InNEVator learns how to accelerate companies remotely during COVID-19

Group of people standing in front of a believe sign

The InNEVator 2020 cohort in downtown Reno.

The InNEVator is an eight-week bootcamp designed to fuel seed stage companies to get to market faster. This accelerator is in its fourth year actively living out its mission to “Empower a diverse group of talented entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market from ideation to scale in Northern Nevada.” Even in the middle of a global pandemic, that mission stays true. 

It was week three of the program when COVID-19 disrupted the innovation taking place among the cohort. Just a week before, workshops with mentors were facilitated in large conference rooms with everyone huddled around the table eager to learn about how to advance their businesses. On March 17th, Nevada’s Governor, Governor Sisolak, ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and encouraged people to work from home. InNEVator workshops quickly moved online as members of the cohort made their way back home to be with their families during this time. 

As the world adjusted to social distancing, meetings the companies had scheduled in their calendars with mentors, investors, and potential clients all moved online. Suddenly they found their days filled with back-to-back Zoom meetings, and their new challenge became finding time to implement the new ideas they had gathered. Despite the additional challenges, partnerships and friendships had already been cultivated both within the cohort and with mentors they had met through the first few weeks of the InNEVator program. The teams have used these relationships to continue collaborating closely despite the physical distances as the second half of the program unfolds.

For some, virtual meetings have been productive and efficient but looking at this type of meeting format in the future just isn’t 100% feasible. It’s hard to replace that energetic feeling of being in a room with the program mentors during a workshop or the quick Q&A that happens as everyone walks out of a room. Attempting to decode body language when you’re in different locations has shown to be difficult despite the video streams. While there is nothing like being together, the distance has driven the teams to think differently about how to connect with each other, potential investors and customers. 

Even with a pandemic ravaging the world, the members of the InNEVator continue to feel positive about the accelerator. COVID-19 may have disrupted the program but the support from the InNEVator has never floundered. The co-directors, Grace and Jim, as well as the program manager, Crystal, continually offer their encouragement and support which really keep things moving forward.