Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh
Hsieh's Zappos identity badge in 2009
Hsieh in 2009
Born(1973-12-12)December 12, 1973
DiedNovember 27, 2020(2020-11-27) (aged 46)
Cause of deathInjuries sustained in shed fire; possible suicide attempt[1][2]
EducationHarvard University (BS)
Years active1995–2020
Known forCEO of Zappos (1999–2020)
Net worthUS$840 million (2018)[3]

Tony Hsieh (/ˈʃ/ shay; December 12, 1973 – November 27, 2020)[4][5][6] was an American Internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He retired as the CEO of the online shoe and clothing company Zappos in August 2020 after 21 years.[7] Prior to joining Zappos, Hsieh co-founded the Internet advertising network LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million.[8]

On November 27, 2020, two weeks before his 47th birthday,[9] Hsieh died from complications from burns and smoke inhalation sustained in a house fire that had occurred nine days earlier.[10][11]. According to a report by “Inside Edition”, he barricaded himself inside the shed at 3:46 AM EST on the day of the fire.

Early life and education

Hsieh was born in Urbana, Illinois to Richard and Judy Hsieh, immigrants from Taiwan who met in graduate school at the University of Illinois. His father was a chemical engineer and his mother was a social worker. Hsieh's family moved to Lucas Valley area of Marin County, California when he was five. His mother was a social worker, and his father a chemical engineer at Chevron Corp.[12][13] He had two younger brothers, Andy and Dave. Hsieh attended the Branson School.[14]

In 1995, Hsieh graduated from Harvard University with a degree in computer science.[15] While at Harvard, he managed the Quincy House Grille selling pizza to the students in his dorm; his best customer, Alfred Lin, later was Zappos's chief financial officer and chief operating officer.[16] After college, Hsieh worked for Oracle Corporation.[17] After five months, he left to co-found the LinkExchange advertising network.[18]



In 1996, Hsieh started developing the idea for an advertising network called LinkExchange.[19] Members were allowed to advertise their site over LinkExchange's network by displaying banner ads on its website. They launched in March 1996, with Hsieh as CEO, and found their first 30 clients by direct emailing webmasters.[20] The site grew, and within 90 days LinkExchange had over 20,000 participating web pages and had its banner ads displayed over 10 million times.[21] By 1998, the site had over 400,000 members and 5 million ads rotated daily.[22] In November 1998, LinkExchange was sold to Microsoft for $265 million.[23][24]

Venture Frogs

After LinkExchange sold to Microsoft, Hsieh co-founded Venture Frogs, an incubator and investment firm, with his business partner, Alfred Lin.[25][26] The name originated from a dare. One of Hsieh's friends said she would invest everything if they chose "Venture Frogs" as the name, and the pair took her up on the bet, although they had not seen any money as of 2011.[27] They invested in a variety of tech and Internet startups, including Ask Jeeves, OpenTable and Zappos.[27]


In 1999, Nick Swinmurn approached Hsieh and Lin with the idea of selling shoes online.[16] Hsieh was initially skeptical and almost deleted Swinmurn's initial voice mail. After Swinmurn mentioned that "footwear in the US is a $40 billion market, and 5% of that was already being sold by paper mail order catalogs," Hsieh and Lin decided to invest through Venture Frogs. Two months later, Hsieh joined Zappos as the CEO, starting with $1.6 million of total sales in 2000.[16] By 2009, revenues reached $1 billion.[28][29]

Without a precedent to guide him, Hsieh learned how to make customers feel comfortable and secure with shopping online. Zappos offered free shipping and free returns, sometimes of several pairs. Hsieh rethought Zappos structure and in 2013 it became for a time a holacracy without job titles, reflecting his belief in employees and their ability to self-organize.[30] The company hired only about 1% of all applicants.[31] Named for the Spanish word for shoes, “zapatos,” Zappos was often listed in Fortune as one of the best companies to work for, and beyond lucrative salaries and being an inviting place to work it delivered extraordinary customer service.[32]

Hsieh loved the game of poker and moved Zappos headquarters to Henderson, Nevada, and eventually to downtown Las Vegas.[32]

On July 22, 2009, announced the acquisition of in a deal valued at approximately $1.2 billion.[33] Hsieh is said to have made at least $214 million from the sale, not including money made through his former investment firm Venture Frogs.[34] [35]

On August 24, 2020, Hsieh retired as the CEO of Zappos after 21 years at the helm.[7]


