Delivering Happiness On A Jet Plane

I ran into Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh yesterday at the Google Zeitgest conference in Arizona. We caught up briefly over ex-TechCruncher Paul Carr – Tony and I are both backing his new startup. Then he told me about another of his new projects – the launch of a private jet service under the Delivering Happiness brand.

A few weeks ago Hsieh led a $7 million investment round in a small private jet service called JetSuite.

It wasn’t clear what, if anything, that investment had to do with Hsieh’s larger plan: restoring and transforming part of downtown Las Vegas into a live/work/play paradise (Downtown Project) and turning happiness into a business model (and a way of life) (Delivering Happiness).

It turns out the investment is an important part of Delivering Happiness and Downtown Project. Hsieh, and Delivering Happiness CEO Jenn Lim (both pictured above), are launching the new Delivering Happiness travel experience service as part of the overall mission to create experiences, memories and stories. The jets will be branded Delivering Happiness (see picture), and they’ll be operated by JetSuite (Hsieh is also a board member of JetSuite, as is David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue).

The new service is actually part of a much bigger story that involves multiple entities – Zappos, Downtown Project (a company owned by Hsieh), Delivering Happiness (owned by Hsieh and Lim) and JetSuite (Hsieh is one of a few investors).

Downtown Project aims to reinvigorate downtown Las Vegas and make it into the most community focused large city in the world, where residents can live, work and play and everything is within walking distance. This is a grand vision, and involves dozens of small investments by Hsieh in micro entrepreneurs who want to start businesses in the area around Zappos’ new headquarters in downtown Las Vegas. He’s looking at 70 startups right now, many of them to be founded by current Zappos employees who can keep their day jobs while forming these new Downtown Project companies.

Delivering Happiness is starting multiple businesses around the science of happiness. “Not the kumbaya let’s all get along type of happiness,” Lim tells me, but the actual science of building sustained happiness for people that Hsieh outlined in his book of the same name.

One of the ways they plan to spread happiness in the world is through Delivering Happiness Experiences. That’s where the jet experience comes in.

The Delivering Happiness jet will initially be part of an experience that takes people back and forth from San Francisco to Las Vegas. These experiences may also include door to door pickup in a restored classic Airstream RV (pictured below, pre-restoration) or a Delivering Happiness bus. And when you’re in Las Vegas, you will have the option of staying at one of the condos leased by Hsieh at The Ogden.

If this all sounds confusing, it’s because it’s still a work in progress. But it’s all definitely coming. People will be able to book flights on the jet and have an amazing experience in Las Vegas at prices more suited to the Southwest Airlines crowd – every day, Jetsuite offers special deals that can be booked for as little as $499 each way (for all four seats on the plane). In what might be the perk of the century, Zappos employees already get to fly free.

In fact, Hsieh and Lim repeatedly referred to the service as “the Southwest Airlines of private jets.”

This is a much bigger story than a simple private jet service. There’s a massive vision of rebuilding a big chunk of Las Vegas and turning it into the most fulfilling place to live and work in the world. And a separate but related vision of turning happiness in general into a real business and, as Lim believes, a movement. Hsieh and Lim haven’t given many specific details to the world about these visions yet, but that’s all changing soon.

Stay tuned. But at least one outsider, Paul Carr, has bought in to the vision. He’s going to base his new startup in Las Vegas and immerse himself in the Downtown Project world.

67 thoughts on “Delivering Happiness On A Jet Plane

  1. the Audio Book is really good!

  2. What interests me about JetSuite is they give away these three daily deals on their Facebook page

    I think this could actually become part of the service or a separate site. Kind of group buying for travel but with some real democratisation elements.

    If I lived in one of the main locations they went out of and wanted a trip i’d definitely try and snag one of those deals. Probably is one of the best perks i’ve seen startups offer.

    • Haha interesting you say that, i was looking into starting a group buying for private flying / chartering jets called Zipfly . There may be some regulations with doing that, but I haven’t looked into it enough. It’s definitely a great perk, real cool for Zappos employees.

