Romotive, One Of Tony Hsieh’s Earliest Startups, Leaves Vegas For Valley

Romotive,Vegas Startup,Vegas Tech,SXSW,Tony HsiehThere’s been a lot of talk, and a lot of action lately surrounding Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos and his joint venture, the Downtown Project. Through Hsieh and the Vegas Tech Fund, startups are being lured to a community revitalization project in downtown Las Vegas.

As Hsieh has explained several times, Zappos got the opportunity to take over the old Las Vegas City Hall. Rather than creating an insular tech campus like Apple, Microsoft or Google, Hsieh wanted to create an atmosphere where creative collisions naturally occur between Zappos employees, techies and creatives.

To that end, Hsieh has invested $350 million dollars into revitalizing downtown Vegas through the Downtown Project. Part of that money comes in the form of $50 million dollars that Hsieh and his partners have set aside to attract tech startups to Las Vegas.

He’s looking for startups that will excel at what they are doing and also excel at being community leaders. So far they’ve invested in twenty or so tech startups that have relocated to Las Vegas.

We imagined that Hsieh and the Vegas Tech Fund’s efforts were to be long term. No one really questioned what would happen when a startup was ready to leave. Well now, Romotive, a robotics startup that makes mobile phone controlled robots, is leaving Las Vegas for greener pastures in Silicon Valley.

In a letter thanking the Downtown Project, Romotive CEO Keller Rinaudo said “I can’t think of a place I would have rather built Romotive over the last two years than downtown Vegas. It’s also been meaningful to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and we believe deeply that Tony will succeed in building the downtown area into a vibrant tech ecosystem,” Inc reported

Las Vegas Tech Fund Partner, and startup community leader Zach Ware, isn’t put off by Romotive’s decision to relocate. Ware told Pando Daily “While here they’ve grown from a team of three to 20, closed a huge round with Sequoia, and written their largest order via a connection made in downtown Las Vegas,”

Ware went on to say  “So we think it demonstrates that Downtown Las Vegas is an awesome place to launch and build a company. Romotive has special needs and we support Keller’s decision to relocate the company to be closer to strategic partners, that’s the right decision for them and we always support the decisions of the founders we invest in.”

Sarah Lacy, who’s husband is working on a Vegas Tech Fund funded photography project, went on to point out that Ecomom, the other promising Vegas Tech Fund startup has also suffered since the untimely death of it’s founder Jody Sherman.  Lacy is quick to point out that other things are happening downtown though, a coworking space has opened, a fashion space has opened and more restaurants are going in.

Several other startups that have relocated to the Downtown Project are also doing very well. We really liked RollTech and of course love what TechCocktail is doing.

 Check out the kick ass VegasTech party at SXSW


Tony Hsieh, Founder Of Zappos And Downtown Project On Startup Communities [video][sxsw]

Tony Hsieh,Zappos,Downtown Project,Vegas Tech,startup,startups,startup communities,sxsw,sxswi

Tony Hsieh proudly points out that he is wearing a Zappos t-shirt. (photo NMI 2013)

Tony Hsieh isn’t just a guy who created a household brand, made money and then decided to give some to charity. Although his Downtown project, an effort to revitalize downtown Las Vegas, is funded largely by him, he is quick to point out that it takes a village to raise a startup community.

At South By Southwest over 200 people who identified as being part of the Vegas Tech community made the trek (on their own dime) from Las Vegas to Austin to be part of SXSW. More than double that number are participating in rebuilding the downtown area of Las Vegas that “tourists don’t really see” according to Hsieh.

Hsieh and other investors have pulled together $350 million dollars to build up the community around the old city hall building, which in six months will be the new world headquarters for Zappos. Hsieh originally thought that Zappos would build it’s own campus around the block city hall is on, but than decided that doing so would be too inward focused. While Google has a lot of real estate in Mountain View and Apple has a lot of real estate in Cupertino, both company’s campuses, for the most part, keep to themselves.

“Those campuses are really insular and don’t really integrate or  contribute to the community around them” Hsieh said of Nike, Google and Apple.

Hsieh is hoping that, by recruiting statup companies, small businesses and others to the downtown area, an ecosystem will flourish and surround his own company with creative, forward thinking people.