Hsieh joined JetSuite's board in 2011. He led a $7 million round of investment in the growing private "very light jet" field with that company. The investment allowed JetSuite to add two new Embraer Phenom 100 jets which have two pilots, two engines and safety features equivalent to large commercial passenger jets but weigh less than 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) and are consequently highly fuel-efficient.[36]

Real estate rejuvenation projects

Downtown Project - Las Vegas

From 2009 until his death, Hsieh, who was still running the downtown Las Vegas-based business, organized a major re-development and revitalization project for downtown Las Vegas, which had been for the most part left behind compared to the Las Vegas Strip's growth. Hsieh originally planned the Downtown Project as a place where employees could live and work, but the project grew beyond that to a vision where thousands of local tech and other entrepreneurs could live and work.[37][38] Projects funded include The Writer's Block, the first independent bookseller in Las Vegas.[39]

Park City, Utah

After stepping down as CEO of Zappos in August 2020, Hsieh bought multiple properties in Park City, Utah, with a total market value around $56 million.[40]


Hsieh was a member of the Harvard University team that won the 1993 ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest in Indianapolis, ranking first of 31 entrants.[41]

Hsieh received an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for the Northern California region in 2007.[42]


Hsieh's book Delivering Happiness focused on his entrepreneurial endeavors. It was profiled in many world publications, including The Washington Post, CNBC, TechCrunch, The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal.[43][44][45][46][47] It debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List and stayed on the list for 27 consecutive weeks.[48][49]

Personal life

Hsieh resided primarily in Downtown Las Vegas, and also owned a house in Southern Highlands, Nevada.[50][51][52]


On the morning of November 18, 2020, Hsieh was injured in a house fire in New London, Connecticut.[53] It has been reported that he was visiting family for Thanksgiving, and he became trapped in the basement during the fire.[54][55] The exact cause of the fire is currently under investigation. He was rescued by firefighters and transported to the Connecticut Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital to undergo treatment for burns and smoke inhalation, where he died on November 27, two weeks before his 47th birthday.[56][57]

