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Ambitious Downtown Project Hopes to Make Techies Sing "Viva Las Vegas" by Lindsey Holmes SXSWORLD: How much of a role did proximity to Zappos' headquarters play in determining that Las Vegas was the best place for the Downtown Project? Tony Hsieh: We actually moved Zappos from San Francisco to the Vegas area back in 2004. The original reason for the move was because we wanted to build the Zappos brand to be about the very best customer service and customer experience, and nobody in the Bay Area wanted to do customer service as a career. Vegas is a service-focused, 24/7 town. We are currently in a suburb of Las Vegas called Henderson. In September of this year, we'll be taking over the former Las Vegas city hall in downtown Las Vegas and making that our permanent headquarters. By coincidence, our new Zappos campus is located just a few blocks from an area of downtown Vegas that most tourists don't know about called Fremont East. If you hang out in Fremont East, you would have no idea you were in Vegas. It's very community-focused, has a lot of entrepreneurial energy, and there's no gaming in any of the bars or restaurants. In many ways, it's like the complete opposite of the Strip that Vegas is typically known for. How do you build community in a place that seems so transient? I think you just need to know where to look. Most people, even locals, don't know to look in areas such as Fremont East and the Arts District. They don't know about things like the Downtown Speaker 40 S X S W O R L D / M AY 2 0 1 3 COURTESY OF DOWNTOWN PROJECT " Entrepreneurial Energy x Diversity of Perspectives x Culture of Openness/Sharing/Collaboration." That's how you build a fertile startup community, according to Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos and the Founder of The Downtown Project. This $350 million project, based in downtown Las Vegas, seems to be about community development as much as it is about incubating Vegas startups. The project will combine real estate, shipping containers, small business, education and tech startups to make downtown Vegas a hub for technology and co-working. If building a startup, and moreover a startup community in Vegas, seems unlikely, Hsieh's reasoning is simple, a little scientific and even a bit metaphysical. By developing an urban core with a "residential density" of at least 100 people per acre, ground-level gathering spaces, an opportunity to experience nature, infrastructure that reduces the need for a car and a platform that creates sharing and collaboration, you create an intentional environment of "serendipity." The result that he hopes for is an environment of diverse perspectives, an open exchange of ideas and an acceleration of learning. In other words, the creation of perfect community. No one understands the value of community like Hsieh. Zappos' community and customer leadership models have won countless awards, sustained a fluctuating industry through economic downtimes and netted a cool $928 million for the company under acquisition AUGUST 11–14,2013 by Amazon. Hsieh recently discussed LAS VEGAS, NV his journey to empower small business, support creative sustainability and build transformative technologies, all in five years. Zappo's CEO Tony Hsieh (right) pictured with Senior VP Fred Mossler. Series ( where we have amazing speakers every week. They don't know about our monthly "Inspire" events where people from the community give talks about what inspires them. The Downtown Project seems like a key model for creating a startup epicenter as well as general urban redevelopment. Will The Downtown Project expand to other urban environments for similar rollouts, or is your focus solely Vegas? We plan to open source everything and share what works and doesn't work on the website. Our hope is that we can help inspire other communities and cities to reinvent themselves. How has your corporate ideology as CEO of Zappos influenced your purpose for The Downtown Project? How are the motivational lessons that you teach your employees being applied to develop and grow this startup community? As Zappos, our #1 priority is company culture, with the belief that if we get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand and business, will just be natural by-products of that. Ultimately, it's just about delivering happiness to customers, employees and our business partners. One of our realizations at Downtown Project was that culture is to a company as community is to a city: it's the same concept, just at a different scale, and things like being open, collaborative, helpful and sharing are just as important. It's also about delivering happiness, except now it's about the community and the city, not just a company. Can you tell us about some of the projects that you are incubating? The exciting thing about downtown Vegas is that we have entrepreneurs from all different industries and backgrounds. There are startups in tech, fashion, music, arts, restaurants, bars, manufacturing and much, much more. We had one visitor recently describe the new downtown Vegas as an "Entrepreneur's Disneyland," which I thought was a great way to describe the vibe here. ■ SXSW V2V will debut in Las Vegas on August 11–14 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Tony Hsieh will deliver the Opening Keynote address on Monday, August 12.

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