Nadeem Nathoo is a firm believer that there is a lot of young tech talent in Las Vegas. He hopes to develop that talent.
Nathoo, an entrepreneur from Toronto, is the co-creator of the educational program “The Knowledge Society,” which is designed to help teenagers develop leadership skills and expose them to cutting-edge technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
Sponsored by Zappos, sessions for the Las Vegas cohort begin next month at the Zappos’ downtown headquarters. The weekend program — also referred to as an “accelerator” — will go for 10 months.
Tuition for the program isn’t cheap — it’s about $6,500 — but financial aid is available for low-income families.
“Las Vegas itself is a major developing tech hub,” Nathoo said. “What it’s lacking, though, to continue this growth is people. What we plan to do is to help develop young people and get them deep technical expertise on exponential technologies. We want to help Las Vegas flourish as an up-and-coming innovation hub.”
Noel Hurst, a 10-plus-year Zappos employee who is heading the program, said it has 80 available spots with about 60 approved as of Friday. About 250 Las Vegas-area young people ages 13 to 17 have applied, she said.
Interested individuals can still apply through the program’s website.
“The students from the Las Vegas Valley who have applied are amazing,” Hurst said. “Our young people here are just as smart and just as good as those from Boston or San Francisco or anywhere. What we’re doing with this program really amounts to mining for human potential.”
The program, Nathoo says, is modeled after curriculum from respected educational institutions like Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Nathoo said now is the perfect time for the program, which was started in Toronto in 2016, to come to Las Vegas.
“What (CEO) Tony Hsieh and Zappos are doing to establish a tech scene in Las Vegas is nothing short of extraordinary,” Nathoo said. “We want to help Las Vegas be a place where really important problems in the world are solved. We want to make sure we maximize and realize potential — that’s the goal of TKS.”
A second Vegas cohort is scheduled to start again in September 2020.
“We’re not looking for only the highest GPAs,” Hurst said. “Elon Musk was a C-student. We’re looking for curious kids with good vibes who are interested in working together to learn new technologies and solve problems. In the traditional educational system, we’re told we need to be really good at one thing, but we want kids to have multiple focuses. There’s a lot of underutilized talent here.”
In addition to Toronto, the program has also been in the Canadian cities of Calgary, Alberta; Waterloo, Ontario, and in San Francisco. Nathoo said it’s also expanding to New York, Boston and Ottawa.
“There are a lot of exciting things happening in Las Vegas right now,” said Hurst, a Las Vegas native. “Tony (Hsieh) has been trying to move the needle for the tech industry in Las Vegas and this is a big step. If we continue to develop our talent here, maybe more of these companies that value talent in the sciences will come here.”
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