      Hit me up if you have any ideas

      Ps great to see Arrington blogging quality content again already.

  3. Michael says:

    Isn’t this what every city needs? A big and bold move- something to move people toward, to motivate dreamers. Whether we get there exactly how we planned is really of no consequence. Especially in Vegas; I split time there and lived there briefly. It sucks after, oh about 10 days… on the outside! But I love the vibe of ‘anything might happen’ and ‘here’s a bunch of slack, but be cool.’ It seems so American to me. “Go Big or Go Home” has always been true there, whether you build hotels, shoot craps or strip. Here’s hoping this vision goes forward big.


      You should run for President.

    • Fred Davis says:

      Las Vegas, with its glitzkrieg of artificial fancy, has deserved a lot of fear and loathing. Going there a few times a year over a 30-year span I’ve seen a lot of change… some for the good, even. If Tony and his team can transform the former mob town and cultural cancer of America into something great, well more power to him! If he pulls it off he deserves more than a medal!

    • Yes.I wish we had something like that in Phoenix

    • Max says:

      Detroit needs something like Tony’s effort in LV. Oh, wait, that would mean there would need to be actual people living in Detroit, and entrepreneurialism and hope instead of crippling depression.

  4. seems interesting, the whole $500 for one way is already a sweet deal haha.

  5. I love the Las Vegas vibe too. I could see it becoming the “Strip Valley”.

  6. Thomas Palmer says:

    What cities fly happy ?

  7. “He’s looking at 70 startups right now, many of them to be founded by current Zappos employees who can keep their day jobs while forming these new Downtown Project companies.”
    If every big successful entrepreneur and company can pick a City and replicate this, I try to imagine what it will be like in 10 years.

  8. BJ Mendelson says:

    I was in Vegas not too long ago. Any development for the rest of the city that doesn’t involve The Strip is great, so I’m excited to see what’s going on here. The city can really use it given its current circumstances.

    It’s nice to read about stuff going on outside of the Valley. They’ve had enough fun for the past twenty years. It’s about time other cities that aren’t NY and LA get to have some fun.

  9. Todd R. Levy says:

    It is amazing to witness and be part of #Vegastech, the energy here is awesome. Tony’s vision and leadership for the Downtown Project is outstanding. Really excited to have Paul Carr in the mix here too.

    Thank you for writing this post!

  10. Brian says:

    Is uncrunched-hater arianna or erick?

    Cool stuff though. I worked for one of Zappos vendors and they are the real deal. Tony is too, I loved his book and the balls to stick to his vision despite the nay-sayers and kumbaya misdirection from his critics.

  11. Private jet…ehhh. Restored Airstream RV! Now we are talking!!

  12. Brett Gerry says:

    Just have to say, as a software engineer turned flight instructor turned jet pilot turned product manager turned soon to be entrepreneur, I don’t think $1000 roundtrip for the four seats in the jet is a sustainable business model. That won’t cover the fuel cost let alone all other costs. Did I read that right?

    Other than that, this sounds just awesome.


      Are you unaware of the Silicon Valley business model?

      1) Happy Users
      2) ???
      3) IPO!

      Fuel cost will go in as a happiness expense in their SEC disclosures. Jet fuel can be sniffed I’m sure.


    OMG. Thank you. Welcome to the Mr. Ferreira!

  14. How ironic that “creating happiness” is happening in Vegas, where many people are arguably made miserable more than any other place in the US (new addictions forming, beastly appetites being fed, money, cars, and hoes-sounds like happiness!!). I’ve briefly lived there. It’s fun if you keep things under control.

    The greater the opposition overcome, the greater the joy. I hope they kill it. Paul Carr seems like a fun, perfect fit for Vegas.

