Tony Hsieh’s Big Las Vegas Vision

Michael Tchong

When it comes to big ideas, it’s not surprising to find Zappos.com co-founder and CEO, Tony Hsieh, outlining Las Vegas’ innovative future. Where others see emptiness amid a 1.5-square mile stretch of land, Hsieh sees innovation. In fact, he’s so certain of his vision that he plans to invigorate the startup culture to the tune of $350 million.

His idea is to turn downtown Las Vegas into an inventive, pioneering metropolis that houses startups and co-working spaces where cutting-edge inventions are an everyday occurrence.

Hsieh’s vision of building an innovative downtown Las Vegas “is the residue of his long-held philosophy that serendipitous ‘collisions’ between people spark ideas and relationships that foster deeper ties and even more ideas.”

Hsieh’s main goal is to establish the world’s largest co-working space “where fledgling companies, independent entrepreneurs and angel investors toil in an informal cooperative setting — and a thriving tech ecosystem of young start-ups while burnishing downtown’s downtrodden reputation.”

Hsieh doesn’t understand what all the hype is about. He considers this project similar to the one that got Zappos.com up and running. Out of the $350 million, $200 million is allocated to develop/purchase land and buildings, while $50 million will be distributed to technology startups.

The other $50 million will be used to encourage small, local businesses to spring up in the downtown area. The remaining $50 million is going to be used for educational and community projects. It’s not surprising that Hsieh’s plan is directed at companies within the tech sector. He envisions these companies as crucial to helping improve Las Vegas’s economy.

This year, the most popular cities for venture backed startups are San Jose, New York, San Francisco, and Boston. Why wasn’t Las Vegas anywhere to be found on the top 20 list? According to Mark Heesen, the President of the National Venture Capital Association, it all has to do with Las Vegas’s lack of engineering talent.

Although some may balk at Hsieh’s plan, his vision is certainly not unrealistic. San Francisco has experienced a 13% growth in tech startups since 2001, and 36,600 people in San Francisco currently work in the tech industry. Likewise, Los Angeles is also a budding area for startups, with more than 500 located throughout the sprawling city.

Despite the dire predictions of many who claim that it takes years to build vibrant cities, Hsieh is confident that his revitalization plan will be a success. He claims that the city will be a “completely transformed area in a few years.” In fact, “people will say what the hell happened?” Bingo!