There’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