Starry-eyed dreamers determined to make their mark on the world have been coming to the Mojave Desert for over 100 years. Most recently the Downtown Project and Zappos have taken the oldest part of our town and turned it into a vibrant hub of innovation.
Las Vegas was built on taking chances, so it is easy to see why it would be the perfect place for entrepreneurs to take a big gamble. It was no surprise when UpGlobal—anon-profit organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship, grassroots leadership, and strong communities—decided to bring their yearly summit to downtown in late May.
UpGlobal’s mission, according to their website, is to “improve the global human condition by amplifying the efforts of start-up community leaders and their ability to create and sustain flourishing entrepreneurial communities around the world.”
More than 1000 community leaders traveled in for the four-day UP Summit to celebrate the past year’s accomplishments, to learn new techniques, and to reignite their excitement for the start-up community.
For many of the visitors it was their first time in Las Vegas and for some, it was their first visit to the United States. Instead of spending time on the Strip, the group had a variety of “fun experience” options which included traveling to Hoover Dam, Red Rock, and other out-of-the-way destinations that most first-time tourists never see.
The weekend, however, wasn’t all play. Lectures, panel discussions, and group activities filled both mornings and
afternoons. Even breakfast and lunch breaks featured “meetings of the mind” and focused on the best practices, new ideas, and cultivation of a community’s unique ecosystem.
Trey Bowels led an hour-long workshop in which the participants sat in a circle on new-age metallic bean bag chairs to discuss community cohesion. The 30 or so people exchanged ideas on how to collaborate effectively with other
community builders, organizations, and programs in their community. Bowels stressed the idea that, as leaders, the group needed to concentrate on “speaking life into a community by building up what you have…instead of tearing down and focusing on what is lacking.”
“There is still room for thinking outside of the norms. We have to be ready for what’s to come in ten years.” ~ Simon Kaiser
On the Inspire Theater stage, a special local panel discussed the idiosyncrasies of a Las Vegas start-up venture. Panelist Dylan Jorgensen said that one of the biggest hurdles of the entrepreneurial journey is the fear of being vulnerable. “You have to just do it.”
Capitalists, angel investors, and large banking institutions such as JP Morgan Chase were also on hand to give advice on how to find funding for both small and large projects.
Simon Kaiser made his first trip to Las Vegas from Zurich, Switzerland for the event because he believes in the mission and says that even though his community’s job market isn’t as volatile as the one in the States, “…there is still room for thinking outside of the norms. We have to be ready for what’s to come in 10 years.”
In fewer than seven years, UpGlobal has spread its Boulder, Colorado roots across the country and to almost every continent in the world. While the yearly summit has taken place in a variety of locations (including Rio de Janiero last year), 2014 marked its first time in Las Vegas.
Shavonnah Tiera, an advisor at the UNLV start-up center and a born-and-raised Las Vegan, joined the organization in 2009. As the weekend began to wrap up, Tiera said she was very pleased by the turn out and, most importantly, by having everyone experience another side of Vegas.
UpGlobal leaders plan to continue creating a living, breathing blueprint for new entrepreneurs to follow and tweak as they travel through their journeys. Starting a business is a high stakes game, but it could yield a jackpot that can benefit an entire community.