Zappos backs technology library in downtown Las Vegas


Tech life in Las Vegas could get less lonely if a downtown community startup works as planned.

The project, called /usr/lib, is a technology library and meeting space backed by Zappos.com. The online shoe retailer is working to attract tech and other businesses to follow its planned move from Henderson to downtown Las Vegas.

The library opened Friday night on the second floor of The Beat Coffeehouse and Records at Fremont and Sixth streets.

The idea is to provide a place where otherwise isolated technology workers, entrepreneurs and creative types can work, collaborate and socialize, said Pawel Szymczykowski, the longtime Las Vegas resident and Zappos employee who is operating the project.

The space itself is simple, a few bookcases lined with volumes on everything from cooking to technology to business advice, lots of electrical outlets for laptops and mobile devices, Wi-Fi, and a meeting room with enough tables and chairs for about two dozen people.

"For me it is a little bit selfish, I really like print books," said Szymczykowski of the space. "They are easy to browse, it brings people to a space, it is all about finding things you didn't know you were interested in."

The name /usr/lib comes from the computer code for "user libraries," a reference to the files programmers use to store lines of code for themselves and others to use later.

Users will be expected to pay about $25 for a key card to access the space with the balance of support coming from VegasTech.com LLC, an independent company owned by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

Zach Ware, a Zappos employee who is working on the company's pending move to take over the City Hall building at Stewart Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, estimated it cost about $65,000 to renovate the space, formerly a human resources office for the El Cortez, and will cost about $90,000 annually to keep afloat.

Ware said technology workers, including those at Zappos, benefit from having a place where programmers, designers, entrepreneurs and creative people spend time together because one person's idea for a product, company or new process can be improved with feedback from someone else from a different discipline who brings fresh eyes.

"The most creative people are the people who are not thinking about the details," Ware said. "They're not thinking about it like you do."

The idea for the library sprang from Las Vegas Jelly meetings, a series of networking events downtown.

Ware said that since Zappos started moving into the area he's found pent-up demand for shared space from previously isolated people who had been working in their homes, garages or lonely offices.

The community spirit is already attracting startups and growing tech firms to the area.

"I think it is useful to have a community so you don't feel like you are the only tech person in town," said Paul Carr, a tech writer founding a technology magazine, The New Gambit, in Las Vegas. "In places like San Francisco there is almost too much of a (tech) community. You see a lot of derivative stuff. You actually lose track of what real people do."

The burgeoning tech community downtown and the low costs of living and doing business prompted Jody Sherman, co-founder of the consumer product website ecomom.com, to move from Southern California to Las Vegas.

"I think that ultimately when I'm a big company I can build a better company in Las Vegas," said Sherman, citing the low cost of housing. "Having (Zappos) put a stake in the ground ... that is a really nice catalyst for other companies to move into the area."

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

 

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