The Downtown Project has committed $50 million to invest in small businesses, $50 million to tech startup companies, $50 million to arts, education and music and $200 million to real estate. They are trying to deal with the statistic that when a cities size doubles productivity goes up 15%, but when companies get there productivity generally goes down.

Hsieh and company have already recruited 20 startups to downtown Las Vegas. They’ve also been able to get commitments from folks that love what they are doing in Las Vegas but for some reason can’t move there. Many people have committed to speaking to the Vegas Tech Community, holding office hours or doing other community minded things.

This entire plan was demonstrated in high gear through many events at SXSW where people were packed wall to wall. It wasn’t just the 200 Las Vegas people either, people from startup communities across the country and around the world were clamoring for the opportunity to hang out with the positivity bubble that surrounds Vegas Tech.

The Vegas Tech community was also on hand throughout SXSW Interactive to show off what the community is like in hopes that the SXSW Las Vegas event this summer will be a huge success.

Check out the video below of Hsieh speaking on the Startup Communities panel at SXSW 2013.

Vegas Tech threw an awesome party at SXSW click here for photos and video

We’ve got a ton more startup coverage from SXSW here

Vegas Tech Brings The Heat To Austin Texas For SXSW

Vegas Tech, Tony Hsieh,Startups,SXSW,SXSWiTony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos and the Downtown project in Las Vegas has been all over the SXSW Interactive festival talking about startup communities. The Vegas Tech community, which according to Hsieh is a bi-product of not just his but the entire community, had a major presence throughout the festival as well. They hosted a lounge event, and had a party bus with bull horns on the front.

All of their SXSW goodness was celebrated at a very well attended party on Monday night. The Vegas Tech party celebrated all of the Las Vegas startups that have helped build the community in downtown Vegas.

But it wasn’t just Las Vegas tech companies in attendance. Startup Chile, Startup Weekend, Startup America, Silicon Valley Bank and countless others were at the big event. Check out some of the photos below.

There are a whole bunch more photos from the Vegas Tech Party here

Check Out The Vine’s From The Vegas Tech Party At SXSW 2013 [sxsw]
















Tony Hsieh Considering ZBoards For Downtown Project? Check Out Their Pitch! CES 2013

Zboard, California startup,startup, Tony Hsieh,Downtown Project, las vegas, CES 2013The problem is simple, you want to get from point A to point B and the distance is just a little too far to walk, and a little too close to drive. Sure you can take a bike but then you need to worry about keeping your bike safe, and the fact that you could work up a little sweat and soil your clothes for the rest of the work day.

California startup Zboard has the answer. Zboard is an electric skateboard that works fundamentally the same way a regular skateboard does. Well at least it kind of sort of looks like a regular skateboard.

The Zboard seems to be powered by the same kind of technology that Segway’s use by moving your body forwards and backwards or leaning.

If you lean forward while riding the Zboard it speeds up and goes forward. You can move your feet, applying pressure to the left and right sides to make the Zboard turn. It also comes with a brake that will stop you when you lean back.

It’s a new wave of hipster transportation. So cool in fact that Zappos CEO and Downtown Project founder Tony Hsieh hinted in a fireside chat at CES that he may be considering getting Zboards for the downtown Las Vegas community. For Hsieh, the Zboard answers the question “How do you connect where you don’t need a car, possible electric boards that are electric”.

Check out Zboard’s pitch from the Launch.It event at CES 2013.

Is your startup in the Startup Village at The Startup Conference, find out more here about the biggest startup conference in the U.S.

Tony Hsieh Talks ROC, Culture & 10 Hour Phone Calls At Eureka Park CES 2013

Tony Hsieh, Scott Case, Eureka Park, CES 2013,

Zappos CEO and Downtown Project founder Tony Hsieh speaks during a fireside chat with Startup America CEO Scott Case (photo:

The Startup America stage as part of Eureka Park at the International CES started off with a bang this morning. Startup America CEO and technical co-founder of, Scott Case got a chance to have a fireside chat with Tony Hsieh. Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos, the founder of Link Exchange and the founder of the downtown project.

