Immediately after watch it I sent an email directly for him (at the time a CEO of a company that would be sold to Amazon for 1.2B 8 months after) asking if I could have a digital version of the book since I was living in Brazil. For my complete surprise I received a response in less than 1 hour just asking for my address. One day after I received a physical copy of the book, signed by the very own Tony Hsieh. He even invited me to visit Zappos offices if I ever were in Las Vegas!
Today I woke up with this sad news.
Definitely, a huge loss to the world. I'm sure you'll always be an inspiration to many.
Rest in peace Tony Hsieh,
A big fan
Would you mind sharing a link (or just a title) of that video?
at Startup School 2009: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlop3TwaMJM (poor AV quality, unfortunately)
but seems most likely to be this one (which includes the offer for the culture book) Web 2.0 Summit 2008: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ2DmNk3YjQ (good AV)
Thank you, Tony. You are a real loss to the world. RIP.
Wayfair at a $30B market cap comes to mind...dropships almost everything eg zero control of inventory and shipping times, dynamic pricing and fake discounts makes it difficult to know if you’re getting a good deal, customer service very inconsistent, returns not free, etc.
Great story, but this anecdote confused me. Musk is one of the two least humble people I'm aware of, and I certainly wouldn't associate "kind" with him either.
I saw Tony speak at YC Startup School in 2009, and his talk stuck with me far more than any other that day.
It was exciting and inspiring to hear that you could build a company that was sincere about being good to its employees and customers whilst also being large and commercially successful, and that’s influenced how I’ve gone about trying to build products and businesses ever since.
I haven’t managed a big success that accomplishes this yet, but if I ever manage to do it, it will be in no small part thanks to Tony.
Thanks and blessings to Tony, and love and strength to his family and friends.
I just remember before his presentation he had TechCrunch up on his laptop and one could tell he didn’t have the pretense of any other speaker (and all the speakers that day were very successful like him). His talk on Delivering Happiness was good. It was memorable how unique and kind of a culture he had created throughout Zappos. That was unique in that it was the only talk about doing moral things, from the only startup that was successfully employing these practices.
But before he started, the most memorable part — and to be honest the saddest thing now - was just seeing him browsing TechCrunch real quick on the screen in the auditorium in front of everyone. I remember thinking — whoa he is just one of us. Nor was he concerned about not being who he was in front of other people. You could tell he was very good at socializing but slightly introverted (moved quickly around the room but wasn’t much for small talk).
And that behind a very successful entrepreneur was just a person trying to figure it out like everyone else and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the point (ie unconsciously or not if leaving TechCrunch up on the projector briefly wasn’t intentional).
It meant a few things to the audience: (a) it doesn’t matter what people think (b) we’re all human (c) there’s nothing special about my success (d) other than I’m so focused on doing important things with it it doesn’t matter what you think.
And that was way more of a leadership by example situation — for a few brief moments — than anything else (and there were a lot of great talks that day).
Rest In Peace.
My condolences go out to Tony's family and friends. As a fellow founder who's faced similar challenges as Tony, I remember tearing up in the airport reading Delivering Happiness. Rest in peace.
It's worth reading the whole thing but the summary is: Scott Banister, then founder of a startup called Submit-It, seems to have been the first person to have conceived of an AdWords-like business model...
> In 1996, he brilliantly conceived an idea he called “Keywords”: to sell search listings based on pay-for-placement bidding – more or less the same as today’s AdWords. Banister began pitching the idea to anybody who would listen to him, including, among others, Bill Gross of IdeaLab, and the principals of LinkExchange: Tony Hsieh, Sanjay Madan, and me.[...] Tony, Sanjay, and I also loved the idea, because we had the benefit of the right context. [...] LinkExchange proceeded to acquire Submit-it; and I became obsessed with the idea of realizing Banister’s vision via deals with the world’s top search drivers [...] In late 1998, Microsoft bought LinkExchange for $265 million, telling us they liked the “Keywords” vision. As Microsoft employees, we continued pitching the Keywords deal not only to Yahoo, but also to the up-and-coming Google. I wasn’t surprised to find that these companies were wary of partnering with Microsoft.
Sounded like and seemed to be a very singular human being. Makes me think about how much he shaped the landscape of the internet and the world.