    Hey Mike and Tony- fund my biz and I’ll join the clan! I’m building something amazing. I briefly presented mock-ups of my product at Disrupt SF to co-founders or leaders of Facebook, Google, Kleiner, SoftTech, Felicis, and others-and they all thought it was very interesting. It’s very disruptive and native to mobile.

    dclark0333 at gmail dot com

  15. Gridjot- drop-pop this wicked beat I ain’t got
    flip-flop- what it is-the mobile platform for biz,
    for ladies-your baby mama-her drama and all her kidz
    share together-but no sexting
    yes-this is the next thing-the best thing-why?
    add time, space-place you’ll discover-
    your baby mama’s around, but also her other lover
    who was also there last night and shakin under the covers

    but check this ain’t no feature-but a self-sustaining creature
    and as FredyWil says- no bitch of facebook or twitter
    but it’s own grown man – like an unpaid blogger
    but i don’t know that man- freak, I’d be his father.


  16. Steve says:

    Yes!!!! Arrington is back! Nice post. Thank you.

  17. Wow, never, ever thought I’d do this, luckily I can say it’s not for me though. New jet service need any pilots? My flight instructor is amazing and extremely hard working. He’s there whether someone needs him at 6am or 3am, constantly flying and teaching. He has close to 1,000 hours flight time and though I’d hate to see him go, I’d love to see him get to move up, he deserves no less. Or maybe I’m just elated because he just got me through my first certification. I’d love to apply but alas, I’m still a few hundred hours away from a commercial license.

  18. Hey! I know that number! I’ve given it out myself 😀

  19. Oluwatosin says:

    This is great. Get Techcrunch behind you and build another great team.

  20. TechCrunch Mafia is the new PayPal Mafia.

  21. Taking Las Vegas complete ecologic nonsense to the next level! Horay!

  22. Frank, new around here says:

    It may be that some backstory would clarify for me the role of happiness in these businesses. I have not read Mr. Hsieh’s book. From what I see superficially, happiness looks like a brand value for the pleasant excursion business. Nothing wrong with that. Good vibe for a low-stress RT to Vegas. For unemployed me and my unemployed wife, dropping by the can-do blog is like pressing our noses up to the bakery window. I truly think the two of us are about as happy as can be–given our circumstances and without having done the science that is. As some other commenters have pointed out, there seems to be a gap between $1000 and operating a private jet. But. What do I know?

  23. Hm. Far be it from me to criticize a vision Tony has… but as someone who is in those early stages of “where do we locate this startup so that it has the best shot of succeeding?” I think Vegas and wonder what the theme (if any) there is to the businesses he envisions revitalizing the business side of sin city. Yes, they say you can do a tech startup just about anywhere in the world – as long as you don’t foresee a need to expand and need a wide talent pool. What will be drawing the great programmers there? The great operations people? The specialists without whom the bar to success is too high?
    Is Las Vegas in a skills renaissance? Or is Tony looking to create one? Because at the moment, the phrase ‘where can I find a tech-cofounder who knows anything about this’ has a lot of cities that come to mind immediately. Las Vegas hasn’t been high on that list yet.

  24. Daniel says:

    Is this blog a personal quest to express yourself and indulge your interests or you are building another media empire that will compete with Techcrunch?

  25. Sam White says:

    Do Tony and Lim really understand happiness. Money and Travel with excellent service make a great COMPANY to operate, not give happiness on sale. It almost sounds like they have coined HAPPINESS as Walmart term for all.

    Read, Immerse and get yourself enlightened. Happiness comes from within. It is an when a person can dis-associate oneself from CAPITALISTIC or MATERIALISTIC worlds and can follow a life of simplicity and fullness.