Their intimate fireside chat gave the standing room only crowd a peak into Hsieh’s mind. Hsieh founded his first company, Link Exchange, with his college roomate in 1996. They exited from Link Exchange by selling it to Microsoft just two years later. Early in the discussion Hsieh discussed the real reason that they sold Link Exchange. It wasn’t about the money, an enormous exit or even getting bored with the company. Hsieh and his partners decided to sell Link Exchange because the culture went bad.

” I was dreading waking up and going to work at my own company” Hsieh said during the fire side chat. From that point forward culture has played a crucial role in everything Hsieh does, from the companies he invests in to the employees Zappos hires. To one end culture is a condition of being around people you like “I try to be around people I like being around”, pretty simple concept, but it transcends across just your friends and personal circles. ” companies that have strong cultures out perform companies that don’t” Hsieh said about several studies that have been done on the subject.
Numerous articles have been written about Zappos and the community of employees that work there. Even though the company famous for their “return it for any reason” shoe return policy, is part of now, Hsieh said that it was a prerequisite to selling to Jeff Bezos that Zappos still functions independently. Zappos recently moved their warehouse operations to the Amazon umbrella because warehousing is something Amazon exceeds at. Hsieh and his other Zappos executives still handle customer service, marketing and every other part of the business.
Zappos is always mentioned alongside companies like Google when it comes to culture, and lifestyle within the Zappos campus, which is moving to the old Las Vegas City Hall next year. It’s the company’s culture that drives their employee base. When Zappos has a new hire they go through a traditional interview, once they pass that interview, the next interview is entirely based on how that person will fit in the company culture.
Case commented that when they were growing that culture was important as well. Like Zappos, at one point Priceline went from a company of 10 employees to over 100. In the early stages one person accounted for 10% of the culture.
“10% changes the culture if you’re not careful about it”  Case warned to startup founders in the room.
Culture is just as important to Hsieh in his Downtown Project/Las Vegas Tech Fund companies. He wants to know that startups and their founders will fit in the culture in Las Vegas.
Hsieh committed to investing $350 million dollars in growing downtown Las Vegas (not the strip). He wants to make it the biggest and best city for coworking in the world. Startups and entrepreneurs in the downtown Las Vegas community, and Hsieh’s employees for that matter, live by the Three C’s, collisions, community and co-learning.
Hsieh has $50 million dollars set aside for investing in startups and small businesses. To be the recipient of part of that money though, Hsieh looks at the possibility of ROC (return on community) verse traditional ROI (return on investment). Hsieh just invested in a building at a prominent intersection in downtown Las Vegas. They are using that building for a community speaking theater where distinguished entrepreneurial and startup speakers will speak to community members. Hsieh admits that any other real estate investor could make a lot of money with the same location for a bar, restaurant or even a McDonald’s franchise.
From all the different parts of Hsieh’s business life, everyone in the room benefit from Hsieh’s discussion with Case. He even let on to a milestone Zappos recently had, their longest continuous customer service phone call. The length, 10 hours.

See Scott Case and several other startup and entrepreneurial leaders at the largest startup conference in the U.S. The Startup Conference, click here

SXSW Bringing Startup Event To Vegas Baby: SXSWV2V

SXSW,SXSWi,SXSWv2v,startups,startup events,hugh forrest,downtown project,Tony HsiehThe SXSWi or South By Southwest Interactive show, as part of the annual South By Southwest festival held in March every year, continues to grow. This year all hotel rooms in the immediate vicinity are already sold out. Last year, despite torrential downpours for three days SXSWi had it’s biggest year ever.

SXSWi has been the birth place to many great startups that we use today. Twitter, FourSquare, and Zaarly are just a few of the startups that successfully launched out of SXSW. Glancee (acquired by Facbeook), Highlight and Banjo were the talk of the town last year during the festival.

Thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs flock to Austin Texas to see and take part in the latest startups brewing across the country. In fact, there are even buses that head down to SXSW where startups are building “startup weekend style” along the way.  There are many startups that set aside a great chunk of their marketing budget to participate in the SXSW festivities. Other startups use it as both a customer acquisition point and a launch pad.

SXSWi Director Hugh Forrest has seen how SXSWi has grown and taken off and now he wants to expand the property and brand outside the realm of downtown Austin. Forrest has announced V2V August 11-14 2013 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

While the strip is still a short distance away from Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, the 4 day SXSW conference is a welcome event among all of Las Vegas’ tech community.

