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Why Vegas is a True Start-Up City #VegasTech

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So many headlines now read something like, “These Are The Start-Up Cities to Watch” or “This City Is The NEW Silicon Valley”, entrepreneurship seems to be the middle class answer to the loss of the 9-5.

Now many of you may not live near one of these cities or know what it is like to be part of the entrepreneur spirit that these articles write so fervently about, but I’m fortunate enough to live in one and not just a part of a valley, or a part of a town, but a true start-up city. One where every part of the city is touched in some way by this new spirit of the west, where baseball caps and smartphones have replaced cowboy hats and six-shooters.

Las Vegas.

Vegas Plus Tech Equals…

Las Vegas is about to hit it big, and we’re not talking casinos. Vegas is experiencing a renaissance, a renewal, nascent as it may be. Las Vegas is growing like a weed under professional grow lights. It is truly a historic time to live in this city once only known mainly for showgirls and blackjack (oh, we still love those too).

Now, some outsiders like to call this new Vegas tech boom the “Silicon Strip”, but with Vegas’s history somehow “Silicon” and “Strip” … well, they carry other connotations that feel less hip than they might in Silicon Valley. We locals affectionately call this new love of ours, Vegas Tech (#VegasTech for those on Twitter).

So, Vegas Tech? Some of you probably thought you’d never see those two words together. I know I didn’t. Having lived here for almost eight years, I’ve always had to find work outside of town. But Vegas Tech is real and this train is no steamer, it is a magnetic fast train, hold on tight! It really is an exciting time.

Tony Hsieh, Zappos and The Downtown Project

You might remember Paul Carr moved here a little while back, to launch what we now know is a project called “Not Safe for Work”. Backed by Tony Hsieh, Paul Carr is launching a news daily that will offer a new perspective on journalism – news with a touch of humor (if you know Carr’s writing, maybe more than a touch).

Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) is also investing a large sum of money into the Vegas Downtown area to foster innovation, a project commonly known as the Downtown Project.

The Downtown Project will mix arts, technology, and people to help foster “serendipitous conditions” and bring about change as an almost organic happenstance.

Along with the Downtown Project and the new tech community there is a swirling microcosm of “technepreneurship” known as the “Jellys” held every week at a local coffee-slash-art house-slash-late night adult beverage spot called the Beat.

The Beat is where 100-200 local tech entrepreneurs gather to share ideas, information, and the occasional nights of “werewolf”. From here have sprung start-ups such as Rumgr, Counterless and Romotive, either working in the usr/lib developing their biz plans or hanging in the Ogden next door.

The Ogden is the tech residence provided by the Downtown Project for many of the new techies and their companies, so they can synergize. Yes I said synergize.

As amazing, awesome, and important as these things are, Vegas Tech is so much more than just the Downtown area, the Jellys, and our “water cooler” The Beat.

The Skinny

So here is the scoop, Vegas from the inside out. Looking for a place to get above the noise? Thinking “I have a great idea, I don’t really want to go to Silicon Valley how will I ever stand out, but where else is there?” Well here is where we let you in on a few things you may not know about Vegas and our grassroots, bottom up, tech scene.

Now of course, this isn’t everything. For the full fat version, you need to come hang out at a Jelly and grab a “Slap and Tickle”. But this should get you going.

Vegas Tech – Undercover 2012

Some cool Vegas Tech happenings this year:

  • Tracky.com: VegasTech rolled out its first start-up. Backed by Vortaloptics inc, and headed by CEO David Gosse and CMO Jennifer Gosse, Tracky launched its new social collaboration tool at the Switch SuperNAP Stage, with celebrity appearances from Jerry Doyle and Robin Leach and a launch party at Mike Tyson’s “Hangover” House. (Hey we may be Tech, but we are still Vegas!)
  • SXSWi Start-Up Bus: Vegas was chosen as one of the cities for the SXSWi Start-up Bus this year. A sort of Start-Up Weekend on wheels, three of the four start-up ventures that started out in Vegas ended up in the Austin semi-finals. (We didn’t win, but hey not bad for a first time out)
  • White House Urban Economic Forum: Selected as one of 9 cities to host this forum, Vegas was offered many levels of support for its efforts in economic development especially in the area of technology.

