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Vegas Startup Company, Shift, Lands $10 Million in Funding

Many people reading this might be asking themselves, there’s a company called Shift in Las Vegas? Well, along with getting $10 million in funding, the company formerly known as Project 100 is now called Shift. The funding and the name change were announced in a blog post by Zach Ware, CEO of Shift. Here’s an excerpt from the announcement that describes where they’re headed with the $10 million:

To our soon-to-be-members we aim to be incredibly simple while the complexity of what we do rests in the hands of our team, behind the scenes. In our core service area, first in Las Vegas and soon in other cities, we will enable people to be on their way riding, driving or biking within five minutes. We’re combining small city cars, larger sedans, shuttles, bikes and more into a single monthly membership designed to remove your thoughts about cost as a factor in whether or not you should go somewhere. By the end of the year we will not only replace your car, but we’ll deliver so much more than your car could ever deliver. And we’ll be far more affordable than you might think.

The blog post also says that the $10MM Series A round was led by Tony Hsieh and that the company now has a team of 22 people.

Best of luck to Zach and the team at Shift as they work to change the way we think about transportation.

May 15, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 electronic medical record and health IT blogs. He also founded the Pure TV Network of blogs. John recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. As part of the Las Vegas Tech startup community, John helped organize the highly successful inaugural Startup Weekend Las Vegas. He's also been a strong supporter of the Vegas Tech community including co-founding the VegasStartups.com blog. John is highly involved in social media, and can be found on Twitter: @techguy and Google Plus.

Downtown Project Buys 100 Teslas as part of New Project 100

Ever since SXSW when The Verge wrote a story that Downtown Project had purchased 100 Teslas, it’s been a bit of a joke about the 100 Teslas. Of course, as someone inside the community I’d heard the rumor as well and knew it was a possibility. Well, like most of the best rumors, the 100 Teslas is a reality for Downtown Las Vegas.

The 100 Tesla purchase is one part of what’s called Project 100. I’d say that this is the most ambitious thing that Downtown Project has announced to date. Everything else that Downtown Project has done to date has been pretty incremental. Project 100 is the first announcement that’s working to stretch the idea of if you build it they will come. The current state of downtown probably doesn’t need 100 Teslas and all of the transportation infrastructure they’re putting together. However, they also know that if they don’t have enough cars for someone subscribing to Project 100, then they’re going to have a service that people won’t truly adopt.

What then is Project 100? The full FAQ on the Project 100 website does a pretty decent job of answering the initial questions. The cliff notes version is that it’s a car service that’s a mixture of Zipcar, Uber, Lift, and Sidebar. Their goal is to provide whatever means of transportation you need so you no longer have to own a car. This is all facilitated by a smart phone application and the built in GPS.

Here’s what I’ve heard suggested might be part of the fleet:
-100 Model S Teslas (with drivers in some cases)
-Low Range Electric Vehicle (like a Polaris GEM)
-Bikes
-Party Bus
-Trucks
-Off road vehicles

One article also mentioned a helicopter and remember that Tony’s already invested in a private plane service. So, who knows where they might go next as far as transportation options.

They’re aiming to “keep the monthly cost for most members in the same range as a traditional monthly car payment + insurance which averages around $400 per month.” I guess they pay more for insurance and cars than I do. Of course, I buy my cars cash, so maybe that’s why I don’t know about payments, but I digress. I do think that many will think this price is quite steep. I’ll be interested to see what pay as you go options they make available. I imagine many tech visitors to Las Vegas would love a pay as you go option when they’re visiting.

The other part of the pricing angle is someone coming from San Francisco. If you’re used to the high rents in San Francisco, it’s a lot cheaper to rent a place in Las Vegas and get a Project 100 car service than even just paying for rent in San Francisco.

What’s interesting is that I heard Zach Ware say they’ve been working on this for the past couple years. Makes you start to wonder what other ambitious projects Downtown Project is working on that they haven’t talked about yet.

I’m looking forward to seeing Project 100 in action. It’s quite an ambitious gamble.

April 8, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 electronic medical record and health IT blogs. He also founded the Pure TV Network of blogs. John recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. As part of the Las Vegas Tech startup community, John helped organize the highly successful inaugural Startup Weekend Las Vegas. He's also been a strong supporter of the Vegas Tech community including co-founding the VegasStartups.com blog. John is highly involved in social media, and can be found on Twitter: @techguy and Google Plus.