Forrest hasn’t decided what “V2V” means just yet but told the Austin Chronicle  “Well, the idea there is that it is somewhat of a meaningless term, but if you really want to think of a meaning there, it could be visionary to visionary, or voice to voice, or voice to visionary, or visionaries to Vegas. We like that it’s an open palette and will afford us some room to grow and develop into whatever this event becomes.”

While the Downtown Project continues to grow and the Vegas tech scene is on fire we’re pretty confident that V2V will catch on just as quickly. If it doesn’t though, Forrest isn’t worried. He’s used to building things slowly and organically.

” I think that we can bring a lot of skill and expertise to the Las Vegas venture. On the other hand, one of the reasons SXSW is where it’s at now is it that it was allowed to grow somewhat slowly and organically. We were afforded the luxury of making mistakes on a fairly small stage and then learning from those mistakes and growing after it, growing better. It’d be great if the Las Vegas thing draws a big crowd the first year but at the same time, I don’t want to grow that too fast. I’m very much a believer of the slow, organic growth idea as a way to figure out exactly what you’re doing”  Forrest said in the Austin Chronicle interview.

“With the growth and popularity of the startup-related programming across the SXSW family of events, it is clear that there is enough momentum to create a wholly unique and independent event focused on entrepreneurs,” said SXSW V2V Producer Christine Auten said in a statement. “SXSW V2V will follow the same general strategy we have followed with other SXSW experiences. It is about turning creative ideas into reality — bringing visionaries to Vegas.”

SXSW V2V will take place at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas — a deluxe urban resort in the heart of the Vegas Strip — from Sunday, August 11 through Wednesday, August 14. SXSW V2V registration will include three days of programming, an opening reception, welcome dinner and an eclectic mix of evening and networking events. Register now at the discounted rate of $695 through December 14, 2012


Looking to participate,speak or volunteer at V2V click here

Want to pitch at V2V click here

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Zappos Alum’s Las Vegas Startup: Fandeavor Brings Fans Up Close & Personal


Tony Hsieh’s company Zappos, the online shoe and clothing shop, is fueling a startup movement in Las Vegas that’s hard to rival anywhere else. Hsieh himself is dumping millions into the Las Vegas tech scene. He’s also very supportive of Zappos employees who have left his company to start their own startups in Las Vegas. One of those startups is Fandeavor.

Fandeavor is a new startup in Las Vegas that’s looking to match sports fans with over the top fan experiences that can’t be experienced any other way.

8newsnow reports that last November Fandeavor’s co-founders Tom Ellingson and Dean Curtis, who both used to work at Zappos, did a fan experiment. They were able to procure two sets of tickets to the Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena. Two fans paid $250 for the experience to see the Rebels beat the University of Southern California in the semi-finals. The other two fans paid $275 to see the rebels defeat UNC in the finals. Their seats were in an arena suite. They also received a pregame talk with an assistant UNLV coach, floor access to pre-game warm ups and a presentation at halftime on the floor with autographed basketballs.

At an August 5th soccer match between Real Madrid and Santos Laguna Fandeavor auctioned off a prize packaged for $575 which included on field, hospitality tent seats, free food and drink and an off-chance meeting with one of the players. They’ve also been able to put together packages for fans of professional bullriders and other UNLV games.

Currently the Fandeavor roster includes: UNLV, University of Southern California, Arizona State University, and Texas Christian University. Both Ellingson and Curtis have plans to continue to expand through the world of college sports, who are known for their passionate fans.

“We want to give the colleges a revenue stream that didn’t exist before,” Ellingson told 8newsnow. “They have assets that they may not be using up, like sideline passes. We want to help them monetize their hospitality assets.

Ellingson Continued: “One thing we want to do is give out stadium tours, which is something that doesn’t cost the university anything other than to have someone give the tour. We’d like to have the ability to get a fan into a press box when the announcers are going through their pre-game routines. We’d like them to have access to the locker room and weight room. These stadiums are shrines.”

The duo is also courting the NFL, NBA and Nascar. Like most of the other Zappos alumni, Fandeavor has raised $525,000 in financing including an investment from Hsieh himself. They plan on using the cash to help with expansion and marketing.


Check out Fandeavor here

Source: 8newsnow

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