VERGE Day 2: The city as startup, platform and organism

One of the most inspiring examples of how city-level innovations are taking place with public-private partnerships was shared by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of online shoe company Zappos, who spoke at VERGE SF on Tuesday morning.

His company is leading a revolution of sorts in Las Vegas to revitalize the Fremont East downtown area oft-overshadowed by its glittery neighbor -- the Strip.

When it came time to plan a move from its suburban Henderson, Nev. offices to Las Vegas’ former city hall, Hsieh rejected the predictable path of replicating the corporate campuses he visited -- Google and Apple among them.

“[They] are great for employees but insular -- they don’t contribute to surrounding communities,” he said.

“Maybe we should turn this whole idea inside out and be more like NYU [New York University] in how it blends into the city,” he recalls musing. “What about instead of investing in ourselves, we invested in the city?”  

Zappos’ future corporate offices, Hsieh said, will be located just two blocks away from the Fremont East neighborhood. It’s already made strides to bring in small businesses and tech startups to the area.

All this work, Hsieh says, is driven by his company’s core values: Collision, community and co-learning.

Next page: The city as platform