By Jared Kleinert
Last week, I was invited as one of 20 entrepreneurs from around the country to take part in Tech Cocktail Week. Through the partnership between the Downtown Project (Tony Hsieh’s $350 million investment in revitalizing downtown Las Vegas) and media company Tech Cocktail, we received the red carpet treatment as guests of their burgeoning tech community. From a tour of Tony’s apartment to a day at Zappos and some time at the local co-working spaces, there were many takeaways that I wanted to share with our growing tech community in South Florida.
Bringing people in
One of the biggest things I see with successful new tech communities is the ability and initiative to show off the area and bring talented people in for weeks of events, community building, and even job fairs. Especially in destination locals such as Vegas with the Strip and South Florida with our amazing beaches, weather, and vibe, showing off our city could do wonders for our growth. Boulder even flies people in for free to recruit talented people to work for their startups!
By bringing in talent from around the world, Vegas has been able to get quite a few entrepreneurs to consider moving themselves and/or their businesses to the growing area, which more than recoups the initial investment of free hotel rooms and event fees. Plus, some of the entrepreneurs spoke at a speaker series that was put on for the community, or they met with various locals and tech funds about doing business together. These new collisions would be extremely valuable alongside the regular community building events we do in South Florida.
Extremely dedicated evangelists
Vegas not only has Tony Hsieh (pictured at left during his talk at Start-up City: Miami event) dedicating over 80% of his time and LOTS of money to the tech rejuvenation in Vegas, but he has a dedicated team of about 50 people (and growing) constantly working on various aspects of community building. In order to become the next tech hub, South Florida needs an extremely dedicated group of individuals to take action and make it their sole purpose to grow our tech community. While this is hard to do, it is the investment we must make to become the next Boulder or Austin. Perhaps we can find our own “Lebron James” of tech to invest a large sum of money and evangelize for us as well! At the very least, we need greater participation from many different avenues.
Return on community
One of the things the Vegas Tech Fund (the $50 million branch of the Downtown Project that invests in local startups) prides itself on is the fact that part of their selection process for funding is the idea of a return on community. In other words, they want to invest in companies that will help the community grow. For this reason, the Vegas Tech Fund has invited in a couple restaurants, hangout areas, and even a podcast that highlights all the happenings of Downtown Las Vegas. To become the next tech hub, we need to look at the bigger picture and think holistically in order to cover all facets of a community foundation. A Zappos-sponsored tailgate for a minor league baseball game exemplified this even further. In order to truly become of a community, we need to look at the things besides work, and use those venues and social opportunities to grow closer together.
Those are just a few takeaways from my stay in Las Vegas. I’ll be sure to update everyone potentially in a follow-up post on my experiences in San Francisco this summer. I look forward to coming back after that time to continue growing the tech community in South Florida!
Jared Kleinert is the 17-year-old Founder/CEO of Synergist. He is also the co-author of an eye opening book called “2 Billion Under 20” and currently works for a San Francisco based startup called 15Five. Continue the conversation on Twitter @jaredkleinert or say hi at firstname.lastname@example.org.