Exploring the Vegas Tech Scene, Zappos and the Downtown Project

Las Vegas: lights, casinos, and a city that never sleeps. Many people visit this city and never see beyond the hustle and bustle of the strip. Team Twilio headed to Vegas for a solid week of conferencing at MicroConf and Future Insights Live, and we made sure to discover the tech gems the city has to offer. Little do people know, there is an incredible tech community growing rapidly in Downtown Las Vegas.

When I Grow Up I Want to Work at Zappos

If you’re lucky enough to know Jimmy Jacobson, you’re lucky enough to know the nicest person in tech. Jimmy happily appointed himself as our fearless leader through the world of Vegas tech, starting with a tour of Zappos HQ. This e-commerce company has been doing it right for a long time – if you haven’t read Delivering Happiness, download it to your Kindle immediately. “Customers first” is the Zappos motto: with a support team larger than any other team in the company, this philosophy has not changed despite their continuous growth. Every employee starts with time on phone support, and during holidays everyone helps out with customer support, including the executive team.

At Zappos, having fun at work comes with the territory. How could you not have fun with different spaces decorated as unique themes like the Monkey Jungle and a conference room completely dedicated to “The King”? Culture fit is important and it shows; we passed teams collaborating, laughing and really enjoying what they do. No one can deny how much the employees love their jobs after seeing them perform a choreographed shake weight welcome for visitors – thanks Zappos recruiting team!

Holding on to the the startup spirit, Zappos hosts internal hackathons for people to throw down some skills and build new tools for the team or work on something just for fun. Apps built at these hackathons range from a real-time shopping traffic heat map to a mobile app that captures Jesus sightings in your food to Wedgies, a real-time voting app. The Zappos API allows any developer to hack around with e-commerce. We think their API is so cool, we’ve teamed up with them for a few Developer Contests. The last contest yielded hacks that are turning into real products, like Anonysize.me, which allows you to secretly grab a friend’s sizes for gifts.

Zappos offers tours to anyone who wants to see the magic behind the boxes that deliver happiness to your door. Swing by next time you are in Vegas.

Get Jelly With Vegas Tech

Welcome to the very first Vegas tech community meet-up and co-working space, hosted every week at The Beat, the hippest coffee shop and cafe in Downtown Las Vegas. The cafe is part of a co-working and art gallery space as well as home to an official Tech library funded by Tony Hsieh. Walking in, we made our way through the maze to find people donning startup tees who welcomed us warmly. There were over 50 people at the event, including locals like Shavonnah Tiera who launched Las Vegas Startup Weekend.

The tech scene in Las Vegas may be small, but it has a huge heart. Having worked together to build a lively community from the ground up, Vegas Jelly has matured into a tight-knit group with exceptional character. Expect great things from these desert innovators.

Downtown Las Vegas: The Best Kept Secret

If Vegas Jelly wasn’t exciting enough, Downtown Las Vegas offers things like inexpensive gambling, a video game arcade and lounge, delicious, affordable eats, and most importantly, A Zipline. Jump on for a ride over the mini strip under an LED sky of psychedelic images. The Zipline is compliments of the downtown revitalization project, led by Tony Hsieh. In his closing keynote at Future Insights Live, Tony elaborated on The Downtown Project, an initiative to enliven Fremont Street and downtown Vegas and promote community and learning in order to generate productivity, innovation, and happiness. As part of the project, Tony is moving the Zappos headquarters from nearby Henderson to the old city hall in Downtown Las Vegas.

Getting to know the burgeoning tech community in Las Vegas and getting a peek into the wonderful world of Zappos was incredibly inspiring. These experiences reminded us how important happiness and working together are – it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, a small group working together can make a big difference.

Team Twilio sends a huge thanks to Jimmy who showed us around the city, shared Vegas #popupprotips and let us in on the best kept secrets of Las Vegas.