It’s a bit awkward in downtown Las Vegas.
“Anybody hear any news in the last week?” Downtown Project spokeswoman Kim Schaefer said, opening the company’s monthly meeting — which came on the heels of national media speculation that the recent layoffs of 30 employees was a sign Tony Hsieh may pull the plug on his $350 million real estate play.
RE/CODE, a tech news website, was in the middle of a series on Hsieh’s efforts when news of the layoffs broke. The site quickly fired off additional dispatches, one of which asserted that Hsieh had stepped down. The Zappos CEO denied the news, saying his role had not changed.
“The news of Tony’s demise are greatly exaggerated,” Schaefer joked after telling the audience Downtown Project wasn’t happy with inaccuracies in the press.
One chuckle — maybe two.
“Come on! I’m up here all alone. Laugh!”
The meeting to inform visitors and employees about downtown happenings trotted out various positive stories.
Life is Beautiful festival founder and partner Rehan Choudhry told the crowd it was emotional to see projects, like The Market, a grocery opening on East Fremont Street this week, come to fruition. To lift spirits, Choudhry gave away eight festival passes. A Nacho Daddy official followed, giving away gift certificates. A representative with the Bunkhouse Saloon joined in — offering all winners concert tickets.
One update was that Rumgr, a Las Vegas startup that created an app designed to mimic a garage sale, had been bought by eBay. The purchase means the Rumgr team will be relocating to California.
“Our hearts are very much still here in Las Vegas and we will still continue showing our faces around here,” Rumgr co-founder Dylan Bathurst said. “Hopefully we can continue to work and play downtown.”
Schaefer told the crowd the purchase was “a shining testimony for what’s possible here in downtown Las Vegas.”
Does that example mean downtown Las Vegas will act more as a startup launching pad than an incubator for larger growth?
“We’ve always envisioned downtown as being a place where people can take an idea and grow it,” Schaefer said. “If they stay here that’s great— but if they need to move on and grow their business, we can’t do anything but wish them well.”
Regardless of where Downtown Project’s many investments choose to go — the message at the “Downtown Lowdown” was that the quirky redevelopment effort isn’t going to skip town yet.
“We’re all in this together folks,” Schaefer, ended, sparking a round of applause. “We’re not packing up our toys and going anywhere.”
Contact Bethany Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes.