Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Las Vegas Project: New Startup City?
Two months ago, I got to hear Tony Hsieh of Zappos talk about his new project – the takeover of Vegas City Center and the revitalization of the 500+ blocks of Freemont street for startups. Since I am here for CES, I had some time to visit the park and learn a little more about his idea. What I didn’t expect was open arms and 36 hours of hanging with some new friends.
I met Lindsay and Mike at CES. They were pushing PWRglass – a battery for your Google Glass. We did a quick interview and with the bustle of CES, they moved on in the distance.
On Sunday, I stopped by Zappos and Container park to find out more on the shops who got approved to be there. Many fashion, some food and a lot more. Kids playing in the playground, music on the stage — it felt like a great community area.
As I was walking back to the Plaza, Lindsey stopped me and invited me back to the Ogden – a place for startups to come together and be a community. Looking like a hotel, the rooms are suites where your team can co-exist.
The team sat me down and showed me not only PWRglass in detail, but also their other new project called NameTag. It just debuted on CNN that morning and they were getting lots of invites to their beta program.
What I didn’t expect was the knowledge of the downtown project (hashtag: #dtlv) between Mike, Lindsey, Sean and the rest of the group. I learned why Tony Hsieh chose this area, who was involved in the revitalization and a lot more.
They invited me to go on the town with them and see what is going on. We saw so many great collaboration spaces that my mind was spinning. We started by walking over to the Ogden, but first a stop at Local Motors — a place where you could fabricate custom car parts.
They had a container out in the parking lot which opened up as a coffee shop. Run by a generator on the side, you could plug in your Hybrid or Electric car, get some coffee, then head to wherever you need to go.
We spent some time at their suite learning about some of the projects they are working on (along with Nametag and PWRGlass). I learned about some of the people here, including Kevin Allen Tussey’s Fridge Locker – a cage for your food so no-one steals it.
Then it was off to the many shops. I met Mike — one of the people that helped put this area together. He has a few shops including “Pork and Beans” inside the container park.
I also was introduced to Mohawk Matt, the owner of Bolt Barbers. His shop is within two train cabooses! The best part was his logo, which was filled with hidden meanings such as the tails of the monkeys were shaped in 911 remembrance. Also, the monkeys beards said they love Mohawk Matt. He told me there are more hidden gems, but the graphic designer wouldn’t let him know what they were.
We also stopped over at Golden Spike – an old Casino that Tony turned into a hangspace, bar and diner. Apparently, Tony eats there all the time! In the back was an ice rink and some small cabins which will eventually be turned into housing for those needing a place to stay while in Vegas.
Speaking of which, there are also a series of streamline RV’s which they will eventually turn into a motel. The park has not been completed yet, but the amount of trailers looked impressive in itself.
I sampled the night life at many of the venues Hsieh has. From the Beat coffeehouse – listening to Elton John on Vinyl – to trying and find the hidden speakeasy entrances in a couple of the bars.
It’s not all party, though. We sat in the usr/lib area and talked extensively about the startup community here. Mike and Lindsey told me of many instances where they would run into other big name hackers, social media and company CEOs. Just last week, Elon Musk was hanging at the Spike.
I have the opportunity to go back there for the next 10 hours and learn more, so I will be doing that today. ITM — here are some photos of the Downtown Las Vegas project.