Paul Carr is moving to Las Vegas with the help of startup funding from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Carr, whose company is receiving funding from Michael Arrington's CrunchFund, isn't the first to move here to pursue a new venture under the Las Vegas tech umbrella, but the move is a beacon shining to the outside world that something big is beginning here in #VegasTech.
"I've become addicted to the city and fascinated by Tony's plans to redevelop/reinvigorate the downtown area," Carr said. "Simply put, I can't think of a more exciting place in America to start a company."
I agree with Carr, there is nowhere more exciting right now. Having lived in Vegas going on my eighth year, I'm also heavily involved in the community Carr is referring to. So hopefully I can shed some light, or maybe some neon, on why there is nowhere more exciting than Vegas right now.
What is #VegasTech?
"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Shows. Showgirls. Casinos. Hotels. Technology isn't exactly the first thing people think of when they think of Vegas.
Of course, most people forget that every new slot machine is a computer, whose game is entirely controlled with 0s and 1s. Bytes and more bytes control many of the shows, the lights, the digital media that Vegas runs on. Even our poker chips are RFIDd.
Some of this technology lives right in Vegas with the companies that create the games and advertising. Some of it is imported from companies outside our city limits, but there are a surprising number of people that work in the field of software development and database administration right here in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is one of the top 10 destinations in the U.S. – 40 million people travel here a year and the Thomas and Mack is one of the most ticketed venues in the world. All this runs on technology.
Add to this the low cost of housing (can we say condos for under $75,000), no employment or business taxes, and a business friendly environment, and it is starting to make a little sense isn't it?
Well let's take it further. After all, talent, travel, and gaming does not a new economy make.
More than Just Hotels and Gaming
True, true you are right, but did you know Vegas hosts one of the top data centers in the country? It is called the SWITCH SUPERNAP (a 26 network backbone super datacenter)
Adding 1.6 million square feet of datacenter this year so it can continue to best support the Fortune 1000 it is currently hosting, the SUPERNAP boasts a patented 4 method cooling system and the ability to stay off grid for 30 days in the event of a natural disaster, though Las Vegas is rated on the safest Geo Locations in the US, by the USGS, so it is not likely to ever be needed
Having the talent, industry, and infrastructure makes this look a little rosier, but there has to be more, right? Yes. Much more.
What is a technology corridor without a startup community, a group of active, like-minded entrepreneurs growing their ideas and bringing them to market? Well Vegas has a very active, young (read: "early," not young in age – we encourage people of all ages to participate) startup community.
Want to check it out? Come to the Vegas Jellies at The Beat Coffee Shop on any Thursday at 7 p.m. – and since it's Vegas, you can get wine, beer or a little whiskey in that coffee, too! The Beat gets taken over by Macs and PCs – you'll probably find a few Linux in there as well. I count between 40-100 on any given night, who show up there to work, talk, chill, hang out, and share ideas with each other
There are also Las Vegas businessmen who bring in mentors to help guide Jelly participants. People such as Rick Duggan from Zappos who bring in experts in different areas for break-out sessions, so that people who come to the Jellies can learn from those who have been there and done that.
For those in the more active stages of development, there is the Kaufman Start-Up Foundation and Launch-Up, both geared toward getting people from the idea stage to the funding stage. These are vital components to what is becoming a strong startup scene in Las Vegas, but we can't have startups without money to fund them. No worries, we have that too!
Money Makes the World Goes Round!
To be honest, I know so much more than I can write here right now. Of all the funds I know about, I don't know who wants to be known and who doesn't. Just know that there are many tens of millions in interested funding.
Vegas has incubators, accelerators, private investors, angels, venture capitalists, and investment groups all ready to invest now. Of these investors, some are already set up, while some are setting up soon, but all see the value here. It's mind boggling just how much funding is waiting for companies.
Digital World Expo - Locally Owned, but Internationally Known
Digital World Expo just finished its successful first year, merging traditional and new media for companies that work in the Digital Media vertical and includes media buyers, advertisers, and executive officers from major media players. It is also a conference that boasted an Augmented Reality Tattoo, Anonymous Proximity Marketing, and a Start-Up Stage for the Vegas Tech community.
Because Digital World Expo is locally owned anyone with in VegasTech with a new start-up can submit to be part of the Start-Up Stage, and if chosen, can present their concept in front of the Expo Hall where the comfy leather couches may hold anyone from Disney to Experian to CBS Interactive as well as investors from any area of the investment community.