ScripSmart, Ayloo, Rumgr, and #VegasTech on Fox 5 Las Vegas

Fox Channel 5 in Las Vegas just did a report on a number of Las Vegas startup companies along with Usr Lib and the Downtown project. The report includes Vegas Startup founders Judd Lillestrand, CEO of ScripSmart, Mark Johnson, Chief Brand Officer of Ayloo, and Dylan Bathurst, CEO of Rumgr. Zach Ware also talked about the Downtown project.

It’s always great to see the local TV stations and other local press covering what’s happening with Las Vegas startup companies and the broader Vegas Tech community. I have a feeling Matt DeLucia and Fox are going to be filing a lot more stories about Las Vegas startup companies.

Here’s the video of the coverage in case you missed it:

April 10, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 electronic medical record and health IT blogs. He also founded the Pure TV Network of blogs. John recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. As part of the Las Vegas Tech startup community, John helped organize the highly successful inaugural Startup Weekend Las Vegas. He's also been a strong supporter of the Vegas Tech community including co-founding the VegasStartups.com blog. John is highly involved in social media, and can be found on Twitter: @techguy and Google Plus.

Guest Post by Julian Shapiro: Downtown Project: The Power of a Collective Conscience

Editor’s Note: Thanks to the power of the internet, I came across Julian Shapiro who was writing an piece on his thoughts on the development of the Vegas Tech community. I told him I’d be happy to post his piece as a guest post on Vegas Startups once it was ready.

Julian is the founder of NameLayer.com, a domain name portfolio for tech entrepreneurs. You can follow him at @Shapiro.

For years, I’ve wondered what a city with a focus on community would look like if it were not the product of total corporate control. I’d love to be part of such a city if it were done “right.”

Fortunately for me (a tech entrepreneur), such a community would benefit greatly from a focus on tech, as it is a proven conduit to exponential job creation as well as localized innovation. Crucially important, however, is that the goal of downtown Las Vegas is not to recreate Silicon Valley, but rather to communally plant the seeds for an autonomous, living, and breathing city that will ultimately supercharge itself.

Only with this type of a platform can the next generational advancement in innovation be possible. If mankind is largely defined by innovation (not merely incremental adaptation) and social connection, then igniting social connections through a holistically communal approach will naturally amplify all the wonders of human ingenuity in the process.

The way you go about doing this is by simply connecting the dots. To do anything more is to not only overcomplicate the matter, but to unrealistically overextend oneself (as the communal seed planter). In the context of community building, “connecting the dots” translates to interconnecting passions instead of actively fostering passions: Instead of riling up individuals to partake in various subcommunities, you attract individuals with pre-existing, focused, and explosive passions that simply need to be given some kindling and a direction to head in.

The goal of this article is to raise awareness of the power of collective consciousness so that individuals are discouraged from simply waiting around for Zappos to “finish” executing its vision for its wonderful Downtown Project. After all, by definition, this is a community-wide undertaking.

1. Hope is not a strategy

Proactively educating and motivating

People won’t just serendipitously begin building and executing their businesses in ways that seamlessly benefit the community. No one is self-aware about absolutely everything they do. People need reminders; they need to be educated and motivated.

When businesses emerge with a collective knowledge and consideration for what’s taking place around them, you have the power – as the seed planters – to proactively replace certain outdated traditions with newer, more powerful ones.

Let’s take a look at a very small example: Why not educate all new restaurants about the latest web services and pitch them on the benefits of integrating an online table reservation and/or takeout system from day one? When this becomes a norm (a community-wide expectation) with clearly perceived benefits, it becomes naturalized such that incoming small business owners seeking exciting opportunities will begin thinking up ideas and technological co-ops on their own.

Imagine if you could walk down any block in downtown Las Vegas with your iPhone out and plan your entire lunch or dinner experience before you even arrive at the front doors of your office. Now apply that same power to the process of planning all of your work-related tasks for the day, and you start to realize how the big picture comes together.

Likewise, there are a lot of tech-related institutional practices that can heighten the efficiency and energy of a city when that city is being built upon a collective consideration for what’s going on around it. You leverage that consciousness by being vocal: If you have a soapbox and a slew of fantastic ideas, start getting discussions rolling. If you don’t have a soapbox, create one.

