We’re a couple of decades late to the party, but it looks like Southern Nevada may finally be developing a sustainable technical community.
I’ve dreamed of a real technical community here for more than 15 years. I started one of the first Web design and hosting businesses in Las Vegas in 1995, back when we had to explain what a website was before we could get around to why someone might actually want to buy one. At the time, I watched developments in Silicon Valley and other parts of the country with envy as they exploded with investors, programmers and more startups than anyone could count.
In Las Vegas, at the time, we had Westwood Studios and PurchasePro. Westwood was bought by EA and carried off to California, and PurchasePro went out of business. Sure, we had COMDEX (which also went out of business) and the Consumer Electronics Show, which brings a lot of interesting tech people to visit once a year, but they don’t stay. So I gave up a long time ago on the idea that Las Vegas could ever have a real tech community.
So imagine my surprise when I recently wandered into a room in the warren-like Emergency Arts building downtown and found a standing-room-only crowd of techies listening in rapt attention to a speaker explaining how they should go about getting startup funding. And this wasn’t some convention filled with out-of-towners; these were all locals, wanting to start tech companies here. The event was Vegas Jelly, which has become so popular that it has outgrown its venue.
After the scheduled speakers, Zach Ware, a manager at Zappos, got up to talk business. Specifically, he described an entity called VegasTech.com, which is being created as a holding company through which Zappos can funnel large amounts of money into building technical community infrastructure downtown, including a tech library (appropriately called /usr/lib), a startup incubator, some co-working spaces and a hacker workshop.
If the projects discussed are any indication, the Vegas tech community is about to change. Drastically.