My comment from that 3-month-old thread, regarding Hsieh: From 2015-2017, I worked at Edmunds.com which was (to put it lightly) a bit obsessed with "Delivering Happiness" and Zappos' culture. So much so, that the leadership team visited Vegas to get a tour of the Zappos HQ (this was before I joined). But Edmunds based their entire cultural approach, including hiring, interviewing, and onboarding on Zappos.
The Edmunds onboarding experience has been by far the best out of any company I worked at. Sure, it was silly games and scavenger hunts that didn't really have anything to do with "work," but I look back at the entire experience with a lot of nostalgia. I loved the onboarding so much, I've been contemplating doing a startup that literally just focuses on improving cultural onborading at companies. It made my first few months at Edmunds not only incredibly productive, but also intellectually and socially stimulating.
And they were doing something right. Over there, I had the honor of working with one of the best managers I ever had (he's now at Amazon), and with one of the best software architects I've ever worked with (he's now at Facebook). My team was made up of motivated, smart, folks from all walks of life (recent grads to data science PhD's in their 50s). I still keep in touch with my old team even though we're spread all over these days: doing our own startups, at Facebook, Uber, Amazon, and beyond.
I have the utmost respect for the cultural revolution that entrepreneurs like Tony Hsieh brought to the fore. People that call it a "cult" are missing the point. It's no more a cult than cheering for your school mascot or being in a club. We seem to forget that people are inherently social and need a sense of belonging.
According to the BLS, median tenure is 2.x years for those 25-34. For those 35-44, it's 4.x years. Keeps going up with age, peaking at 10.x years starting in the 50s.
Not much seems to change it in a relevant way, maybe another many companies are blah in this regard: not worth the money/time/effort. Just mumble some BS to look good to the world, then repeat as the same dead company. The BS isn't even mumbled to recruit, as it also doesn't have any effect there.
The only ones in a position to be affected by such marketing are new grads, a group typically viewed as worthless and that have to take what they get. It's all just air in the winds.
Although, reading that comment again, 2015-2017 was not that long ago.
He died from injuries related to a house fire. So likely not.
The cause of death has been released. He died in a house fire.
Edit: Died of injuries sustained in the fire, not in the house itself.
My point was just that there seems not to be any behavioral reason that this happened.
"Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, died peacefully and surrounded by family on Friday, according to a statement emailed to CNN by Megan Fazio, a spokesperson for DTP Companies, a Las Vegas-based enterprise for which Hsieh served as the visionary.
Hsieh, 46, died from injuries sustained in a house fire that occurred in Connecticut while he was visiting family, according to Fazio."
Sounds like a very painful way to go... I wonder if we'll get any more details in the coming days.
EDIT: He passed away in Connecticut, see child comments.
A family member of mine died in a house fire as well, and her death prompted the development of new insulation safety standards in Germany (this being a number of decades ago). Knowing what led to this fire is of interest to me.
I've edited my grandparent comment to remove the link to his Wikipedia page, and default to the heavy.com link posted above.
You're right — it is helpful to know what happened. It's tragic to hear of Tony's death, and it's even more disquieting to speculate about the causes. Arson/murder paints the event in a very different light from a mechanical malfunction or, god forbid, suicide. And, as you mentioned, fire deaths are exceedingly rare, so the whole matter is cloaked in mystery.
I'm pretty shocked to hear of Tony's passing, as I was also very moved by his ethos and writings. That he died in a fire is all the more shocking — a death from cancer or something similar would be easier to accept. Perhaps this is because cancer and serious illness feels almost inevitable, and this doesn't.
Very sad. Feel really sorry for his family and friends. Sounds like he was a really incredible individual.
Tony was an innovator not just in terms of product vision, as almost all successful founders have to be, but also in the very idea of what business should be.
It is striking to me that this happened the same day as pg's essay on thinking differently from your peers came out, as I can imagine no greater example. As founders we spend time thinking about how our product can change the way things are done, but the way that companies themselves are structured and run is largely formulaic and taken for granted. This makes Tony truly special, as someone who decided to rethink what a company should be and how it should impact people's lives.
Even before Zappos he was wildly successful: the first company he co-founded, LinkExchange, sold to Microsoft for $265MM in 1998. In spite of this, he lived in a trailer in Las Vegas. He just didn't think about things in the way most people do.