You can apply proactive education and motivation to so many aspects of city life:

  • Biking instead of driving
  • The proximity of crucial storefronts (supermarkets, doctors) to living areas
  • Schools that employ effective and energized teaching methods – not simply what has come before them:
    • Likewise, perform a nation-wide search for individuals who are gung-ho passionate about this way of teaching. Then, have those people get teaching degrees. In other words, you don’t have to start only with teachers who are already ingrained into the old system. Make your own rules.
    • Prioritize the study of happiness – even starting at a young age. This isn’t a superficial attempt to appeal to Hsieh’s passions; it’s merely a response to the current educational system’s institutionalization of prioritizing career planning over the pursuit of genuine fulfillment.
  • Giving storefronts tax deductions for each hour they stay open past 6pm:
    • Why should enjoying life ever be constrained to society’s pre-existing notions, such as “work hours”? Life is so much more enjoyable with flexibility.
  • Try to consider the hidden costs of everything. Yes, it requires a lot of thought, but its positive effects will be felt for centuries: As Kim Schaefer asks, “As Las Vegas has grown over the last 100 years, what are the things we’ve sacrificed to create the city that we now live in? There are the obvious costs, environmental and financial, of building a city in the middle of a desert, but what else have we lost along the way?

Removing friction

A lot of great new people won’t just show up out of nowhere.

A jet link between Las Vegas and Silicon Valley is smart. It adds a level of sophistication and intrigue. But, more importantly, it removes a lot of excuses that people will have about geographical friction.

In what other ways can we remove friction? Well, let’s start by thinking about what the key elements are that keep people right where they are – the elements that convince people that packing their bags to go work a more interesting job in another city is an overwhelming undertaking:

  • Not being around existing friends; losing touch with friends; having to make new friends
  • Overwhelmed by new surroundings; feeling spatially and socially isolated in a new city
  • Missing their home city’s unique culture; being intimidated by or uninterested in cultural change

Each one of these points should be proactively addressed by the “marketing department” of the destination community. With community already being priority numero uno to the Downtown Project, let’s just briefly focus on the third point:

  • Cultural change: Unlike hiring for a company, you can’t vet for new citizens. However, just like a company, you can offer creative resources that show off what you’re about. I believe that every amount of energy and passion that went into accepting visitors with open arms at Zappos should be equally spent on having regular, clever, and strategically-planned tours around downtown Las Vegas. To take it a level further, however, it should be a “two-time commitment” on behalf of the visitors: At the end of every tour, each visitor should be told: “If you don’t plan on moving in the immediate future, we implore you to come back in 12 months – perhaps on your next casino vacation – and prepare to be blown away by how much this city has changed. You can also just check out the progress online!”

In other words, if there’s sufficient capital and drive to rapidly change downtown Las Vegas, this monumental momentum should be leveraged to evoke wonder out of those who are interested in relocating; use this massive differential as a marketing tool. Start by filming the current state of the downtown area: Peruse city blocks and showcase everything they have to offer. From early morning to late night, show it in its full glory and darkness. Then, every four months, have a film crew come back through and retrace their steps. Compile this footage into an ever-growing retro-comparison video walk-through for thousands to witness on YouTube. (You can even make specialized videos for the arts, community development, education, tech, and so on. Also, don’t forget to address factors like safety/crimerate, affordability, real estate value, climate, and public transportation.) When people see the changes being made, they’ll realize that moving to downtown Las Vegas is unlike moving to any other destination: The city is in a state of constant flux and growth. People would be relocating not just to experience a change, but they would be relocating to continue experiencing change. A living, breathing city.

2. Luck is not a factor

Methodology of approach

You won’t simply be stricken with the best of the best ideas – especially not for every type of small business that a city fuels itself on.

What will help is a strategy for systematically gathering and assessing ideas. This way, the best can naturally rise to the top where they will then be infused with individual vision.

As an example, let’s develop an idealistic approach for building a small business: Choose two or three thriving cities (anywhere in the world) that are as different from one another as possible – yet all of which reflect the lifestyle and communal foundations that you wish to infuse into your business and your community. With each of your chosen cities, repeat the following:

  • 1. Visit Yelp.com (or the regional variant of Yelp).
  • 2. Go through each and every business category.
  • 3. Look at the highest rated destinations in each category.
  • 4. Visit the top 5-10 of those destinations, per category, per city.
  • Send a couple people who are very good at paying attention to not only the fine details in things but also the larger picture at hand.
  • Have them take videos, pictures, and transcribed summaries on the pros and cons of each location.
  • Have them compare the comments left in the Yelp reviews with their real-life experiences before synthesizing what the destinations specifically do that cause people to react so enthusiastically about what they experience.
  • 5. Distill this entire collection of multi-city research into one master index.
  • 6. (Optional) Repeat steps 1-5 for the worst rated destinations so that you can be reminded of what NOT to do.
  • 7. Have highly energized brainstorming sessions about each business category, consulting the index as necessary.

