Can a successful company and a run-down downtown vitalize each other?
Tony Hsieh, CEO of the phenomenally successful Zappos, is betting exactly that in Las Vegas. He moved his company headquarters into the former city hall and is integrating the Zappos campus into the surrounding neighborhood, meanwhile investing millions to provide a dense urban experience for the locals as well as his employees. His “Downtown Project” declares: “We’ve allocated $350 million to aid in the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas. We’re investing $200 million in real estate, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education, and $50 million in tech startups.”
The fantasy is well along into impressive reality, according to a January 2014 article in Wired. What is being learned may change how cities and companies think of themselves---and of each other.
Hsieh’s theory of urban vitality comes from Edward Glaeser’s book The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. His theory of company vitality he has spelled out in his own book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.
Stewart Brand is co-founder and president of The Long Now Foundation and co-founder of Global Business Network. He created and edited the Whole Earth Catalog (National Book Award), and co-founded the Hackers Conference and The WELL. His books include The Clock of the Long Now; How Buildings Learn; and The Media Lab. His most recent book, titled Whole Earth Discipline, is published by Viking in the US and Atlantic in the UK.
The author of Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh is CEO of Zappos and previously co-founded LinkExchange. He initiated the Downtown Project to revitalize downtown Las Vegas and his company.
Tony Hsieh originally got involved with Zappos.com as an advisor and investor in 1999, about 2 months after the company was founded. Over time, Hsieh ended up spending more and more time with the company because it was both the most
fun and the most promising out of all the companies that he was involved with.
Hsieh eventually joined Zappos.com full time in 2000. Under his leadership, Zappos.com has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000
to $840M in 2007 by focusing relentlessly on customer service.
Hsieh focuses on continuing to grow the business at a rapid pace while maintaining the culture and feel of a small company. Prior to joining Zappos.com, Hsieh co-founded Venture Frogs with Alfred Lin. Venture Frogs is an incubator and investment firm that invested in Internet startups, including Ask Jeeves, Tellme Networks, and of course, Zappos.com. Prior to Venture Frogs, Hsieh co-founded LinkExchange, an advertising network that was successfully sold to Microsoft for $265M in 1998.
Building on his theory that creative collisions of people from differing fields spur innovation, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh envisions remodeling elevators into social hubs that will encourage communication and innovation.