Las Vegas’ reputation as an up-and-coming technology hub is more secure than ever.
Collision, a first-time tech conference that ended Wednesday, drew 1,500 techies and investors from around the world.
Speakers included professional skater Tony Hawk, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg and executives from well-known brands such as Facebook, Google Ventures, PayPal, Belkin, Evernote and Uber.
“If you look at the attendees and speakers, it’s all who’s who in tech,” said Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, whose Downtown Project helped coordinate the two-day event at the former Western Hotel on Fremont Street.
“Most of the people who came, it was their first experience downtown,” Hsieh said. “It put Vegas on the map.”
The event was organized by Dublin-based The Summit, Europe’s largest tech conference of more than 10,000 attendees from 98 countries.
The group also organizes F.ounders, an invitation-only gathering of 150 top tech founders and thinkers. Past invitees include Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX, Drew Houston of Dropbox, Jack Dorsey of Twitter, as well as the founders of Skype, Netflix, YouTube, Flipboard and AOL.
“The speakers are the next wave of great companies,” Paddy Cosgrave, CEO of The Summit, said of Collision’s lineup.
The event was intentionally small this year, arranged in a mere six months. But The Summit team plans to scale it up in coming years, expanding its footprint to other downtown venues.
The Western was rehabbed and renovated specifically for Collision, and satellite events were held at various venues to encourage people to explore.
“They’re really focused on exposing the attendees to locals,” Hsieh said.
Alice Virtual Receptionist, Rolltech bowling analytics and JobHive job search website were among 150 startups, narrowed from a pool of thousands, chosen to exhibit.
Mike Yoder, co-creator of Alice Virtual Receptionist, said the event was notable for bringing big names that might be seen at International CES to downtown. Some startups inquired about opening offices here.
Christophe Daligault, chief marketing officer at Open Garden in San Francisco, said he was skeptical of Las Vegas as a tech locale at first, but can now see the appeal.
“Coming here, you can walk around. You can walk to the downtown area, you can walk to Container Park, you can walk here or there,” said Daligault, who last visited Las Vegas in 1992. “It’s very fun. If we were on the Strip, we’d have to take a cab.”
Cosgrave related Las Vegas to Dublin and said a similar trajectory was possible.
Dublin was once crippled by economic crisis but is now home to a number of European tech headquarters.
“You can do all the advertising in the world, but until people see it, it won’t matter” Cosgrave said. “I think Las Vegas is pretty magical.”
Contact reporter Kristy Totten at email@example.com or 702-477-3809. Find her on Twitter: @kristy_tea.