10 Las Vegas tech startups beating the odds
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Photo credit: Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce

Photo credit: Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce

Las Vegas attracts those with big dreams, including companies hoping to make their fortunes in industrial lasers, classic R&B concert films, and cannabis testing

When you hear “Las Vegas” you might squint to prepare yourself for the onslaught of neon, gambling, and more neon. You might also think about business, since it feels like every other convention in America happens in “The Gambling Capital of the World.” Soon you might start thinking about tech startups, because there are bunches hiding behind the glitz.

Incorporated just 106 years ago, in 1911, Las Vegas became the most populous city founded during the 20th century. Tourism started in the 1960’s, and the population nearly doubled between 1990 and 2000. All those visitors pay most of the freight, meaning few business-related taxes are levied. There is no state tax for individuals or corporations.

The infrastructure developed to serve the tourists help startups. You can get cheap airfare to and from Vegas to anywhere in the US and beyond. Conventions to highlight your products come to you. It’s close to Silicon Valley yet offers a low cost of living like in fly over country.

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh famously moved his company to Vegas a few years ago, and has since become the biggest supporter of the startup community. He made a $350 million commitment to the Downtown Project, including startup incubators, and the Innevation Center offers more startup support.

So who are some of the companies that you should know on (and off) the strip?

StreamNet

Photo credit: StreamNet

Photo credit: StreamNet

Every smartphone in every pocket is also a TV and movie screen. StreamNet TV knows restless eyeballs need soothing, and founder Darryl Payne plans to use music to caress those customers, drawing on his decades as a music producer.

Officially StreamNet and Darryl kicked off back in 1976, but the $10 million in equity funding that now powers StreamNet arrived in January of 2017 for a new and accelerated startup push. Classic R&B and soul groups might look like an odd product for a brand new digital TV service, but investors just made 10 million requests for their favorite tunes.

Full Spectrum Laser LLC

Photo credit: Full Spectrum

Photo credit: Full Spectrum

Industrial lasers cut and etch a wide range of materials in a wide range of industries. Full Spectrum Laser LLC provides lasers for the workloads and budgets of hobbyists to large manufacturing companies to universities. In 2015 they started shipping a series of 3D printers as well.

Founded by CEO Henry Liu in 2010, Full Spectrum received $10 million in equity capital from Summers Street Capital Partners LLC. Their estimate $8 million annual revenue puts them in the top three in their laser product market. Adding the 3D printers will only drive growth higher.

SocialWellth

Photo credit: SocialWellth

Photo credit: SocialWellth

People may ignore their preventative care appointments, but they love apps. So SocialWellth combined the two, plus more, as a “digital health optimization company.” Throw in a little gamification to help people take better care of themselves hassle-free, and you have a winner.

Founded in 2001 but taking off in February 2015 with an equity round totaling $7.5 million from Silver Stream Capital and others, SocialWellth now has 100 or so employees and $15.7 million in annual revenue at last report. They seem to be well positioned to shift with the health-care situation in the U.S.

Zirtual

Photo credit: Zirtual

Photo credit: Zirtual

As the world of work goes increasingly digital, virtual assistants make more sense than ever. Throw in a dash of the gigging economy, where one person needs many hustles, and a VA becomes more critical than ever. Enter Zirtual, well-positioned to take the lead in a growing industry.

Investors are placing their bets on Zirtual as well. Second in number of employees and revenue investment dollars in this developing market, Zirtual pulled in $5.3 million in three different funding rounds in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Soon, “have your people talk to my people” may be an all-Zirtual conversation. They’ve now partnered with Startups.co to expand their reach as well to education, business planning, and more.

DigiPath Inc.

Photo credit: DigitalPath

Photo credit: DigitalPath

Starting in 1998, DigiPath seems far too old to be a startup. A respected company with hundreds of customers for their pioneering digital pathology products, Digipath, Inc. pivoted over to the booming cannabis industry in 2010.

Starting with $5,000 of new money in 2010, they now total up to $8.7 million for their new focus on cannabis testing and news distribution. Nine rounds of funding sounds like a party in progress, and multiple investors and groups clamor to get in on the scientific side of marijuana legalization.

CatalystCreativ

Photo credit: CatalystCreativ

Photo credit: CatalystCreativ

With the tag line of, “A full-service experience studio geared towards millennials,” you know CatalystCreativ blazes new trails. Where better than Las Vegas for an “experience?” Nowhere, and clients such as Coca-cola, Dell, NPR, and many more have tapped the young-leaning creative brains of CatalysCreativ to up engagement and grab youthful mindshare.

Founder and CEO Amanda Slavin unleashed her creativity early on and became one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Marketing and Advertising. Starting in 2012 in partnership with Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, CreativeCatelyst now has more than 35 employees and over $4.3 million in annual revenues. Ask about their 7 Levels of Engagement for a real Millennial tutorial.

Methes

Photo credit: Methes

Photo credit: Methes

American consumers may not get excited about biodiesel, but the Methes customer base loves the fuel and loves making their own. Farms can run their tractors and other equipment on biodiesel made from their own crops and crop waste with product like Methes’ Denami 600 or Denami 3000. Methes put your biodiesel processor on your site as a full turnkey installation for your use or sale. Not glamorous, but making 6.5 million gallons of your own biodiesel can certainly glamorize your bottom line.

Bootstrapping since 2004, Methes earned an investment of $2.8 million in 2012 to fuel further product development and marketing. Now just over two dozen employees generate $5.4 million in annual revenue. If fuel gets expensive again, making your own will pay off better than house odds at the casino.

Medsonix

Photo credit: Medsonix

Photo credit: Medsonix

The Medsonix Therapy System sounds like an infomercial script with one huge difference: Medsonix’s low-frequency acoustic therapy technology is patented and is an FDA cleared Class One Medical Device. Treatment targets range from arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, MS, Lupus, Fibromyalgia and more. As we age, we’ll appreciate tools like these all the more.

Started in 2005 with an undisclosed funding placement by Da Vinci Capital Management, Medsonix has grown to over $2 million annually. Six therapy locations scattered across the Western US provide pain-relief therapy.

Zuldi

Photo credit: Zuldi

Photo credit: Zuldi

Customers love fast checkout, and Zuldi loves making a mobile terminal system. Their Point of Sale terminal software runs on iPads and Android tablets, and in the cloud. That makes it a snap to run reports from anywhere at any time.

Building your company on a cloud cuts development costs dramatically, and Zuldi lists a single debt funding round of $20,000 that has lead to over $1 million in annual revenue. Not much today, but somebody has to break open the POS space, and Zuldi has some interesting technology. People love using their phones to pay.

Animaker

Photo credit: Animaker

Photo credit: Animaker

If your investor pitch still relies on PowerPoint tricks, you need to grab some Vegas glitz. Animaker, a cloud-based online video content Do-It-Yourself product, can turn those wonky slides into infographics, custom typography, and up to 120 kinds of animated videos, all for a handful of dollars per month.

Apparently bootstrapped by founder and CEO Srinivasa Raghavan starting in 2014, Animaker leveraged the easy-start foundation of cloud services. Now over $1 million in revenue, with a subscription model that should trend up like a dancer’s high kick, Animaker may end the boring PowerPoint, at least for those clued-in to modern presentation styles. Companies like FedEx, Cisco, Ford, and Dell are making their own videos in-house and in Animaker.

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James Gaskin

About James Gaskin


James writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don't read his books and articles.

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