Longtime technology entrepreneur, venture capitalist and former CEO of Zappos Tony Hsieh died as a result of injuries sustained in a house fire Nov. 18 while visiting family in Connecticut, the New York Times reported. He was 46.
Growing up in the Bay Area, he catapulted his career at 24 through his first company sale to Microsoft for $265 million. Afterward, he invested in a retail shoe start-up that would become Zappos, then known as ShoeSite.com, quickly taking over as chief executive and focusing his efforts on digitizing the brand. He retired from Zappos in August after 21 years with the company.
In 2013, Hsieh relocated the company from Silicon Valley to the suburbs of Las Vegas, where the company continued its skyrocketing growth. Hsieh’s focus on ensuring customers felt comfortable talking to employees contributed to the increase in sales, and the executive sold Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009.
Using his proceeds from Zappos, he aimed to transform the neglected areas of Las Vegas through the Downtown Project, investing in start-ups that agreed to move to the city to revitalize the area. While Hsieh sought to imbue the city with tech entrepreneurship, he also concentrated on entertainment-related efforts, including having structures built for Burning Man permanently installed in the downtown area. Since its inception, the initiative has attracted hundreds of businesses.
Often described as a visionary, he centered his business philosophy on cultivating an environment of happy employees. He wrote a best-selling book, “Delivering Happiness,” in 2010 describing his principles.
“The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being,” said Zappos in a statement. “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.”