The important thing to remember is that performing systematic research doesn’t detract from idiosyncratically and passionately pursuing development – it simply supercharges it. Research is the food that fuels the productive mind.

Attracting thought leaders

Keep it simple; just connect the dots. Don’t spend energy trying to woo 50,000 tech enthusiasts when you can spend 5% of that time wooing the people who the tech enthusiasts pay attention to.

What does someone like Tim Ferriss have that most of the top tech bloggers don’t? Influential, result-oriented clout. Yes, there are quite a few larger-than-life bloggers with lots of eyes on them, but someone like Ferriss converts those eyes into moving hands, whereas most just momentarily attract attention.

Do whatever you need to in order to get the Tim Ferrisses to not only whole-heartedly advocate downtown Las Vegas but to also relocate – at least part-time. After all, monkey see, monkey do; not monkey hear, monkey do.

For each industry, thoroughly research so that you always pinpoint the real thought leaders.

Regarding tech in particular, everything that can be said about attracting tech entrepreneurs has already been beautifully summed up by Rick Duggan:

  • Respond more effectively to offers of help
  • Give structure to those who prefer structure
  • Ensure adequate supply of funding for deserving companies
  • Facilitate founder speed dating

Just imagine living in a city that was home to the eclectic leaders in several dozen spaces, including yoga, music, arts, teaching, and so on. What would the vibe be like? How would such a massive amount of inspiration rub off on the community? Kids would grow up having leaders to admire in any space that they could possibly be passionate about. Consequently, success in their chosen field would always seem tangible – they wouldn’t know mediocrity.

This scenario might seem obnoxiously idealistic, but dumb it down a bit (if you must) and imagine applying it to all facets of inspiration. You’ll find yourself coming up with some very powerful ideas.

3. Fear is not an option

If you knew this development initiative was going to fail, leaving you to make the most of the little time and capital you had left, what’s the craziest – yet still incredibly clever and impactful – stuff that you’d try pulling off?

  • You want to build a multi-block zipline? Why not build an aerial waterslide and sell waterproof briefcases at each end? When Las Vegas presents you with 117 degree temperatures, throw a waterslide in its face.
  • You want to make downtown’s physical configuration convenient? Well, why not reorganize so that the downtown zone is a series of concentric “circles”? The outer-most circle is where the apartments are, then the next inner level would be the quick conveniences (groceries, haircut), then you have restaurants, then entertainment, then business, and finally a park in the middle where people can congregate. It’s like a sugary center to a multi-layered lollipop.
  • You want to discourage driving cars? Well, why not encourage people to drive (road-certified) electric golf carts and go-karts all around the area? If everyone’s doing it, then the concern of being smashed to bits by a traditional car wouldn’t be too great…

It goes on and on. Don’t base ideas off of what you’re used to. Base ideas off of the most idealistic creations you can autonomously come up with. Only once you’ve done this should you then synthesize your ideal scenario with “reality” and make compromises.

Always start big.

Closing Thoughts

Someone once passionately wrote, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” And what we’re talking about here is fostering the ideal environment for impassioned people to genuinely create themselves. That’s something I’d want to be a part of. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years. Throughout this time, the only concrete conclusion I’ve come to is that there can never fully be a blueprint – there can only be a starting point combined with good intentions and the genuine drive to see those intentions through.

The reason that there can never be a blueprint is that a community is not defined by its distinct subcommunities (because, divided, they’re just factions), but rather a community is defined by the spaces that naturally arise in between subcommunities. (Watch Zach Ware of the Downtown Project talk more about this concept here.) Those spaces filling themselves in is the sign of human ingenuity at work.

That’s where the greatest magic happens.
Julian Shapiro

Julian Shapiro

February 27, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 electronic medical record and health IT blogs. He also founded the Pure TV Network of blogs. John recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. As part of the Las Vegas Tech startup community, John helped organize the highly successful inaugural Startup Weekend Las Vegas. He's also been a strong supporter of the Vegas Tech community including co-founding the VegasStartups.com blog. John is highly involved in social media, and can be found on Twitter: @techguy and Google Plus.

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