Tony Hsieh

Former Zappos CEO & Visionary, 1973-2020

Tony Hsieh — Tony Hsieh (/ˈʃeɪ/ shay, Taiwanese; December 12, 1973 – November 27, 2020) 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. Prior to joining Zappos, Hsieh co-founded the Internet advertising network LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million

Net worth: US$ 840 million. Known for: CEO of Zappos
Born: December 12, 1973 (age 46); Illinois‎, US‎. Alma mater: Harvard University (BS)‎

Let’s fall down the rabbit hole, together. Let’s choose our own adventure and follow our own bliss in this thing we call life. Let’s create a better world, together. Let’s imagine.
Our Goal = ICEE  Inspire  Connect. Educate. Entertain – Tony Hsieh


Sad times for the world and all fellow entrepreneurs. Tony Hsieh was one of the most remarkable, successful, and humble human beings I have ever meet. I am blessed to have been able to have him touch my life and have fun bending the conventional legacy business rules with him of what a CEO should do and be.

We were both early adopters of social media and Twitter as a way to be open, transparent, approachable, and connected to our industry, employees, and customers. We talked about and Tweeted back at Business Week and other publications that called us out. Saying CEOs should not be on social media. It was a waste of time, etc etc. We both ademantly believed and Tweeted back that those that were not would become irrelevant as leaders and out of touch with their customers, and that transparent openness equaled trust. “Trust” being the new currency along with culture and core values as the foundation of innovative companies. Years later those same publications were touting the power of the social enterprise and all execs need to embrace social. Funny to think about that now. Tony was always bending the rules.

One last thought on that front was when I emailed him about a joint marketing collaboration and I received a Jira ticket back with the Zappos marketing team. Jira ticketing at that time was an “engineering only ticketing system”. We immediately adopted Jira across the entire company. Which made us significantly more efficient and accountable from a task management perspective that is now managed using tools like Asana.

The world seems a bit small as I magine all the amazing things he would have done to impact humanity. Which was his next mission and part of his entrepreneurial journey in his post Zaposs life. We will never know.

Today, we are saddened to share the news of Tony Hsieh’s passing. We can only imagine what he would say if he were here to announce this to you all, but we envision his message would resonate that:

Energy cannot be created or destroyed.
Energy is the ability to bring about change.

Tony has given energy to so many people. For those of you who knew him well, you knew of his childlike wonder; his love for experiences and relationships over material things. Let us all feel Tony’s energy and use it to deliver happiness.

It is with very heavy hearts that we are sharing some very sad news with all of you, as we have learned that Tony passed away earlier today (11-27-20). Though Tony retired this past summer, we know what a tremendous impact he has had on both Zappos and on Zapponians, as he has dedicated the past 20 years focusing on the success of both the company and our employees.

The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being. We recognize that not only have we lost our inspiring former leader, but many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend. Tony played such an integral part in helping create the thriving Zappos business we have today, along with his passion for helping to support and drive our company culture.

Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, as his mantra was of “Delivering Happiness” to others. His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos, and we will continue to honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he was so passionate about.

We will be working on ways to celebrate Tony’s extraordinary life in the coming days. In the meantime, we invite you to share your memories of the ways he brightened your life – you can send them to and we will share them with his family.

Our thoughts remain with him and his loved ones. Zappos is a family, and we will continue to hold Tony close in our hearts. – Kedar Deshpande Zappos CEO

During his tenure at Zappos, Hsieh helped the company become one of the largest online shoe stores in the world. And in 2009, he helped ink Amazon’s $1.2 billion purchase of the company. Prior to joining Zappos in 1999, when it was still called, Hsieh had founded an online ad company called LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft for $265 million in 1998.

Zappos’s philosophy has long been “We don’t sell shoes, we sell customer service,” and its No. 1 core value is “Deliver WOW through service.” For well over a decade, employees have authored Zappos’s annual Culture Book, where Zapponians–as they’re called internally–say in a few paragraphs what the company means to them. With about 1,500 employees, not everything makes it into the book, but it’s brimming with photos of happy employee outings, aphorisms, and cheerful wishes.

Hsieh’s tenure at Zappos was not without problems. Its experiment with holacracy–a decentralized system meant to distribute decision-making throughout the organization–is today largely seen as a bust. Around 18 percent of the staff left the company after Hsieh in 2014 first ordered that Zappos would no longer employ “people managers,” and the company has been quietly backing away from the structure in recent years.

Separately, he has described losing $100 million over the course of Zappos’s history, just from hiring mistakes. “Especially [true] amongst startups and entrepreneurs,” he told Inc. in 2012. “There’s a temptation to just get warm bodies in and hire as fast as possible. And then just by human nature when firing people, most people just drag their feet. What we learned is instead of trying hire quickly and fire slowly really it should be the reverse: we should hire slowly and fire quickly when it’s not the right fit.”

Despite that financial success, Hsieh’s biggest impact on the world of business will likely revolve around his efforts to elevate customer service and company culture–to the point where his ideas are no longer novel but normal.

His corporate culture book/autobiography, Delivering Happiness, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2010, and remains a foundational tome for entrepreneurs. In 2009, Zappos launched Zappos Insights, a consulting firm that helps other businesses fine-tune their own company cultures.

I was fortunate to have been able to meet Tony at the Inc 500 awards and see his “Delivering Happiness” keynote. Which is a timeless presentation based on principles that changed the way we approached our corporate culture as a marketing asset that dramatically impacted our growth and ability to build the MediaTrust brand into the 9th fastest growing company in the United States. Every company, startup, entrepreneur, and executive needs to understand and embrace these principles, and the power of culture as an important element in the stack of an organization.

The 4 core principles of delivering happiness are:

1. Find your one true passion and don’t follow the money

2. Hire the right people, have the right company culture, and the rest will develop

3. Surprise your customers and show them how much you care

4. Make learning a priority for yourself and staff


His impact on e-commerce, the startup community, and entrepreneurship will remain indelible. Delivering happiness was always his mantra. So instead of mourning his transition, we should be celebrating his life.

I will leave you with this shared memory.