Zappos founder and CEO Tony Hsieh stops by the Samsung Blogger Lounge to discuss the revitalization project of Downtown Las Vegas, the new SXSW v2v program, and incredible predictions for the future of business and technology.
Hsieh’s biggest project in the making is taking over the old Las Vegas City Hall in the heart of downtown Vegas and making it his company’s new campus. For years, his team was looking for a prime location to house everyone and implement structures that would foster production and make employees happy. Finally, they settled on a place that they could build from the inside out and “a campus that’s more analogous to NYU where the campus kind of blends in with the city and you don’t really know where one begins and the other ends.”
Hsieh says that his priority was not just to invest in his own business but also to “invest in the community and the surrounding ecosystem. In the long run that’s just going to help us attract and retain more employees.” This will require a great deal of redesign. They’ll turn the City Hall’s old jail cells into a speakeasy and obliterate structures that stint interaction between co-workers and city dwellers. They’ll also be partnering with the founders of Burning Man to bring large scale art to downtown Vegas and make the city more walkable.
“Research has shown that most innovation actually comes from something outside your industry being applied to your own,” Hsieh says. Using the the resources of the Downton Project, which is privately funded by Tony and a few others – with a $350 million budget, they can take their time and do things right instead of focusing on short term ROI goals. “We have this concept of ROC: return on community,” he says.
With culture as its number one priority, his team is always grasping for an answer to the question, “How do you architect serendipity?” Answer: get more lucky encounters to happen. “We actually shut down most of the doors and forced employees through a single door in order to get more collisions,” he reveals. “We prioritize collisions over convenience.”
Hsieh also has his hands in a few other major upcoming events, such as a newborn branch of SXSW called v2v, which will test run in August at the Cosmopolitan Casino and hopefully move downtown and integrate into the Vegas startup scene. In October, his own company will host an arts and music festival called “Life is Beautiful,” shutting down 15 Vegas blocks to feature music from San Francisco’s Outside Lands.
In terms of shoemaking, Hsieh introduces what might be the most revolutionary piece of technology to hit the industry yet: the 3D printer, which will be capable of producing usable, life-size shoes. “If and when that happens 20 years from now, that changes the entire industry,” he says. But here’s the coolest concept: “I think the prediction is actually in less than 20 years when 3D printers can print out 3D printers.”
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