It has been reported that Hsieh was staying at the house owned by a former Zappos employee, Rachael Brown.[58][59]It is reported that Mr. Hsieh had an estate in excess of $800 million, and he died intestate.[60]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "10 Money Lessons from Billionaires". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  4. ^ Hsieh, Tony. Delivering Happiness. The first official party of 810 would be on Saturday, December 11, 1999. At midnight, I would turn twenty-six.
  5. ^ Able, Kate. "Tony Hsieh, Zappos Luminary Who Revolutionized the Shoe Business, Dies at 46" Footwear News, November 27, 2020
  6. ^ Brindley, Emily. "Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, dies in Connecticut after New London house fire" Hartford Courant, November 28, 2020
  7. ^ a b Abel, Katie; Abel, Katie (August 24, 2020). "Exclusive: Visionary Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh Is Stepping Down After 21 Years". Footwear News. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  8. ^ Cf. Delivering Happiness book by Hsieh. "In 1996, I co-founded LinkExchange, which was sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million."
  9. ^ "Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO and business-book author, dead at 46 after Connecticut fire". MarketWatch. He was two weeks away from his 47th birthday.
  10. ^ Hagerty, James R. (November 29, 2020). "Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh Dies at 46 From Injuries Connected to House Fire". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  11. ^ Casiano, Louis (November 30, 2020). "Zappos founder Tony Hsieh died from smoke inhalation, medical examiner says". FOXBusiness. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  12. ^ "Tony Hsieh, The Billion Dollar Interview", Entrepreneur Interviews
  13. ^ Rifkin, Glenn (November 28, 2020). "Tony Hsieh, Longtime Chief of Zappos, Dies at 46". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Tony Hsieh". March 22, 2013. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c I Am CNBC Tony Hsieh Transcript Archived June 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine CNBC. August 15, 2007.
  17. ^ Wei, William Tony Hsieh: Here’s Why I Quit My Corporate Job At Oracle With No Real Plan (October 28, 2010), Business Insider.
  18. ^ Kim, Eugene (August 28, 2014). "23 Tech Rock Stars Who Went to Harvard". Business Insider. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  19. ^ BEato, Greg. Scans: Barter for Banners. September 29, 1997.
  20. ^ Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh Talks Shoes on Bloomberg TV BNet. July 16, 2010.
  21. ^ Internet Link Exchange: 3rd month of operation celebrated. M2 Newswire via LexisNexis. June 17, 1996.
  22. ^ Frierman, Shelly. An Internet company with little freebies that could gain a place in the sun The New York Times. December 2, 1998.
  23. ^ Wei, William. Tony Hsieh: Here's Why I Quit My Corporate Job At Oracle With No Real Plan. Business Insider. October 28, 2010.
  24. ^ Tony Hsieh - Author Of “Delivering Happiness” And CEO Of Zappos
  25. ^ Venture Frogs Launches New Incubator For Net Startups URLwire. September 19, 1999.
  26. ^ Lee, Tom. Venture Frogs Internet Restaurant Logs on to the San Francisco Scene Archived March 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Asian Week. August 17, 2000.
  27. ^ a b Nelson, Erik. Venture Frogs in a Cyber-Marsh Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Profit Magazine. January 2000.
  28. ^ Hsieh, Tony. Why I Sold Zappos. Inc. Magazine. June 1, 2010.
  29. ^ Kee, Tameka. Amazon Buying Out For About $850 Million. Washington Post. July 23, 2009.
  30. ^ Recode (May 20, 2016). Tony Hsieh explains why he sold Zappos and what he thinks of Amazon. YouTube. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  31. ^ Rifkin, Glenn (November 28, 2020). "Tony Hsieh, Longtime Chief of Zappos, Is Dead at 46". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  32. ^ a b Schudel, Matt (November 28, 2020). "Tony Hsieh, entrepreneur who made Zappos an online retail giant, dies at 46". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  33. ^ Amazon Closes Zappos Deal, Ends Up Paying $1.2 Billion TechCrunch. November 2, 2009.
  34. ^ "What Everyone Made from the Zappos Sale". July 27, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2009.
  35. ^ Jacobs, Alexandra (September 14, 2009). "Happy Feet". The New Yorker: 66–71.
  36. ^ "Zappos shoe mogul invests in O.C. company". September 19, 2011. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  37. ^ Pratt, Timothy. "What Happens in Brooklyn Moves to Vegas". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  38. ^ "Downtown Project - Downtown Project Las Vegas". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  39. ^ Semuels, Alana (March 2, 2015). "Zappos' CEO Has Poured $350 Million into Revitalizing Downtown Vegas, Is It Enough?". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  40. ^ Barber, Megan. "Why is Ex-Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh Buying Houses En Masse in Utah?". Curbed. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  41. ^ "ICPC World Champion Hall of Fame". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  42. ^ Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award, 2007 Archived September 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ McDonough-Taub, Gloria Top Books: Delivering Happiness CNBC. August 19, 2010.
  44. ^ Spreading WOW The Washington Post August 27, 2010.
  45. ^ Delivering Happiness: A Movement TechCrunch. May 1, 2010.
  46. ^ ‘Delivering Happiness’: What Poker Taught Me About Business The Huffington Post. May 26, 2010.
  47. ^ Carrol, Paul Getting a Foothold Online The Wall Street Journal. June 7, 2010.
  48. ^ Hardcover Advice 06-27-2010 The New York Times.
  49. ^ Hardcover Advice 12-26-2010 The New York Times.
  50. ^ "At Zappos, Pushing Shoes and a Vision". July 17, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  51. ^ "LIVING SMALL: AT DOWNTOWN'S AIRSTREAM PARK, HOME IS WHERE THE EXPERIMENT IS". February 5, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  52. ^ Rich, Motoko. "Why Is the Head of Zappos Smiling?". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  53. ^ "One person rescued from New London house fire, taken to hospital". Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  54. ^ "Tony Hsieh, 'visionary' behind Zappos shoe retailer, dies aged 46". The Guardian. November 28, 2020. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  55. ^ Perrett, Connor. "The fire that led to the death of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh occurred over a week before he succumbed to injuries". Insider. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  56. ^ "Tony Hsieh dead at the age of 46 after being injured in house fire". Las Vegas Review-Journal. November 28, 2020. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  57. ^ "Tony Hsieh, retired Zappos CEO, dies after New London house fire". Connecticut Post. November 28, 2020. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  58. ^ "What we know about the fire that killed former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh". Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  59. ^ Hawkins, Lee (November 29, 2020). "Before Tony Hsieh's Death, Firefighters Rushed to Burning Home With Trapped Man". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  60. ^

Further reading

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