The Spring 2021 InNEVator cohort started 7 weeks ago with an in-person/online hybrid model. Teams met for the first time at the start of the program, and have since been working remotely. The cohort teams plan to reconvene for the final week to pitch their companies to investors. Though some teams chose to return home during this remote period, two teams – Drank and Giftata – chose to remain in Reno for a majority of the InNEVator program to get to know our community and decide if Reno is the right fit to launch their businesses.
Drank is a mobile platform that makes it easy for customers at bars, coffee shops, and food trucks to order directly from their phones. Drank’s app reduces restaurant queuing, provides digital menus, and uses artificial intelligence to provide food and drink recommendations based on a customer’s taste palette. Businesses that have integrated the Drank platform can streamline their customer’s experience, reduce the burden of crowds, and lead to increased profit margins.
Drank founders, Eric Liao and Taylor Epp have leveraged their time in Reno to meet with local business owners to gain a better understanding of their needs and explore integrating the app into their existing business processes. A key value of the InNEVator program for Drank was the connections and mentors that they were introduced to, such as Bryan McArdle from the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN). Eric and Taylor said that being connected to Bryan and EDAWN made the biggest difference in their decision to launch Drank in Reno. Bryan is a part of the entrepreneurial development team at EDAWN that helps local startups find the resources they need to start, run and grow a business. For Drank, the connections that came through EDAWN’s support helped them gain traction and enabled them to get their company kicked off with Reno businesses.
Paired with the partnerships in town, Eric and Taylor also received regular mentoring and workshops in InNEVator. Going through the program while working with their partners was a great experience for Drank because it allowed them to directly apply this new knowledge when talking with their customers. As they have become connected to our Biggest Little City, the Drank team is more convinced that this is the right place to launch their company.
Look out in the coming months for the Drank logo (or Innevation Center makerspace-made Drank coasters) at your favorite coffee shops, bars, and food trucks as they launch their pilot program with select partners. You may get a chance to see their app in action before it hits the larger market.
Also exploring Reno over the last few weeks is Giftata, a gift-discovery platform that combines custom-tailored recommendations with event reminders such as birthdays and anniversaries. Giftata’s proprietary algorithm provides unbiased recommendations that are personalized to each user, removing the generic gift ideas traditionally found when searching online.
Jake Fowler, the founder of Giftata, has been spending the last few weeks getting to know the Reno community. When not in InNEVator workshops, Jake has been exploring midtown, snowboarding at Mount Rose, and meeting with his mentors. Jake shared that the advice he has received during the program has been one of the most valuable parts of his experience; he felt that the mentors continually challenged him and gave feedback that allowed him to refine his company and better understand the value that he brings to customers.
The hybrid online/in-person format for the InNEVator workshops opened up a new opportunity to host speakers from all around the US. This variety in content and speakers provided Jake and other program participants the opportunity to see their companies through the eyes of other entrepreneurs and subject matter experts, which, as Jake shared, greatly enhanced the value of the program.
Why did Giftata choose Reno? Jake first launched his marketing campaign with a very broad net and found that Nevada made up about 500 of his early users, with more than 400 of those being based in Reno. Once he was accepted into InNEVator, Jake took the opportunity to get connected to our community and to learn more about his customers here. He plans to spend the next six months continuing his product improvement, fundraising, developing his team, and is looking forward to being further connected to our community.
Giftata and Drank will be pitching to investors later this week at the InNEVator Demo Day on May 6th.