InNEVator 2020 wrap-up
Four seed-stage startups came together in Reno, Nevada for the spring 2020 InNEVator program. This accelerator is an eight-week, fully-funded bootcamp designed to bring tech companies to market faster. Hosted by the University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center—Powered By Switch and made possible by lead collaborator Blockchains LLC, the spring 2020 InNEVator focused on blockchain technologies. More than 60 companies applied to participate and four were selected. In early March, these startups from Canada, England, Poland, and Truckee, California temporarily relocated to the “Biggest Little City” to propel their blockchain based companies.
The program kicked off with a welcome breakfast and a week filled with mentor meetings, founder stories, and workshops. The following week included field trips to the Tesla Gigafactory, Switch data center, and Blockchains LLC in addition to even more mentor meetings and workshops.
During the third week of the program, operations quickly pivoted to an entirely online format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the additional challenges, relationships had been cultivated both within the cohort and with mentors. The teams remained positive and engaged, and used these relationships to continue collaborating through the second half of the program.
In the last two weeks of the program, the cohort focused on improving their pitches and getting presentations ready for the final event of the program. Rather than pitching to an in-person crowd full of investors, entrepreneurs, and mentors, the cohort presented their companies at a Digital Demo Day. Originally, the cohort was scheduled to present their companies during the Reno Venture Conference attended by regional investors and entrepreneurs followed by a community demo day. This event has been rescheduled for a date in August and the cohort will be invited back to present their companies in front of a live audience.
On Thursday, April 23, the cohort pitched their companies during their Digital Demo Day. Each company had 10 minutes to discuss their company’s products or services with additional time afterwards for Q&A. This Digital Demo Day was the culmination of eight weeks of hard work focused on accelerating these blockchain companies by providing them with mentorship, connections to the industry, and so much more.
Going digital for the Demo Day came with some challenges. From a presenter’s perspective, pitching your company to a virtual audience makes it difficult to see if they’re engaged in your presentation. The typical post-event networking opportunities were certainly missed, but the break-out rooms after the presentations and Q&A gave the audience members the opportunity to connect with the founders and ask further questions. Going digital also had its benefits. The flexibility of attending this event remotely afforded the audience ability to witness these pitches from anywhere in the world. Audience members joined us from around the country and around the globe greatly expanding the reach of these startups’ pitches.