While thousands of people swarmed all over CES, I went off-beat and headed north to downtown Las Vegas. This is the old part of the city where once gamblers at slot machines listened to Sinatra wafting through the Casino doors rather than Beyonce. This area of faded glory is now the scene of the Downtown Project, an initiative by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to transform the area from an unloved poor relation to the famous Vegas “Strip” of huge casinos and hotels down the road, into a hive of tech startup activity. Silicon Strip, if you will.
The timing could’t be more interesting. As governments around the world look to the continuing boom in technology to revive their battered economies – from ‘Startup Chile’ to ‘Tech City’ in East London – Hsieh’s project could well become a blueprint for others to follow. After all, if you could re-create the fecund atmosphere and economic success of Silicon Valley in the middle of the American desert, surely you could do the same anywhere in the world?