Tony Hsieh has always been a philanthropically minded startup CEOs, using hundreds of millions of the considerable fortune he made selling Zappos to Amazon to fund the Downtown Project, a massive effort to revitalize Downtown Las Vegas.
It’s a fascinating experiment in urban renewal, testing whether increasing density and attracting young, ambitious startup types can help turn around a city that was devastated by the recession and housing bubble.
Now he’s offering people the opportunity to spend a day with him in order to support The Blind Center of Nevada at Charitybuzz. The auction closes at 3 p.m. today, and the bidding is up to $US12,700.
We asked Hsieh to answer a few questions over email about the auction, as well as his approaches to Zappos, the Downtown Project, and his personal productivity. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Business Insider: Why did you decide to auction off your time?
Tony Hsieh: At Zappos, we’re always interested in experimenting with different ways to support various charities.
BI: What’s a typical day like for you, and what could the winner expect?
TH: Every day is different. After the tours of Zappos and Downtown Project, I would meet up with the winners for drinks or a meal, possibly at the new Downtown Container Park that we just built. Here’s a video of Container Park.
BI: What are some of Zappos’ other philanthropic efforts?
TH: There are a number of different charities that we support. They change on a regular basis based on employee feedback. Here are some of the ones we’ve supported in the past.
BI: What’s your biggest focus for the Downtown Project and Zappos going into 2014?
TH: Both companies are focused on helping make downtown Vegas a place of inspiration, entrepreneurial energy, creativity, innovation, upward mobility, and discovery.
BI: Your Yesterbox system for regaining control over your inbox is fascinating. What are your other favourite personal productivity tips?
TH: I gained a lot of time when I decided to cut TV out of my life.
BI: To what extent are Zappos employees active participants in the Downtown Project?
TH: We plan on hosting more events on the Zappos campus that are open to the community. We want Zappos employees to interact with folks in the community both on and off campus.
BI: What are your favourite books this year?
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