Zappos CEO Gambles on Entrepreneurs in Sin City

Feb 8, 2012

Las Vegas has always been known for its bright lights and towering casinos. A quaint, urban environment? Not so much. But if his vision comes to fruition, Tony Hsieh may change the way we live, work, and think about this desert oasis. 

Hsieh, CEO of the shoes and apparel site Zappos.com, is embarking on “one of the most unconventional redevelopment efforts in any American city, ever,” according to Businessweek. His goal is to transform the seedy, often-ignored downtown Las Vegas into a thriving urban neighborhood that would serve as home to artists, entrepreneurs, families, and students—in other words, Hsieh wants to bring it to life.  

Using his own skills and resources as an entrepreneur who has found success, Hsieh is dedicating $350 million of his own money to purchase real estate, fund schools, and help other entrepreneurs and small businesses grow so that they too may lend to the revitalization effort. Hsieh, who has plans to move his offices into the former City Hall building, said, “What started out as a campus relocation project has evolved into a project to revitalize downtown Vegas."

Hsieh's revitalization company, The Downtown Project, will have equity in each business it supports. While The Downtown Project is a for-profit company, the entrepreneurs he helps have no obligation to pay him back, until, of course, they turn a profit. 

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