One year ago, Chris Hsu and co-founders Gregor Watson and Rob Bloemker teamed up to create a fintech startup that would revolutionize how independent landlords handle financial services. As a former US Army captain-turned landlord, Chris wanted to develop a solution for the challenges he faced in the real estate and rental and leasing sector. The result? Zibo.
Rebranded to Azibo in October 2021, the company has witnessed massive growth over the past 12 months, including a $130 million annual run rate in platform transaction volume and a month-to-month increase averaging 36 percent. What’s more, Azibo will hit a more than $1 million run rate target by the end of this year.
Of course, anybody who works in the real estate and rental world understands it’s all about location. So, what attracted Azibo to Northern Nevada? We posed this question (and a few others) to Chris. Here’s what he thinks about living, working, and thriving in Reno-Tahoe.
From Military Service to Entrepreneurship
Chris’s incredible transition from military service to entrepreneurship required an unmatched work ethic and willingness to go out on a limb in the fintech sector. What ultimately brought Azibo to Northern Nevada?
He explains, “We looked at many different markets around the country to be able to recruit and build a customer-focused operation. We heard about the investment and development activities in Northern Nevada and were inspired by other companies in the area. The more we researched it, the more we realized that it’s a small but growing market that’s really bringing top customer success and technology talent to the area.”
The Sweet Life in Reno-Tahoe
But Chris also had personal reasons to gravitate toward Northern Nevada. His family has long been coming to the Reno-Tahoe area because they’ve fallen in love with skiing and boating in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Chris finds it hard to beat Reno’s fantastic business climate combined with the ability to lead an active, outdoor lifestyle in an ideal location for raising a family.
Fortunately, working in the fintech industry comes with many perks, including flexibility. Chris observes, “Remote work allows me to create a hybrid model where we have our HQ in Reno where we’re building out core functions — including customer success, operations, strategy, finance, and eventually technology teams — with access to Silicon Valley resources so close by. The quality of talent in Reno is excellent, and the cost of operations is dramatically lower than the Bay Area.”
Beyond Silicon Valley
In Chris’s estimation, Reno-Tahoe remains one of the West’s best-kept secrets. “It’s a great area for any company. The talent, cost, quality of life, work/life balance. Now that we’re here, it’s unbelievable to me that there aren’t more companies in Northern Nevada. There’s no other place in the country where you have that kind of access to San Francisco, the East Bay, Sacramento. We’re even recruiting people from Los Angeles who want to be in Reno.”
What’s part of the draw for people coming from the Bay Area and SoCal? An alluring admixture of small-town friendliness, back-to-nature living, and sophisticated amenities. In Chris’s case, he’s taken rural living to the next level, something that would be difficult to replicate in Silicon Valley. “It’s great getting back to nature. I love having a ranch with cows, goats, chickens, cats, dogs, you name it. Having to deal with coyotes and bears puts the Silicon Valley life in perspective.”
Country Living With an Urban Edge
Yet, easy access to the best of urban living is never far away. What does Chris love most about Reno-Tahoe’s sophisticated side? A mouthwatering foodie scene. He has trouble deciding on one favorite spot: “I’m blown away by the quality of restaurants. The Atlantis Steakhouse is unbelievable, Oceano at Peppermill, Beaujolais on the Truckee River is a great romantic spot.” As a growing number of fintech industry entrepreneurs are finding out, there’s something for everyone in Northern Nevada.
Ready to learn more about life in the Truckee Meadows? Or maybe you’d like the inside scoop on the best tech jobs in Western Nevada? Find out where skilled workers are needed and get in on the many opportunities afforded tech industry members in Reno-Tahoe’s thriving innovation hub.
Engrid Barnett is an award-winning travel writer and digital content marketer based in Western Nevada. Recognized by the Nevada Press Association in 2019, her work has been featured in Nevada Magazine, Northern Nevada Business Weekly, Tahoe South, Rova, American Trails, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and more.
Follow along with us each month for Engrid’s special “Work-Life” review – featured exclusively on WorkLivePlayRenoTahoe.com