He is, and will continue to be, an example and inspiration to look to for any founder, especially those who have a nagging feeling that the way companies are run should be better. May he rest in peace.
10 years ago around Thanksgiving, I got my first Kindle - the keyboard one with an AT&T 3G card, one of the first few books I read was his "Delivering Happiness". Amazon was not the juggernaut it is today, the book stayed in my mind for such a long period was unprecedented.
My current Kindle Oasis is much better than my first Kindle, a lot of books have been read as well. However, I might never able to get same experience / inspiration again.
There are still some question marks on the ROI of trying to ensure customer delight especially via call center since discounts are such a huge factor in buying shoes and clothes online that even an NPS of 60 will not help if you don’t price lower especially for the value conscious Indian buyer however he definitely brought a new dimension of thinking for a lot of customer care folks
How did you solve this in practice?
At least in myntra case, the detractors turned out to be much more valuable than the entire universe, we put it down to customers who love us enough to hate us!
More on the Stratford fire as well:
Altho I doubt it from the search of property records and who owns that house: https://gis.vgsi.com/stratfordct/Parcel.aspx?Pid=11893
Also, the report has it that the person injured in Stratford fire was a 42 yr old male, not 46 as Tony was. Altho reporting isn't always accurate: https://www.burgsimpson.com/colorado/2020/11/stratford-ct-ma...
Curiously, images of the Stratford fire is available here: https://www.ctfirephoto.org/Ryan-Blake1/Structure-Fire---45-...
So many house fires. That time of year.
Some more information about Rachael Brown (the Zappos employee) here: https://www.zappos.com/about/stories/womens-history-zappos
My guess is he passed out from the smoke inhalation first while asleep and was burned.
I managed to exit without too much difficulty, but even with covering my face with my shirt, I was still coughing and black gunk coming out my nose for the rest of the day. Others needed oxygen support even after being in the smoke for minutes at most.
If you’re ever in a house or building when an alarm goes off, don’t think you have time to ponder the situation... just move outside to safety immediately.
Edit: Found some photos from that day.
Maybe worth people checking up on videos like these from time to time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeiN_A-OSt8
(Turns out Thanksgiving is peak season for house fires.)
> after arriving at a hospital in New London, Connecticut, at 3 a.m. on Nov. 18.
But besides that, sometimes the fire just starts in an area that doesn't immediately set off the alarm due to whatever quirk of the floor plan and the passageways. If you're a heavy sleeper, and alone, in the time the alarm takes to wake you, the fire might have grown from that spot enough to block an exit.
The family hasn’t reveal any details, he was surely very young.
The reasons for this boredom are fantastic news: smoke detectors, safer vehicles, mandatory sprinklers even in small complexes, mandatory fire escapes, laws around flamability of furniture/clothing/bedding, reduced smoking, better awareness of fire hazards.
Yes, these tragedies still happen, but don't make it sound like we're not doing anything because right now one of our biggest issues is too many fireman for the drastically reduced number of vehicle and house fires we have: we paid for all of these safety programs and we still pay for the fireman they should have replaced.
I had an immediate family member in the hospital when that "nurses playing cards" ignorance was going around. I wish nurses did have some time to play cards, because it would mean they'd answer when they were needed, rather than being busy with other patients for an hour and then forgetting. We truly are optimizing ourselves to death.
Very sad news. Downtown Las Vegas is the place it is today thanks to him. Rest in peace.
Wow, I don't want to think about how painful it must have been :(
"Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” - Seneca
Zhuangzi said, "You're wrong. When she first died, do you think I didn't
grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time
before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but the time
before she had a body. Not only the time before she had a body, but the
time before she had a spirit. In the midst of the jumble of wonder and
mystery a change took place and she had a spirit. Another change and she
had a body. Another change and she was born. Now there's been another
change and she's dead. It's just like the progression of the four
seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter.
"Now she's going to lie down peacefully in a vast room. If I were to
follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don't
understand anything about fate. So I stopped.”
“Live like you’ll never die.”
The more I think about these two sentiments, the more I think the more popular one is bad advice, and the less popular one is good advice.
