One of the benefits to riding across the country with a group of uber-connected entrepreneurs is that they’re well….connected. In the case of Vegas, we had a hookup at one of the hottest new night clubs in town, Hakkasan. After shaking hands with the club promoter, letting the bouncers and hostesses try on Google Glass, we were on an elevator, headed to the 4th floor of the club.
Long story short, my wake-up call came WAY earlier than I expected. All the same I jumped out of bed with enthusiasm because we were headed to Downtown Las Vegas. Downtown was once the center of gaming in Las Vegas after its legalization in the 1930’s. As the industry boomed, Las Vegas grew from a sleepy city of 5,000 to the nearly 40 million visitors seen annually today. Soon the bright lights of the downtown casinos were dimmed by the mega resorts on Las Vegas Boulevard that we all associate with the city today. As tourism shifted to the miles of resorts south of town, the downtown district suffered.
Tony Hsieh is changing all of that. The CEO of Zappos moved to Las Vegas in 2004 to scale his start-up and has since been a champion for the Vegas community. He’s ponied up $350M of his own money to re-develop the downtown area, relocating the Zappos HQ to the old city hall and buying up every piece of property he can to form what looks like a llama shaped plot of city blocks (seriously…he’s obsessed with the animal).
His dedication to the growth of Zappos, the entrepreneurial community and the education system in Las Vegas is nothing short of amazing. Seeing his vision taking shape from the top story of the Ogden building inside the penthouse he calls home blew my mind.
What really got to me was the blending of his Zappos Corporation and the entrepreneurial community. In designing the new HQ, Tony and team studied the corporate campuses of Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and more. The common thread in all of these places was the open format that encouraged collaboration and ideation with other employees…Tony wants to take it a step further. Rather than simply collaborating with other Zappos employees, Tony is building a downtown that encourages his three C’s (Community, Collaboration and Co-Learning) among his Zappos employees, start-up entrepreneurs and any other companies who locate to the area.
Open co-working spaces, community arts centers, coffee shops, dog parks, stages where you’ll be able to catch a TED talk on your way to work, new early childhood learning centers, bars and restaurants make up the re-imagined area. In the blistering heat of the desert, this section of downtown is beginning to take shape as a business oasis.
As I’ve discussed previously on this blog, there’s a symbiotic relationship that must occur between corporations and the budding entrepreneurs of the world. What Tony is building isn’t simply an innovative way to build a corporate HQ, it’s the way corporations will need to operate if they are to thrive. We’re now in a world where you must disrupt of be disrupted…immersing your employees with potential disruptors can do nothing but help the chances of succeeding together.