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]
















Las Vegas Startup: Instagripe Makes Customer Feedback Instant INTERVIEW

We’ve talked about some great startups lately that function in the customer feedback space. Entrepreneurs continue to try and streamline the process of getting store owner to know what store customer thinks, quick and efficiently. Long gone are the days that $10 off at Denny’s for calling a survey line, actually gets results.

Customer feedback is critical and it needs to happen quickly because these days people are looking for things to happen at the speed of the net.

Instagripe provides a platform that allows businesses to achieve “insanely responsive customer service”.   Like most other business segments founders are finding that customer service can be achieved quickest via mobile phone. Now a customer still in an establishment, can provide much needed feedback.

With Instagripe a customer can be anonymous if they’d like and they can also provide feedback instantly through their smartphone. Instagripe also allows you to leave feedback based on geo-location.

We got a chance to interview Instagripe’s Josh Payne. Check out the interview below:

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