I’m sitting in a Budweiser folding camp chair in a corner of the living room, which is dominated by two huge work desks littered with Macbook pros. The walls are covered with dry-erase boards, and extension cords haphazardly hang down from the ceiling. Judging by the (lack of) furniture, you’d think I was in a frat-house. Turns out, I’m at the Hacker Ranch, headquarters of local startup Wedgies.
Started in 2011 by Jimmy Jacobson and Porter Haney, Wedgies makes simple online surveys, an interactive solution for polling that can be easily shared via social media. The two met back when they both lived in Salt Lake City while working for 3point5.com, spending time outside of work to get the functionality working past a proof-of-concept stage. Jacobson moved to Las Vegas to work for Zappos, and Haney followed in 2012 when Wedgies went full-time.
What makes Wedgies different from many of the startups to date in Las Vegas is the fact that they’re based in a residential neighborhood. Of the four employees, Jacobson is the only one who doesn’t also live in the HQ (he has a family). It’s just past 10am, and designer Mark Johnson has just finished showing me mockups of the new Wedgies website interface due to launch in a few weeks. Newest hire Christopher Moody is in the depths of a coding fugue but has yet to shower. Empty beer bottles mixed-in with the coffee cups show evidence of a late night work session.
A lot of fast money seems to be exchanging hands in the Las Vegas tech scene of late, but Wedgies has preferred the slow burn to full entrepreneurship. I met Jacobson at the first Startup Weekend in June of 2011 when he and Haney had just finished building out the product. They tinkered away for almost two years outside of their jobs before being recently backed by the Vegas Tech Fund.
Sitting on two stacked milk crates, Jacobson later talks about some of the new functionality they’re about to roll-out in time for SXSW (things like live SMS polling), now being utilized by the likes of USA Today and the NCAA. It’s only a matter of time before the camp chairs are replaced by designer furniture.
I leave them to their work, but not before being photographed for the “wall of fame.” Scratch the furniture; they’d probably just sell it to buy more Polaroid film.
ArtsVegas: Covering Las Vegas Art and culture since 2009.