LAS VEGAS -- With one of the Downtown Project's first startup companies leaving the valley for San Francisco, some are left wondering whether Las Vegas has the infrastructure to sustain startups long-term.
Romotive CEO Keller Rinaudo said the robotics company needs a wider talent pool and closer access to industry professionals.
"I don't think that it's any one thing is lacking," he said. "I think it's like with any company, with any really ambitious startup … it's a matter of finding the right people and the resources you need to make the vision come true."
When the Vegas Tech Fund first invested in Romotive, the company had three employees. The company has since grown to 20 staff members.
The tech fund, backed by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and other investors, poured $500,000 into Romotive, money that the fund doesn't expect to be paid back.
During a keynote address at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, Hsieh described the Downtown Project as seeking from the startups it funds not so much a return on investment, but rather, a return on community.
Vegas Tech Fund partner Andy White said he doesn't look at Romotive's departure as a loss.
"Each community has a variety of assets and resources that create the environment for the company," White said. "It's going to be different for each company."
Since Romotive's announcement, the Nevada governor's office is taking a closer look at what it's going to take to keep growing startup companies in the valley.
Rinaudo said for his company to keep growing, it has to leave Las Vegas for the Bay Area.
"You start with a vision and you look at what you currently have, and you're not there yet," he said.
He added that Romotive is seeking better access to the robotics industry -- specifically in startup hub Silicon Valley.
Company employees, he said, are already commuting once a week to the Bay Area.
"It's a matter of finding the right people and the resources you need to make the vision come true," he said.
Justin McVay, information technology specialist for the state's Office of Economic Development, said conversations need to continue between these Las Vegas-based startups and area universities and community colleges.
By doing so, he said, this could help pinpoint what training the local workforce needs to fuel downtown startups.
White says accommodating the needs of these companies is key.
"I don't know that the question is, what we need to have to keep them," he said. "I think it is what the community here is providing, to allow others to grow and expand in a similar way."
Rinaudo said it is natural for companies to grow, change and move and says it's possible for other Vegas tech companies to do the same.
"If we can encourage, and also serve as a connector between the two ecosystems, we want to do that," he said.
Romotive will begin moving out of the Ogden in downtown Las Vegas, and into the Bay Area in June.
McVay said the governor's office is hoping to help foster conversations between the key growth industries of aerospace, defense, healthcare, renewable energy, mining, gaming and tourism.
(Online news reporter Nicole Lucht contributed to this story.)
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