegas’ low cost of living keeps him here.
“For about a third of the price of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, I get to have a four-bedroom house,” he said.
Bluefields | Las Vegas
A billion people play in 20 million sports games every weekend.
That’s exactly the market Andrew Crump hopes to tap.
Crump, a former semi-professional soccer player from the United Kingdom, founded Bluefields, which gathers team and league information from organizers of local sports events and blasts it out to players via mobile app.
In his playing days, Crump spent four to eight hours a week sending out schedules, ensuring that people paid their league fees and making sure players showed up to the right place at the right time.
He launched Bluefields after raising about $1 million in capital from a top accelerator program, 500 Startups.
“It solves problems for people running the stuff,” Crump said.
Since it went live in January, more than 60,000 users have signed up with Bluefields.
On choosing to launch in Las Vegas: Crump said he is invigorated and encouraged by local startup companies’ “eager willingness to learn.”
CrowdHall | Las Vegas
The Internet has changed how people communicate with friends, family, businesses and even elected leaders.
CrowdHall hopes to organize those conversations.
Co-founded by medical school dropout Austin Hackett, CrowdHall creates a forum for users to ask a subject — a company, entertainer or politician — questions.
The only catch is that not every question makes the cut. Users can reject or accept questions as part of a crowd-sourced conversation.
Last week, top-ranking questions were posed to the UC Irvine admissions office, a mental health expert and members of the hard rock band Lamb of God.
Hackett said his inspiration came during the past primary election, when he noticed a politician airing questions he pulled from his Twitter feed.
“It’s not very engaging,” Hackett said. “It’s not very fair. Not only are they providing the content, they’re deciding what they want.”
With CrowdHall, users — not the person in the hot seat — decide the top issues.
Hackett and his team raised more than $700,000 from several sources, including the VegasTechFund and the Brandery accelerator program, to launch the site.
WinTech | Las Vegas
WinTech’s success was serendipitous.
Frank and Mike Yoder, veteran software engineers from Virginia, planned to go into business providing IT solutions for local companies.
But once they opened WinTech, they realized they needed a receptionist. Rather than hire one, they created a virtual one.
In 2010, ALICE was born. ALICE stands for “A Live Interactive Communication Experience.”
The system was designed to connect hotel managers and visitors via two-way video call. Today, virtual receptionists answer calls for all types of businesses and send callers to phones or voicemail accounts company officials choose.
Six staffers man WinTech, which serves 70 customers, mostly hotels that don’t offer concierge services for guests. ALICE uses in-room televisions to provide guests with an on-demand concierge service.