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.
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.