June 20, 2012
Once only home to gambling, over-the-top casinos, world-class restaurants, and top-tier entertainment, Las Vegas is becoming a tech hub thanks to the efforts of Tony Hsieh and Zappos’ Downtown Project. Backed by the Vegas Tech Fund, startups are launching in the revitalizing downtown area of Vegas, worlds away from the Strip.
One such beneficiary of this movement is Rumgr, a mobile app that Craigslist should have created a long time ago. Founded by ex-Zappos employees Dylan Bathurst, Ray Morgan, and Alex Coleman, the app, which lets you take a picture of the item you want to sell and post it from your mobile phone, was pitched at the first Startup Weekend in Vegas that Bathurst helped to organize.
By the end of Startup Weekend, they had a working prototype that was much different from other marketplace apps: people around you who are “rummaging,” or scrolling through the pictures, will see it in their feed, with the items that are located closest to them at the top.
The team continued working on Rumgr during the next few months, at which point so many friends were using it, working on Rumgr and at Zappos was just too much. “It was pretty nerve-wracking to leave Zappos,” Bathurst said, “but we believed in the product enough and the idea behind it. We had been talking to Tony [Hsieh] about funding it, and he jumped on board, along with Fred Mossler, the first employee of Zappos who has never had a title; Arun Rajan, CTO of Zappos; and Andrew Donner, CEO of Resort Gaming Group, who owns the building Zappos is moving into downtown.”
So far, things are looking great for Rumgr – $500k in funding and over 12,000 downloads – and a burgeoning tech scene they are deeply connected to. Bathurst not only worked to bring Startup Weekend to Vegas, he began organizing meetups to “bring people out of their homes” – turns out, there’s a lot of freelance developers in the area.
“It blew up – people were really excited about it,” Bathurst said. “This was happening at the same time that Zappos announced they were moving into downtown Vegas. With this renaissance going on, people who wanted to start up are now meeting people and now they finally have the opportunity and community for support….
“With the Downtown Project, there are a bunch of us in the process of getting more co-working spaces right in the heart of downtown for tech, fashion, art and design. The first should open in August or September– and that’ll be the tech one. We have 21k feet of space, and it’ll be more like a tech community center like General Assembly in NYC.”
With Vegas on its way to creating a vibrant community for multiple groups – not just startups – Rumgr’s future plans are just as promising. They’re working on a deep integration into Facebook so app users can build their own community around where they live. “We’re really trying to hang our hat on the local community idea.”
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