10-05-2014, 12:28 PM #1
The verging suicides - 3 deaths rock Las Vegas's tech community
Tech world rocked after 3 suicides at high-profile Las Vegas start-up that planned to 'bring happiness to everyone'
• Founded in 2012, Downtown Project aimed to 'bring happiness' to Vegas
• But leader Tony Hsieh has stepped down and 30 staff have been laid off
• At same time, the suicides of three entrepreneurs have sparked mystery
• In past two years, Jody Sherman, Ovik Banerjee and Matt Berman died
• Hsieh's 'pursuit of happiness' is said to be 'damaging' to entrepreneurs
10-05-2014, 12:38 PM #2
The Downtown Project Suicides: Can the Pursuit of Happiness Kill You? (recode.net)
Tony Hsieh seemed to work hard to keep each suicide quiet. Entrepreneurs told me there were few community resources made available, no large-scale gatherings, no cathartic outpouring, and that they felt confused about what was happening and why it was never addressed. Many in the Downtown Project, including a crisis counselor who worked with the parents of one entrepreneur, pointed to Hsieh’s philosophy — his obsession with happiness, and with imposing it upon the community — as one of the problems.
10-05-2014, 02:08 PM #3I am polka dot
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
- Left Coast USA
The suicide article is just one part of a very interesting series that I wouldn't have even known about had wfgodot not linked to the above article. The series starts here:
PART 1 of the LAS VEGAS SPECIAL SERIES
BY NELLIE BOWLES
Tony Hsieh, the charismatic CEO of Zappos.com, invested $350 million into turning Las Vegas into a startup. Buying 60 acres, setting up his own school, his own medical clinic, his own venture fund and restaurants, Hsieh is creating an innovation city in his own image. It is strange. And it is struggling. But it's the most ambitious experiment in building a 21st century utopian city in the U.S. In this Re/code special series, we explore what it means to live there -- and why its startups could flourish, or fail.
“We could create our own adult version of a college dorm and build our own community. It was an opportunity for us to create our own world. It was perfect.”
TONY HSIEH – “DELIVERING HAPPINESS”
"the new downtown Las Vegas, the medical clinic is also a co-working space. The church knows to step in when founders lose funding. A men’s hotel is now offices, a Bikram yoga studio and an artisanal donut bakery. The rundown casino with seedy upstairs rooms is reborn as an entrepreneur dorm.
And in the new preschool, which took over a church that had been a senior service center, entrepreneurship training begins at 6 weeks old.
How does that work?
Connie Yeh, a former Citibank trader, nows runs an entrepreneurship preschool.Vjeran Pavic for Re/code Connie Yeh, a former Citibank trader, nows runs an entrepreneurship preschool.
“It’s mostly about teaching them that it’s okay to fail,” said Connie Yeh, a former derivatives trader at Citibank, and now the founder of the 9th Bridge School in downtown Las Vegas. Yeh said that one of her preschoolers already has a website.
If all that seems strange — if it comes across as a startup fantasia straight out of science fiction — that’s because it is.
Tony Hsieh — the enigmatic, shy yet hard-partying 40-year-old founder of Vegas-based shoe-sales site Zappos, which he sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion — could have a lot of toys. He chose a city."
More, more, more ...
10-05-2014, 02:41 PM #4
Gosh, if we'd just have had that adroit teaching tool in our lesson bag pre-WWII, perhaps we'd still be bowing to our Nazi overlords today (instead of remembering with pride Normandy and Operation Overlord). The "Great Generation" could have cut out a lot of the storm and stress and settled for being The Not-Half-Bad Generation.
Last edited by wfgodot; 10-05-2014 at 02:57 PM.
10-05-2014, 02:53 PM #5
Building one's own personal paradise usually does not end well.“Every day that they don’t find something is good for me.“ Billie Dunn
10-05-2014, 06:28 PM #6Certified Trauma Counselor
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
I don't care much for Hsieh, and I hate the attitude that puts the blame for their business failures on their failure at being happy, but somehow implying he is at fault for the suicides is a bit much. Suicides are unusually high among entrepreneurs to begin with, and someone who has risked everything and moved to LV and then fails, has a pretty tough hill to climb to be successful again. Being in an environment like Las Vegas, where success is everything and gambling is the top industry, most entrepreneurs are willing to bet it all-and end up losing it all. And not all entrepreneurs kill themselves when they fail. I'd like to see the number of entrepreneurs who failed in the Downtown Las Vegas project, but didn't kill themselves. I just think the article is a bit half baked and sensationalistic.
10-05-2014, 06:39 PM #7“Every day that they don’t find something is good for me.“ Billie Dunn
10-05-2014, 07:00 PM #8
I went all by myself the last time I went to Vegas and it was perhaps the most depressing 4 days I've ever spent. I stayed at the Golden Nugget downtown. Being alone gave me the opportunity to people-watch and what I kept seeing was homeless people begging, mentally ill people wandering around and many people who work for very little money. I had one conversation with someone who felt she was "trapped" there - had come hoping to have a better life than she did where she was from, but ended up in a minimum-wage job barely able to keep up with her living expenses let alone save to go back home. I haven't been back since.All posts from me are MY OPINION ONLY
10-07-2014, 06:45 PM #9Registered User
- Join Date
- Jun 2004
I went to Las Vegas for the first time a few years back with a friend. Neither of us gamble, so we were in tune to sight-see and go to some shows. We stayed at the Mirage, which was of course, beautiful.
We took a "guided casino tour" one night. Which was just great and pretty cheap. A bus picked us up at our hotel at 5:30PM and took us to four different casinos, to the top of the Stratosphere, and then down for an hour and a half on Freemont St. To me, this "old Las Vegas" area was kind of sad and tired looking with lots of "iffy" looking types lurking about. We ducked in and out of a few of the older casinos there. They were awful, IMO.
We were there for four days, visited all the big ones on the strip, rode on the canal boats at the Venetian, saw MGM Grand, New York New York, the Eiffel Tower, Ceasors, etc.
That was enough for me. I'd never go back. But again, I don't gamble. And I really resented having to wind my way through the vast casino floor in order to get to the damn elevators to our room!
10-08-2014, 01:57 PM #10Registered User
- Join Date
- Aug 2014
I live in Las Vegas and have been to the remodeled downtown several times in the past 6 months.
I think the project was an impressive attempt at planned gentrification but it could not overcome the scuzziness and poverty and non-hipness of old Las Vegas.
They've got the right look with the retro redesigns and the coffee shops and the SF or Seattle-like restaurants, but I don't think they can compete with the profitability of the dingy old casinos. And as long as those casinos are the main economic draw you're going to get the drug addicts and homeless and insane that seem to go with them, and people with money are not going to want to live there and gentrify the place.
I don't know if the Project has officially failed but I don't like its chances. Hopefully they won't lose back what they've accomplished because the downtown area is certainly nicer than it used to be.
I think the suicide angle may or may not say something about the capitalist equation of lbusiness success with a good life, but I'm not sure there's anything especially sinister about Tsieh in this regard. As someone else noted failed entrepreneurs are probably prone to suicide everywhere.
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