Joe Downtown: Convention to help draw attention to Las Vegas’ ‘burgeoning’ tech possibilities

Courtesy Photo

Stephanie Burns is the co-founder of Chic CEO.

Next week’s convention of techies at the Cosmopolitan will be a relatively cozy affair compared to juggernaut South By Southwest, the mothership of music/tech/movie conventions based in Austin, Texas, that is bringing their brand here.

The convention here is called South By Southwest V2V. The convention’s website says V2V can mean anything from “Visionaries to Vegas, Vision to Venture, Voice to Voice, Venture to Vegas — all the variations of the V2V moniker carry the same theme: the movement from idea to reality.”

“South By,” as the annual event in Austin is known colloquially, is a two-week party that grew from music only to include movies and technology. Las Vegas techno-philes had one of the most visible presences at the 2013 show earlier this year, with hundreds of attendees and a show of unity between several Las Vegas-based startup founders.

The conference at the Cosmopolitan will feature several Las Vegas speakers, as well, notably Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, along with Zach Ware, a Zappos/Downtown Project workhorse who co-founded Work in Progress and is heading up plans for a multi-modal transportation system.

Las Vegas’ conference is expected to draw around 1,500 attendees, where South By in Austin hosted well over 100,000 people — including about 30,000 who attended its “interactive”/tech portion — injecting an estimated $190 million into the local economy.

Though much smaller in its first year, the conference here will also feature dozens of speakers from around the country, some of whom have come to see Las Vegas as the techland of the future.

We contacted Stephanie Burns, co-founder of Chic CEO, to get her take on Las Vegas as a potential hub of tech activity, and just what she expects from the conference. Chic CEO is a clearinghouse of information for those looking to start their own businesses. It includes information and guides for writing business plans, legalese and raising money. named Chic CEO one of the top 10 entrepreneurial websites for women.

Working full time while earning her MBA, Burns said her girlfriends started turning to her around 2008 because they were trying to start businesses on the side to make money during the recession.

“Because I was in business school, they were asking, ‘How do I start my business?’ and I didn’t know how to answer them,” she said. “That’s a huge disconnect … so I decided to build Chic CEO for myself and my friends.”

Though the information at Chic CEO can be used by men, as well, it’s targeted toward women — who are starting businesses 2-to-1 over men, Burns said — because she wanted to create a community of women in business.

The 34-year-old Nebraska native said she likes what she sees happening in downtown Las Vegas, where the Downtown Project is actively courting tech companies through its still-young VegasTechFund. “Vegas” as a tech ecosystem got a big boost, she added, by its strong showing at South By Southwest in March.

“Bringing them to South By was a brilliant idea to show startups from all over the United States that Vegas is burgeoning,” she said.

Silicon Valley is still the ultimate tech hub, she added, followed probably equally by established communities of coders in Boston, Austin, and the “Silicon Beach” of Los Angeles and San Diego.

“But after Austin, people are really taking a good, long look at Vegas,” she said.

Burns will be on a panel focused on “The Impact of Angel Investors” at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The conference kicks off with registration and a party Sunday and ends Wednesday night.


Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.