The best part of the start-ups is Digital World Expo will always offer these start-ups this space for free. Why? Because as I told you already, we Las Vegans watch out for each other.
Here is a list of everyone who presented and what their company was about. All local. All Vegas Start-Ups.
Community can make or break a technology venture. One of the reasons that Silicon Valley is so successful is that if someone launches a product from an incubator the community can get behind it, blog it, tweet it, get users, create press and buzz. From 0-60 in no time, birth to a 300 lb giant with a little help from your technology friends.
Well we here in Vegas have one step above that already because we do actually know each other Vegas operates like a small town in many ways, so we have the social down. However, we have something no one else does, Tracky. Tracky is a new product to be released to the general public over next few months, but has been made available by the company for VegasTech by the Tracky CEO David Gosse (formerly of Namechk).
Tracky is a project tracking software that is a cross between Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and since Tracky allows your manage your projects in a simple, social manner it helps increase engagement where otherwise engagement may not have occurred. Many of the people who attend the Jellies, LaunchUp and Kaufman Start-Up Foundation groups create accounts and then use Tracky to cowork, collaborate, and engage with each other when they can't get together in person. Tracky is rapidly becoming a central hub of communication for VegasTech.
I'm not sure how much I can say about what Zappos is doing, but with its investment in the Downtown Project, the move to Fremont, the investment in Paul Carr and the heavy involvement of key Zappos employees like Rick Duggan in the Jellies and other start-up environments, definitely keep an eye out! With all this smoke, there is a fire worth watching for!
There is so MUCH I'm Running Out of Space!
Tony Hseih's investment in JetSuite to increase small jet flights between Vegas and Southern California/San Francisco, Zappos Downtown Project where they are revitalizing the downtown area as they work to relocate their headquarters in 2014, co-working spaces, Ignite, Originate, Microsoft's Social Research Center in Summerlin along with the LINQ360 incubator, Las Vegas Interactive Marketer's Association (LVIMA) -- the list just goes on and on, but sadly my article cannot.
So, look soon for a core VegasTech site that will list all VegasTech goings ons. Until then, just know that VegasTech is a bullet train heading out the gate. It will move fast and furious. Exciting times are ahead.
An Insider's View
In VegasTech, we all know each other or of each other – unlike other cities where I've lived, such as the Northern Virginia area when it was the Silicon Valley of the East. We support each other. We help each other.
We're actually friends or at the least friends of friends who in the end all get to know each other on a first name basis. Ask anyone from anyone of those groups have they heard of the people running any of the other groups and I will bet you your next drink in town that they know them on a first name basis.
So on one hand I am so excited. I am thrilled as I am working with these groups to do just these things, bring a new economy to Vegas, one it needs, one that fits our personality, one that will truly benefit us, and one that can bring such a wonderful quality of life to a 24 hour town such as ours.
However, I do all this with bated breath, with the deepest hopes that all the Carrs that come to town will come with the idea of being part of our very unique culture, of becoming part of our special and truly amazing community.
See, we Las Vegans don't know we live in an actual a city. Well we do, but really, most of us still act like we live in a small town and we kind of like that shared denial. Same reason we don't have neighborhoods or districts, that we don't blink at the person without any skin showing behind their tattoo sleeve, and we still look each other in the eye and say hello. Because, in this humble writer's opinion, we still see ourselves as one Vegas, one place, one group, and one true melting pot community.
You might say I idealize Vegas a little and I'm smoothing out some very rough edges, we obviously have problems like any other city, but I would not want to live anywhere else. As excited as I am, I just hope the outside doesn't change us.
You can't live here without learning a little more about tolerance, understanding and kindness. No matter how much you thought you knew before. Vegas has made me, and many people I know, a better person.
Let's Do This Thing! Everyone Say Hello! Hi Paul! Hi Michael!
OK, so get on this exciting, amazing train – together – new and old, inside and outside and get this party started. We have the talent, the community, the infrastructure, and the money. The Vegas technology economy has been bubbling up for a while, but the beacons are out there now, showing everyone that there is something much larger at play. Now you know why.
Come join us! It should be a wild, amazing and, as Carr said, let's find out together, shall we?
I feel just a little giddy about it all...
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story indicated Michael Arrington was moving to Las Vegas. He isn't. The story has been corrected to note that Arrington is an investor through CrunchFund in Paul Carr's company.