Why Vegas Culture Is Good for Start-ups
Ever go "all in" on a new project or company? "Roll the dice" to see if your new product will find a willing market, or "cash out" when you want funds to move on to the next company or idea? If so, whether you know it or not, you've been speaking the language of Vegas.
It's no accident. People come to Las Vegas because they're willing to risk their financial security and bet on themselves in pursuit of a big payout. Sounds like your typical entrepreneur, doesn't it?
"Taking risks is in the air here," notes J. Patrick Coolican, columnist for the Las Vegas Sun. "The whole town is literally based on risk. From the casinos' standpoint, it's risk management. From the players standpoint, it's testing the limits of risk. That fits nicely with the notion of the risk-taking entrepreneur."
Bigger and Bolder
Mickey Hernandez, founder of Las Vegas-based start-up Imagoo, which offers a social polling app and website, agrees that the city breeds a bolder class of entrepreneur. "We're willing to venture into new industries or markets if the potential for payoff is there, unlike other tech hubs, where entrepreneurs might feel the need to be an expert in a particular industry before throwing in all their chips," he says.
It's also a place where an entrepreneur with a powerful vision can make a very big difference, beginning with Howard Hughes back in Sin City's early history, continuing through hoteliers Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson in more recent years. Each of these entrepreneurs was able to reshape the whole city to his specifications, and now a newer visionary entrepreneur, Tony Hsieh, is reshaping it yet again. Coolican notes that Hsieh is buying tracts of land in the once-seedy downtown with a plan to create the kind of walkable, cosmopolitan atmosphere that might attract entrepreneurs and those with high-tech skills. (He's also working to build up the University of Nevada Las Vegas as a "feeder" university for start-ups.)
"Hsieh says he loves it so much because it's a blank slate and he believes he can transform the place," Coolican notes. "And it is truly a city where you can come and all of a sudden start making things happen."
Kind to Failure, Driven by Innovation
If you're going to follow the dictum to fail early and often, Las Vegas might be a good place to do it, according to Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of Las Vegas-based Galaviz & Co., which advises and invests in start-ups. "It has an environment that is more forgiving than any other city. Las Vegas has grown by migration. A lot of that is people looking for second chances. Culturally, it values the idea of trying something, maybe failing, and trying again."
Just as important, he says, Vegas is a place where innovation and creativity are not only welcomed, but required. "If you look behind the scenes of the gaming industry, there's a lot of technological innovation," he says. The same goes for the city's lavish live shows, he adds. "That culture of creativity and innovation is essential to bringing 40 million visitors here every year," he says. "Without that creativity and innovation--which is essential for start-ups--the city wouldn't be successful."
MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, The Geek Gap
Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.