If you’ve removed your shoes in an airport security line, you’ve likely seen an ad in the bin promoting Zappos.com — an online clothing and shoe retailer with annual sales of more than $1 billion. The man who wears the shoes as CEO is Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay), a Harvard grad and serial investor.

The shy yet vivacious entrepreneur is leaving his mark on the Las Vegas tech scene. Hsieh moved Zappos to the city in 2004, but the company recently signed a 15-year lease on a new home base in Las Vegas’ old city hall. This multimillion-dollar move is hoped to be a catalyst for economic development in downtown Vegas.

But perhaps Hsieh’s biggest gamble is his investment in the city’s Downtown Project, a five-year $350 million revitalization initiative — $50 million of which is allocated to tech startups through the VegasTechFund. The aim of the Downtown Project is to create the co-working capital of the world, which proponents say will spark innovative partnerships and drive economic activity.

In his spare time, Hsieh kicked off a book tour for Delivering Happiness, which details his life as an entrepreneur, traveling cross country in a party bus. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but some things just can’t be contained.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Return to the 2013 GT Top 25

Karen Stewartson, Managing Editor Karen Stewartson  |  Managing Editor

Karen Stewartson is the managing editor of Government Technology. She contributes to Public CIO journal and Emergency Management magazine. Karen is a lifelong learner who has a penchant for words, puns, food and babies.