It was back in 2012, when billionaire CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh invested around $350 million into an investment fund in an ambitious attempt to grow a limping downtown into an entrepreneurial, creative and business hub of the region.
The Downtown Project, was an ambitious, in hindsight, not a very successful attempt to make downtown Las Vegas the new Silicon Valley of the United States.
The project was an all-purpose investment fund based on Hsieh’s vision to build a thriving startup scene in downtown, Las Vegas. It had funds allocated specifically for real estate based development possibilities, arts culture and entertainment sectors, creating and incubating small business establishments – with more focus on tech based startups.
Five years down the line, the Downtown Project as an experiment has shifted its focus away from being an incubator of new businesses to supporting some of the startups that have survived the past five years, with an increasing focus on real estate development.
The Downtown Project was one of the earliest attempts to rejuvenate the region. They could be considered as the pioneers in trying to take Las Vegas on a path of growth. Now a lot of other individual and community efforts are trying to take it further including the city’s Economic & Urban Development department. Which claims to be hard at work to keep up with the pace of the change that’s happening everywhere, especially the tech industry.
Just 18 months ago, the City Council has established the new Innovation District downtown, a place that will be dedicated to developing smart-city technology infrastructure and will be a sort of a testing ground for the next revolution of the internet of things.
The city has started to implement sensors in downtown, that will be used to collect relevant information that can be used in smart-city and mobility initiatives. These sensors also focus on capturing certain other real-time data such as pedestrian movement and traffic flow and their junctures. The sensors also focus on environmental data such as, carbon monoxide readings in the neighborhood. The data from these sensors are then transmitted via fiber optic cables for much higher speeds of information transmission.
By developing all the necessary infrastructure for smart-city and mobility initiatives, the Innovation District has placed itself as a very lucrative area for potential organisations working on the same line of thought, to relocate and operate from Las Vegas.
With the increase in the number of autonomous vehicle research programs, the innovation district is also focusing on that. Audi chose Las Vegas to launch its pilot self driving car. The city made headlines by introducing the first ever self-driving and fully electric public shuttle program. Even, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One completed the Las Vegas DevLoop, its first full-scale hyperloop system, earlier this year. If you are looking to visit Vegas, check out http://reviewsofvegashotels.com
The city s trying to project itself and be known for innovation, so that organisations large and small will be eager to work out of Las Vegas. There is also immense focus on developing Las Vegas into a best pilot environment, so companies can launch and test their products in real environments for better feedback.
Las vegas is also setting up institutions to bring in more entrepreneurs and companies from outside the US as well, and hopes that, it’ll benefit the startup ecosystem in the city in the long run. All this is based on the strategy to diversify Las Vegas’ casino-dependent economy and make it more economically resilient.
Trying to create a startup scene from the ground up was a high task. Though not entirely successful, the Downtown Project acted as a really important catalyst in Las Vegas’ journey to be a more diverse economic hub. Though the journey is slow, all that we can do is try our best..