It’s rare these days that a group of tech entrepreneurs gets together downtown without Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s name reverberating like a mantra.
That’s understandable. Hsieh, whose new Zappos headquarters opens Monday in the old City Hall, is unquestionably the guru of downtown redevelopment. His much-publicized vision and $350 million Downtown Project investment plan have been widely heralded.
But when members of the Starters Group gathered Tuesday night at Mundo restaurant, the conversation was not so much about creativity and big-picture philosophy as about the mechanics of accelerating startup tech businesses from the drawing board to reality. Led by tracky.com CEO David Gosse, Starters Group unveiled its plan to mentor, fund and nurture tech startups not just in the downtown corridor, but across the Las Vegas Valley.
With approximately $700,000 in seed money and a goal of getting five startups off the ground in the first year, the scope is obviously smaller than the Zappos high-tech company town concept. But Gosse and other speakers reiterated the importance of achieving tangible results despite the reality that 90 percent of startups crash and burn. One adage that floated through the group: “Execution is more important than ideas.”
The event was underwritten by the conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, but the evening’s topics weren’t about the latest imbroglio in Congress. Starter Group’s mentors include patent and trademark lawyers, website builders, and mergers and acquisitions professionals, and of course investors who hope their gambles on fledgling companies generate high returns on their investments.
I listened closely and failed to hear Hsieh’s name mentioned. I did meet one of his Downtown Project insiders, though.
Entrepreneur and tech industry blogger Frank Gruber, who has analyzed business startup accelerator programs around the world, moved his TechCocktail company to Las Vegas last year to work with Hsieh’s Downtown Project following a $2.5 million investment by the celebrated CEO. These days Gruber focuses his energy on the Downtown Project and the local startup community. He seemed to appreciate the positive vibe of the Starters Group.
“Cultivating startup successes is the goal of all startup accelerators, and Starters Group appears to be no different as the program looks to build momentum in the community through a series of small wins,” Gruber observed. “It is great to see the Vegas Tech community address some of the same concerns I’ve seen voiced in many startup communities around the country — access to capital, mentors and talent.”
When it comes to growing the entrepreneurial culture in Southern Nevada, I say the more the merrier.
ON THE BOULEVARD: Syndicated radio host Jerry Doyle (locally on KDWN-AM, 720) makes his home in Las Vegas. He addressed Tuesday night’s group of entrepreneurs. Doyle also celebrated the launch of his epictimes.com website. Even with his 7.25 million weekly listeners, you may know him best as a cast member from the Babylon 5 television series. … Gov. Brian Sandoval recently appointed Caleb Cage as his director of military and veterans policy. Cage is the author of several books, including one titled “I Shot a Man in Reno.” (Definitely a Johnny Cash fascination going on.) He also is a founding editor of the Nevada Review literary journal.
BOULEVARD II: Do you suppose the Las Vegas 51s will sell out tonight’s PCL playoff game at Cashman Field against Salt Lake City? Only one way to find out. ... There’s still time to register for the 23rd annual 5K and 1 mile “Race For Our Kids” set for Saturday, Sept. 14 at Exploration Park inside Mountain’s Edge. Chet Buchanan again plays the gracious host. Proceeds will benefit the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation. For more information, go to candlelightersnv.org.
Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? Email comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.