    Media and bloggers should sell less, and care more

  26. Johny Miric says:

    hey Mike, maybe they could use one of our “Beat Jet Lag” recordings to recover from long flights 🙂

  27. shannonclark says:

    My guess is that many of the Suite Deals that JetSuite offer are helping fill otherwise empty planes that need to be moved between two destinations to fulfill other client requests (i.e. Charter jets unlike regular airlines have to fly many flights empty to get planes to where their clients need them – regular airlines attempt to keep most of their planes in the air most of the time and on tarmac as little as possible). That plus the marketing buzz of offering the deals probably makes it worthwhile (i.e. Jetsuite was apparently just in the NY Times in a discussion of their Suite Deals)

    The revitalization of a downtown area via the support of lots of micro-entrepreneurs as well as a focus on building a sustainable live/work/play environment makes a lot of sense (heck it might make Las Vegas interesting to me – and I don’t say that lightly). I think there is a lot that cities such as San Francisco could potentially learn from what is happening in Las Vegas. San Francisco has many great points – but being a friendly environment for startups (especially retail businesses) isn’t one of them and the recent “tax your options grants” and many other moves don’t encourage startups to stay in SF (and thus keep creating jobs here). Nor do the local zoning etc help revitalize and build mixed use environments (see the China Basin/Mission Bay Campus area for what results currently – wastelands of parking lots and retail environments not entirely friendly to pedestrians or to small microentrepreneurs.

  28. Advance says:

    It’s not really the Jet business that I find fascinating – it’s the Downtown project. This rejuvenation of a piece of American history will be an amazing story. Can’t wait to hear more.

  29. Steve says:

    This sounds good but confusing. It seems Hsieh and co have something good coming.

  30. I want to fly on the happiness jet

  31. Hongbo Zhang says:

    I just hope i can be the first commenter next time!

  32. yeah, because clearly what the world needs now is more private jet usage, particularly between two cities that already have more than 20 nonstop flights running daily. you should have just subsidized flying out potential talent and vcs on commuter airlines instead of starting a regional recruitment operation under the guises of “happiness”. what a giant load of worthless, irresponsible fucktardery.

  33. I’ve met Tony a number of times and am a massive fan of Zappos and his focus on culture, as well as his book. He’s often talked of running a zappos airline (clearly not something sequoia or amazon would go for) so I just can’t help wonder if this is the fulfilment of a goal for Tony, and the opportunity to have access to a private jet (without being seen as a fat cat!) rather than a real venture? They say there’s only two days you’re happy when you buy a private jet, the day you buy it and the day you sell it!

    The Las Vegas regeneration project sounds great though, I’ve been once and I thought it was a total dump. I love the way Tony sets out a bold vision and goes for it, people will get behind him, and he’ll make it happen. I wonder what he’ll be doing 20 years from now? Can’t wait to find out.

  34. Frank, new around here says:

    wrt irresponsible earth pillage, this really is a trivial impact folks. No not zero impact but the success will be beaucoup inverse responsive to energy disruptions so bring on the happiness and damn the degradation.

  35. Nice article. The ‘delivering happiness’ brand is great, my co-founder and I loved the book and hope to deliver happiness to devs worldwide too… thanks Arrington and Hshieh for doing what you do with greatness.

  36. David Nguyen says:

    Tony is my hero. I try to implement his and Steve jobs’ techniques and work ethics to myself at my job. Obsess over the user experience and present yourself in a way to cater to their needs (while helping your company too), not the other way around. It’s too bad Zappos doesn’t operate in my state because I would love to work for them.

  37. Michelle says:

    Techcrunch of old it ain’t but hopefully it’ll improve it’s very early days and maybe Michael is only finding his feet again.

  38. Shawn says:

    Looks like Las Vegas is the new place to be. Interested to see what else is happening.

    • TG says:

      There is something intriguing about it and I’ve met many creative types who recently moved across country to be in Sin City. By choosing not to partake in what Vegas typically has to offer it’s actually a great place for productivity.

  39. Ridiculous story there. What happened after? Thanks!

  40. Hi there! I realize this is somewhat off-topic but I needed to ask. Does managing a well-established blog like yours take a massive amount work? I’m completely new to blogging however I do write in my diary every day. I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my own experience and feelings online. Please let me know if you have any ideas or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

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