While still in it's infancy, the Downtown Project, an effort lead by Tony Hsieh to revitalize the old downtown Las Vegas, is underway and starting to fund startups. I last spoke with Tony about the Downtown Project while in Austin, Texas during South by Southwest, but just got an upfront and personal tour of the project here in Las Vegas with some of the project's key personnel. The project is funded with $350 million dollars of investment by Hsieh, which is segmented into various components to improve and develop the community. Most relevant to this audience is the $50 million Vegas Tech Fund.
The Vegas Tech Fund is a seed stage investment fund focused on investing in founders and startups solving huge problems – who are also committed to building a vibrant, connected tech community in downtown Las Vegas. The fund is lead by Andy White, who moved to Vegas to lead the fund after successfully anchoring the BoomStartup accelerator in Salt Lake City (BoomStartup was ranked in last year's accelerator rankings). Rather then creating yet another accelerator program, the fund looks to create a city and community that can act as an incubator and also invest in companies who share that vision and want to build on it. The fund is designed to fund tech startup companies that will join the Las Vegas tech community.
We arrived in Vegas on Friday just in time to hear the news of the latest investments. They are as follows, with some familiar faces in the mix:
Not Safe for Work Corporation – Lead by Paul Carr, the author and former TechCrunch contributor is creating a paid content platform and news magazine, published daily. It's currently in private beta.
LaunchBit – An ad network for email.
Local Motion – This is a smart network of shared electric vehicles. If you know about the Downtown Project you’ll understand why this is so interesting.
Digital Royalty – Lead by Amy Jo Martin, they are helping national and international clients grow their brands by bridging the virtual and physical worlds.
Romotive – Simple affordable robotics platform.
If you’re interest in more information about the fund, you'll want to review the VTF methodology, as they are currently looking for additional startups to join them in Las Vegas.