Some cool Vegas Tech you’ve probably never heard of:

  • Switch SuperNAP: Switch data center is a one of a kind 2.2 million square foot's worth of data centers, holding more than 50 patents on cooling technologies alone, possessing a backbone hub of 27 networks, and 100% uptime. (Yes, really 100 percent uptime, not 99.999 percent) And icing on the cake, protected by former Special Forces, and a special note, no you really don’t want to be the one to have to do the onsite penetration testing.
  • InNEVation Nevada – Switch: This is Switch’s Digital Cities project, right now we are excitedly waiting the announcement, but as the website shows, InNEVation will provide investment in the VegasTech community at all levels; including education, leadership and entrepreneurship. This is going to be big, but we won’t know how big until they announce later this year, but think elephant not breadbox.
  • Digital World Expo#DWExpo in its second year, Digital World Expo is an annual conference highlighting emerging interactive and digital media channels, including social and search with in-depth workshops for attendees and new business for exhibitors and sponsors. (Special Vegas Note - Locally owned, DWE features a start-up stage, any VegasTech start-up - if selected - can use for FREE to pitch to the conference attendees and potential Investors. There is also a VegasTech exhibit at the Expo Hall.
  • Launch-Up: A monthly event, intended to help entrepreneurs present, discuss and refine their ideas. Launch-up has featured keynotes from Entrepreneurs such as Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Jason Mendenhall of the Switch SuperNAP.
  • Start-Up Weekend: An intense 54 hour weekend where people go from product pitch to judging panel in one weekend. An intense and fun part of the International Series of the same name aimed at creating and inspiring innovation and entrepreneurship in the US.
  • Co-Working Space: From Zappos support of the new co-working space on Carson St, to Link360 and too many to mention here, the goal is to make Vegas the largest co-working space in the US and why not? It fits us. We are a town built on flexibility of time, place and space, where else but here could there be a better fit for the non-traditional, soon to be common, home of the entrepreneur?

What Else Makes Vegas Hot? (Hint: It’s Not the Sun)

In addition, to these technology developments we have a low cost of living (can you say $50,000 condos), a tax structure that rivals Delaware and a city of 2 million people who still think this is a small town.

Oh and don’t forget the newly opened Smith’s Cultural Arts Center, the natural beauty that surrounds us and the newly formed All Community, All Volunteer Red Rock Search and Rescue Group. Add to all this the one block we call the strip (well one block wide) with some of the best chefs, music, shows and pools in the world and well, guess you know why we love it here.

What Makes Vegas Special?

VegasTech is technepreneursim at its best and I can’t think of any city where I would rather ride this ride. As we say here, #JDI (Just Do It!) – OK well really, #JFDI, but I will let you fill in the blank.

Vegas is the only true 24-hour town in America. Whatever you need, whatever time of day, you have it.

The thing that Vegas also has over all those other cities: it’s a real start-up city. Other cities have start-up corridors, areas, valleys, centers; but Vegas, Vegas is a start-up city and all of us in this crazy grassroots experiment know each other either by face, by name or by late nights at our favorite “coworking” spot.

Vegas has a special, unique energy to it – no other city I can think of can claim the depth and breadth of the new entrepreneurism in America like Vegas. Sure we may not have 100 new startups ready to launch, but we’re less than a year old and already have a recorded 500 in the hopper. And yeah, we may not have a Google or Facebook on every corner, but Microsoft has a little stake here, and eBay, Google, Pixar, Disney, all play here too.

And in the end, we are infinitely supportive of each other. Cut throat capitalism, the kind that exists in other start-up cities? Not here, we help each other, work with each other, we are like a big extended family.

Like any family, we have our drama moments but in the end, there is “werewolf” and late nights working together towards that new American Dream, or maybe it is the American Dream reborn? Whatever it is, after the dust settles, we come back together to do it again. Maybe I’m biased, but it feels special.

So Have You Changed Your Mind?

Silicon Valley not your cup of tea? Forget about going there and stop by the Jellys on your next trip to our lovely desert and say “hi”. We’re there every Thursday at 7 p.m. Hope to see you!


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