Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh founded the Downtown Project in 2012 in the hopes of transforming a barren downtown Las Vegas into a bustling city for entrepreneurs. His $US350 million personal investment has been used to support a reported 300 businesses and legal entities.
Hsieh has said that Harvard professor Edward Glaeser’s book “Triumph of the City” helped him with the vision for the project, since it highlighted the link between city layouts and business innovation. In an April 2014 interview with David Hochman for Playboy, Hsieh also revealed that he was inspired by what Hochman called “the literature of pickup artistry.”
Hochman asked Hsieh to explain his appreciation of books on picking up women, like Neil Strauss’ “The Game,” which Hsieh talked about in a 2011 interview with the New York Times. These books, like Tariq Nasheed’s “The Mack Within” and Ross Jeffries’ “How to Get the Women You Desire into Bed,” are guides from gurus of the so-called “seduction community” of men trying to overcome their dating failures.
Hsieh said (at least at that point) he was interested in learning the psychology of communication from this genre of books — not tricks for taking home a woman. He also said it helped him think of how to sell the Downtown Project to prospective clients. He explains:
I think I have different goals. “The Game” is more focused on how to pick up girls, but I found it interesting in thinking about how to use similar concepts to build relationships in general. I’ve read a lot of stuff by people in that world, so I don’t remember who said what, but I remember hearing that if you’re going on a date with a girl, the best thing to do is change locations every half hour or hour and do something different.
Basically, at the end, if you’ve gone to seven different locations, it will have the same effect on memory as going on seven dates in single locations. So it’s about time compression and memory and so on. The point is to seduce a girl faster, but that technique has other applications as well.
It’s part of what I’m trying to do with Downtown Project. When people come visit us we basically hop from location to location to location, so even though they have been here only two or three nights, it will seem as though they have been here two weeks. It will have a big impact on their memory. Humans remember things in terms of geography and number of stories. I want a city where all this stuff is within walking distance so you can have a bunch of different experiences.
This point complements one of the findings of “Triumph of the City,” which is that innovation within a city increases when it is arranged in a way that maximizes random interactions called “collisions” among the city’s employees and customers going from place to place.
In the Playboy interview, Hochman asked wryly, “Just to confirm: You’re designing a city based on techniques to get into women’s pants?”
“Well, we’re not using the techniques to pick up girls,” Hsieh said. “But I did have someone here from that world who said what we’re trying to do is basically seduce people into moving to downtown Vegas.”
The full interview is available on Playboy’s website.
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