Tony Hsieh: I’m Not Leaving the Downtown Project

Disclaimer: Tech Cocktail is funded by the Downtown Project

Kicking off the afternoon sessions on day one of this year’s Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference was the Downtown Project’s Tony Hsieh. The theme of his talk was not one we’re strangers to – The City as a Startup – but it’s no less inspiring as Hsieh truly embodies what he preaches.

A $350 million revitalization project for downtown Las Vegas, the Downtown Project’s main focus is not on ROI but rather long-term ROC and ROL, return on community and return on luck, respectively. According to Hsieh, when you focus on these aspects of building a startup, tech or otherwise, you’re effectively accelerating innovation, productivity, and serendipity.

When a city doubles in size, he says, productivity and innovation per resident increase by a factor of 15 percent, but that same mode of thinking isn’t readily applicable to companies. Hsieh has found the recipe that helps facilitate similar growth for companies, though.

“Get together in a relatively small space all these entrepreneurial and creative types that have a bias to talk to each other and collaborate, statistically the magic will happen on its own,” says Hsieh.

It’s simple enough on paper: create a culture of openness, collaboration, creativity, and optimism. The inspiration to succeed with the Downtown Project, for Hsieh, comes from the story of the four-minute mile.

People thought it was impossible to run a mile in under four minutes, but then in 1954 somebody broke the four-minute mile time. In less than one year, other people were breaking the four-minute mile time as well. It wasn’t nutrition or training regimens that changed the game. Rather, it was now doable because people believed they could do it.

“If we can do it here [Downtown Vegas], maybe we can be the four-minute mile for the world,” says Hsieh.

It’s an idea that some people may have doubted in one way or another after the news headlines last week saying that Hsieh had stepped down from his role with the Downtown Project. However, Hsieh informed us during the Q&A session that none of that is true and was based on a misunderstanding.

“Last week was an interesting week in the media. I saw these crazy headlines that said something like I was stepping down from the Downtown Project,” said Hsieh. “The Downtown Project is, as we refer to it, a collection of 300 businesses and legal entities. I’m not sure where the miscommunication came from, but my statement was that I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations of these companies. Somehow it became this headline that I was leaving the Downtown Project, which I’m not.”

You heard it here, my friends: Hsieh won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. And we’re thrilled to have him continue working alongside all the dedicated individuals who are trying to make Downtown Vegas the most community-focused city in the world.

On October 6-7, Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference is gathering hundreds of attendees, industry leaders, and inspiring speakers in downtown Vegas to meet the hottest startups and investors from around the country, learn and collaborate with others turning their communities into startup cities, and enjoy music, parties, and llama spotting. Check out more Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference coverage here.

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Written by:
Will is a Senior Writer with Tech.Co, based out of America's Finest City: San Diego. He covers all territory West of the Mississippi river, digging deep for awesome local entrepreneurs, companies, and ideas. He's the resident Android junkie and will be happy to tell you why you should switch to the OS. When he's off the clock, Will focuses his literary talent on the art of creative writing...or you might find him surfing in Ocean Beach. Follow Will on Twitter @WJS1988
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