Tony Hsieh dies at 46, visionary Zappos, Serial Tech entrepreneur dead

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Tony Hsieh, the brilliant, big-hearted Zappos.com fixture who revolutionized the footwear industry and built one of the most innovative companies in modern history, has passed away. He was 46 years old.

Hsieh’s family confirmed his death in a text message to friends tonight, noting that Tony’s generous spirit touched the lives of countless people and left an indelible mark on the world.

Details surrounding Hsieh’s death are unknown.

Hsieh, a serial entrepreneur, co-founded Zappos in 1999 and turned it into a successful business before selling it to Amazon in 2009.

Offering happiness was the mantra of the executive. In building Zappos, Hsieh’s main goal was to redefine the meaning of corporate culture. From the start, his singular vision distinguished the company as a pioneer of American shoe e-commerce and businesses.

Hsieh, who retired and stepped down from Zappos’ management this summer, told FN last year how much the company has grown since its inception two decades ago.

“Much of our growth and innovation going forward will be based on thinking about what we do differently,” Hsieh told FN last year, when Zappos celebrated its 20th anniversary. “We used to say that we are a service company that just happens to be selling shoes, and now it has become: We are a service company that just happens to be selling virgins.

Zappos’ origin story is familiar – Hsieh shared it in his speaking engagements and in the pages of his New York Times bestseller, “Providing Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose. And the more than 100,000 visitors who visited Zappos’ headquarters were regaled with the story of a fateful phone call.


Tony Hsieh

After Swinmurn got hooked on the idea of ​​selling shoes online, he left a voicemail with Hsieh’s San Francisco venture capital fund, Venture Frogs, tying it up to a factoid: “It was the fact that 5% of a $ 40 billion shoe business was already running. by mail, ”Swinmurn told FN in a 2009 interview.“ That was my big statistic. People were already buying shoes without trying them on. ”

Then, after another call to the Nordstrom department store in San Francisco, Fred Mossler finally jumped on board, and together the new team set out to change the industry.

Zappos was a pioneer in free shipping and returns, and it didn’t take long for the concept to take hold as e-commerce took off.

In 2009, Zappos was acquired by online giant Amazon.com Inc. for 10 million shares of Amazon, which at the time of the deal was valued at around $ 1.2 billion.

While many market watchers have celebrated the wedding, they have also speculated that the new parent might impose their own culture on the new division. But true to the original agreement, Zappos continued to operate separately from Amazon, retaining its own leadership team and uniqueness.

Several years after starting the partnership with Amazon, Hsieh launched The Downtown Project, an initiative to revitalize downtown Las Vegas.

The goal, Hsieh explained at the FN CEO Summit in 2013, was to create a neighborhood that is walkable and community-focused. The downtown project even invests in individuals, helping them realize their dream of starting small businesses. “We see the city as a startup,” he said. “We want it to be the anti-Strip – with bars and cafes.”

In 2015, the company eliminated managers in favor of a form of self-organization called holacracy.

In a blog post at the time, Hsieh wrote: “Like all of the bold steps we’ve taken in the past, it sounds a bit scary, but it’s also exactly the type of thing that only a company like Zappos would dare to attempt at this scale.

Since its inception, Zappos has functioned as a sort of incubator to test theories about corporate culture and productivity – long before those ideas became the buzzwords they are today. Much of the credit goes to Hsieh.

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