Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has died at the age of 46.
Hsieh, a Harvard grad, went from selling pizza out of his dorm room to establishing himself as an eccentric and well-liked entrepreneur.
In his first year at Zappos, the company went from almost nothing in sales to $1.6 million.
Hsieh moved Zappos headquarters to Las Vegas, Nevada, and began an initiative to make the city another Silicon Valley.
He announced in August he was retiring after more than 20 years at the company, which is owned by Amazon.
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Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) has died at the age of 46. His death was due to injuries he sustained from a house fire while he was with his brother in Connecticut over Thanksgiving, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
“The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being,” Zappos CEO Kedar Deshpande said in a statement. “We recognize that not only have we lost our inspiring former leader, but many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend.”
Hsieh in August announced his retirement from the company after 20 years, marking the end of a chapter for the eccentric but widely admired entrepreneur.
During his tenure leading the company, Hsieh moved the company’s headquarters from San Francisco to Las Vegas as part of a larger effort to make Vegas the new Silicon Valley. While the full scope of his vision hasn’t panned out, he made a name for himself in the business community and brought noteworthy attractions to the city, including Container Park and the “Life is Beautiful” music festival.
The former CEO also made headlines when he created “Llamapolis,” a mini community where Hsieh lived with his two alpacas.
From selling pizza in his dorm room to seeing Zappos acquired by Amazon, here’s what you need to know about Hsieh’s career rise.
While little is known about Hsieh’s early life, he was born in 1973 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Hsieh attended Harvard, where he sold pizza out of his dorm room with some friends.
His first business venture after graduating was LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million.
After the sale, Hsieh and his friend Alfred Lin were investing money into “20 or so” companies, including one company that would eventually become Zappos.
A year later, another entrepreneur by the name of Nick Swinmurn left Hsieh a voicemail telling him about ShoeSite.com (which would later be renamed Zappos.) Hsieh, still uncertain about the venture, joined the company and invested $500,000.
As an investor and advisor for Zappos, Hsieh was able to help the company go from almost no sales in 1999 to $1.6 million in sales by 2000. In 2011, the company passed the threshold of $1 billion in sales.
In January of 2004, Hsieh and his team decided to move the company’s headquarters from San Francisco to Henderson, Nevada. Hsieh said the move was based on the lack of people who want to work in customer service in San Francisco.
In 2006, Swinmurn left Zappos, and Hsieh became CEO, placing emphasis on employee satisfaction.
Hsieh moved the company toward Holacracy, meaning employees work in task-specific teams instead of each employee working on their own and then reporting to a manager.
Source: Business Insider
One of Hsieh’s most talked about employee perks is the “Pay to Quit” program, which gives employees a $2,000 quitting bonus if they feel like the company isn’t the right fit after their first 4 months.
In 2009, Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion, after Hsieh said no in 2005.
In 2013, Zappos bought the old Las Vegas City Hall and Hsieh moved his team to this new location. The new location is about 30 minutes from the new strip and just a stone’s throw away from Fremont Street.
This move was a part of a bigger initiative, Downtown Project, to make Las Vegas another Silicon Valley. Hsieh put $350 million into the project, which included real estate, restaurants, and other ventures.
Source: Las Vegas Review Journal
While the initiative garnered mixed results, it did bring some noteworthy attractions to the area, including the “Life is Beautiful” music festival and the Downtown Container Park.
Source: Washington Post
Hsieh also lived in the area, in a micro community called “Llamapolis,” which is comprised of tiny houses and Airstream trailers.
Source: Business Insider
Inspired by the artsy community found at Burning Man, Llamapolis is also home to Hsieh’s two alpacas, Marley and Triton.
The retiring CEO had a net worth of about $840 million, but he previously told Business Insider that he lived in the tiny community because “[he] wanted to maximize serendipity and randomness in [his] life.”
Source: Business Insider
On November 28, TechCrunch reported the CEO had died at the age of 46 after sustaining injuries from a house fire while he was with his brother in Connecticut.
Investors, journalists, politicians, and tech heavyweights spoke out online to mourn the iconic entrepreneur with memories and wisdom from his career.
Read the original article on Business Insider