Anecdata: my father died relatively young in his 50s after a decade of ill health that had forced him to give up some of the things that he loved, like sailing. This made a very big impression on me (I was in my mid-20s), specifically that you only get one life and you must make the most of your health while you have it. I am now older than he was when he died and I don't have a bucket list of things that I want to do in the future. That's because I've already done those things, rather than postpone them until I retire. That said, I'm currently in the process of seeing if I can bootstrap a totally new career for myself, in the outdoor conservation space after decades in the office in the s/w industry. I might not make it but at least I've tried.
Save money like you'll need it forever, work hard for more money so you can spend it on what you love, and actually spend it, all in balance.
Be ready for either possibility.
I'd love to read up more on this.
The concept of "eternal recurrence"––"the idea that all events in the world repeat themselves in the same sequence through an eternal series of cycles"––is central to the mature writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.
Nietzsche calls the idea "horrifying and paralyzing",  referring to it as a burden of the "heaviest weight" ("das schwerste Gewicht") imaginable. He professes that the wish for the eternal return of all events would mark the ultimate affirmation of life:
> What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.' [The Gay Science, §341]
To comprehend eternal recurrence in his thought, and to not merely come to peace with it but to embrace it, requires amor fati, "love of fate":
> My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants to have nothing different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely to bear the necessary, still less to conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness before the necessary—but to love it.
He was worth $800 million bit he slept in an airstream.
I have mad respect for Tony. He was creative and didn't let money or the desire for status get in the way of what he thought truly mattered. He focused on fostering interpersonal connection and creating new things.
What a cool, one-of-a-kind dude.
What a loss for us all.
Rest in peace Tony.
I’m gutted to hear this news. His gentle demeanour and the awe and wonder I experienced reading his book in one sitting has left a lasting impression on me.
Rest In Peace
My condolences to his friends and family.
they discussed the hypothetical question, "If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would it be?" As Hsieh surveyed his possessions, he couldn't think of a single item he cared about enough to single out.
I'm sad I didn't get the chance to meet him. :(
Hope HN management will set a black bar in his honor.
How is that "hacker" news?
A person of color, he proved that a business doesn’t have to be souless in order to be successful.
To just react to this part: from the perspective of someone growing up in a country without school mascots or inter-school sports competitions, the whole US treatment of school sport teams and their mascots (or,
at least, their depiction in media) is rather cultish behaviour.
It’s tribal. Or team like. We don’t have a good word for it in English.
Being strongly affiliated with a group isn’t a bad thing. It drives innovation in companies and research groups and campaigns. It’s easy to mock. Often, there is some totem Kool-Aid everyone rallies around.
This cult-ish mode isn’t antithetical to individualism. We freely choose to associate this way. Unlike cult members, there is an out. And at a certain level we know it isn’t life and death. Though it’s fun to pretend it is, since so infrequently does the modern world let us fight with a team to life or death.
There is an incredible amount of social pressure to conform, whether it be to cheering for school mascots, or daily pledging your unconditional allegiance to a nation, years before you are old enough to understand what half of those concepts mean.
Wut, that's some serious 1984 shit, where is this common?
"I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."
There are a number of obvious questions about the ethics of indoctrinating children with this sort of thing, but that is left as an exercise for the reader.
My point about social pressures still stands. The stuck-out nail gets hammered down.
I think you're vastly overstating the social pressure. It's nothing compared to adolescent pressure to wear the right clothes and ingest the right chemicals. Among adults, the far right wingers get outraged by those who refuse while the far left wingers get outraged by the existence of the pledge. The 70 percent in the middle care far less.
I understand most Americans aren't that bothered, but that makes it even more creepy to us foreigners.
I'm sure North Koreans are used to the Kims' pictures in every room, but that doesn't make it less weird from an outsiders perspective.
I grew up in the UK and that sort of thing was often viewed as just a step away from the nationalism of the nazis.
If you're talking about the actual guy in the mascot suit some schools have, they're just clowning around to entertain people. Drunk fans appreciate them the most.
So don’t take it the wrong way. A pedantic comment which is downvoted and flagged doesn’t represent you, but the fact someone said it is very much in the flow of HN’s community.
I find your armchair detective-ing here deeply distasteful.
This is a big weakness of the "feel good" culture, people don't know how to handle unavoidable negative emotions.
Two days ago, a cousin (who I only barely know because we connected on facebook, genealogically) informed me that her father - my mother's brother - had passed. My mom's first question was "any particulars?" It's natural to want to know what happened, and it's not shameful to be curious.