As midnight approached on Dec. 11, a circle of Zappos and Downtown Project employees lifted up their shot glasses around a bonfire near the edge of the Fremont East District in downtown Las Vegas, where Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is conducting one of his many social experiments. He calls the private area, filled with about 30 Airstream and Tumbleweed trailer homes, an attempt to create an urban version of the Burning Man festival.
The circle around the bonfire (situated in front of Hsieh’s trailer) included members of his inner circle—downtown resident Ranielle Rivera and Zappos buyers Kristin Colbert and Lauren Randall. The group ebbed and flowed, breaking into smaller circles as it moved to different venues in downtown Las Vegas, many of which Hsieh had personally funded through Downtown Project, and converged at the park just before the stroke of midnight, when Hsieh would begin celebrating his 41st birthday. (Downtown Project is his personal investment in the area surrounding the new Zappos corporate campus, and includes real estate, small businesses, and tech startups.)