- Colleagues of Tony Hsieh have paid tribute to the popular entrepreneur, who has died aged 46.
- Former Zappos executive Alfred Lin rememberedHsieh as a “gentle soul,” and said: “We’ll remember Tony for that and the happiness he brought to so many people.”
- The pair first worked together when they cofounded LinkExchange, which they sold to Microsoft for $US265 million.
- Other colleagues and acquaintances who shared memories of Hsieh included Wall Street analyst Colin Sebastian and podcast host Gary Vaynerchuk.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Colleagues of Tony Hsieh, who died on Friday aged 46, said the Zappos entrepreneur will be remembered as a “gentle soul” who brought happiness to so many people.
Sequoia partner Alfred Lin, who once served as COO, CFO, and chairman of Zappos, recognised him as a kindred spirit during their student days. The pair soon teamed up to cofound LinkExchange, which they sold to Microsoft for $US265 million within 18 months.
Writing on Twitter today, Lin said: “Today is a sad day! The world lost a pioneer of a company culture, the shoe industry, Downtown LV, web advertising, and also a gentle soul who gave a part of himself to countless people.”
Hsieh was described as a visionary by many, including Amazon, which bought Zappos in 2009. An official Amazon account paid tribute on Saturday, praising him as “an innovator who will be greatly missed.”
Long before Zappos was a worldwide shoe-selling phenomenon, Hsieh was working in a pizza parlor run by Harvard students. One day, he noticed fellow student Lin was buying whole pizzas and selling them slice-by-slice for a profit. They clicked immediately, according to a profile of Lin.
It is with very heavy hearts that we are sharing some very sad news, as we have learned that Tony passed away earlier today (11-27-20). The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being. We recognize that…https://t.co/RUMNOFrItZ pic.twitter.com/NSAFGW8p4L
— Zappos.com (@Zappos) November 28, 2020
As Hsieh and Lin both rose to Silicon Valley fame â€” even though their company shunned California in favour of Nevada â€” Zappos became known as the kind of place where people loved to go to work. The company’s customer support became legendary for its responsiveness, as Hsieh noted in an essay for The Harvard Business Review.
“Looking at every one of our interactions through a branding lens instead of an expense-minimising lens means that we run our call centre very differently from others,” Hsieh wrote in 2010.
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He added: “We’ll remember Tony for that and the happiness he brought to so many people. RIP Tony Hsieh.”
At Zappos, Lin was with with Hsieh when they welcomed a young Wall Street analyst, Colin Sebastian, of Baird Equity Research, for an introduction. On Saturday, Sebastian said he remembered spending a “long afternoon” with the two executives, as they walked him through the company culture at Zappos, which was known to be like a family.
Sebastian recalled going back to his office and writing: “This may be the one company that gives Amazon a run for its money.”
Tony, I remember well the long afternoon you and @alfred_lin spent, umbrella included, with a young, wide-eyed Internet analyst, eloquently describing the unique culture of Zappos. I wrote then: “This may be the one company that gives Amazon a run for its money.” RIP my friend!
— Wall Street West Coast (@Colin_Sebastian) November 28, 2020
Other colleagues and acquaintances lined up to pay tribute to Hsieh. Podcast host and author Gary Vaynerchuk said he talked with Hsieh often, “late into nights” and appreciated his “thoughtfulness & energy.”
I’m so saddened to hear about the passing of Tony Hsieh, Tony and I spent a lot of time talking, alone, late into nights about many different topics and I really appreciated so much of his thoughtfulness & energy. I’m genuinely sad & hurt and wish his family & friends my love ❤️
— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) November 28, 2020
Sometimes a meeting with Hsieh led to a waterfall of new opportunites, like when he met Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List, which started as an annual list the best unproduced screenplays. Shortly after The Black List launched, Leonard met Hsieh, he said on Twitter on Saturday.
Hsieh asked “what I next needed to accomplish our mission of supporting talented aspiring professional screenwriters in making their way into the industry,” said Leonard.
Leonard said he gave a “rambling” answer, but a few days later he recieved an email from Hsieh offering free hotel rooms in Las Vegas for a week. That marked the formation of the Black List Screenwriting Lab, said Leonard.
I’m lucky to have met him early in my time as an entrepreneur, both because of his generosity and because of the example it set for me.
Generosity can be a way of life, and good business, without necessarily having a five year plan as to how.
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) November 28, 2020
Jeris Huntington said she worked with Hsieh during the tour for his book, “Delivering Happiness.” “Tony was a remarkable human being & inspired a generation of technology entrepreneurs,” Huntington said on Twitter.
Even those who met Hsieh in passing remembered him fondly. Peter Abraham, who runs Abraham Market Studio in Los Angeles, said he randomly meet Hseih at a pre-marathon party and being invited for a tour of Zappos. He snapped a photo of Hsieh’s desk, which wasn’t in an corner office, but just out on the floor, among the desks of his staff.
So sad to hear of the passing of Tony Hsieh. I randomly met him at the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon pre-party in 2011. He signed a book for me, and I toured the Zappos office in 2013. Here's his cubicle–same size as everyone else's: pic.twitter.com/lhPdIT94bN
— Peter Abraham (@PeterAbraham) November 28, 2020